Far Cry 3 was amazing. A wonderful, open world, with hundreds of activities and various ways of approaching every encounter. It had an engaging story and crazy characters on top of all that, and this made it a really unique, refreshing experience. Back when it was released in 2012, we had lots of competent shooters to choose from, including Borderlands 2, a new CoD: Black Ops and the fourth Halo, and every one of them was a solid game that made money and was enjoyed by its fans. But for this reviewer, it was the third Far Cry that owned them all. A refreshing game, it was released at the best possible moment, when many gamers were tired of constant sequels, remakes and dumb on-rails shooters. Far Cry 3 succeed thanks to the freedom it gave players to choose what to do, and how to do it. Back then, Far Cry 3 and its superb DLC, Blood Dragon, were the king of open-world shooters. But there were still some things they didn’t do that everyone wanted to see in the next instalment of the franchise. Among the most requested features were co-op play and better multiplayer. Far Cry 4 now has both of these, and they’ve had a great impact on an already overall highly positive experience.
New hero, new environment
After two years, we’ve again been given the opportunity to play the young hero, hitting back in the middle of war-torn lands. Far Cry 4 brings us to the hilly country of Kyrat. Ajay Ghale returns to his parents’ homeland to scatter his mother’s ashes. As his father was the initiator of the still-smouldering revolution now being waged by his descendants, Ghale is inevitably drawn into the ongoing conflict with an unforgiving tyrant, Pagan Min. The fictional state of Kyrat is reminiscent of a Nepal shattered by civil war. The Rook Islands– the Pacific-set tropical islands from the previous game – have been dropped in favour of Kyrat’s fictional Himalayan state, and the complete change of surroundings are, at first, stunning. Gone is the hot, sunny jungle, now we’re romping up and down in a mountainous land where vertical movement is more present than ever before.
The basic Far Cry gameplay formula remains unchanged. After a brief introduction, we’re pushed into the open world and must decide for ourselves whether to do story missions, engage in side missions and activities, or just roam around causing havoc and aimlessly exploring. It reminds me of Skyrim in some ways, especially with its more temperate climate and grassy environment, and Far Cry 3 was already pretty much ‘Skyrim with guns’. There are the familiar Towers to climb and Outposts to liberate, but we now also have four Fortresses to mess around in. These are stronger, fortified versions of Outposts that require a co-op partner or a series of crippling blows delivered through campaign missions to soften them up. But this time around, there are even more activities to distract you. From hunting (which allows for gear upgrades), to assassinations, hostage rescues, cargo hijacking, bomb-defusing, racing and many more. Helpfully, everything is tracked on the super-useful Progress Screen, so you can more easily appease your inner compulsive-perfectionist. It’s also handy because acquiring certain skills requires not only skill points and campaign progress, but also the completion of certain activities. For example, the Improvised Surgery skill requires that you complete an Armoured Escort activity before it becomes available. As in this case, the relationship between the skill and the prerequisite sometimes doesn’t make much sense, but it does give you an additional feeling of accomplishment and helps encourage you to keep nailing the extra-curricular stuff.
Speaking of which, the main campaign feels less insane than the crazy ride we had with Vaas and Citra last time out. Far Cry 4’s protagonist is quite clearly aligned with the Golden Path rebels in liberating Kyrat from the oppressive Pagan Ming. Interestingly, your new friends have two leaders: the traditionalist Sabal, and the more progressive Amita, who wants to rebuild Kyrat as a modern country after the revolution. From time to time, you’re asked to pick one these two ideals to follow, and this leads to different missions being offered. Still, despite its new-found clarity, Far Cry 4’s characters and story seem less wildly impressive than the previous game’s. In its defence, story is never really the main selling point of open-world games anyway, so let’s just say that the main missions are well varied, and do provide a nice break when you’re tired of traipsing around finding things to do yourself.