Far Cry 3 was a big surprise to me a couple of years ago. After not enjoying Far Cry 2 very much I wasn’t quite sure what to expect and was blown away by just how much fun the game was. Hearing that (as is seemingly inevitable these days) there would be another sequel I was then naturally quite looking forward to it. But Ubisoft had given themselves a tough act to follow, so were they up to the task of delivering a game as good if not better than its predecessor?
Far Cry 4 casts you as Ajay Ghale who is returning to Kyrat, the country of his birth, to scatter the ashes of his mother. He doesn’t make it very far into the country however when the bus he is on it stopped by the armed forces of the country’s militaristic king, Pagan Min. Ajay is taken to the Royal Palace, and held by Min until he manages to escape with the help of the local freedom fighters, the Golden Path.
After joining with the Golden Path Ajay helps them with their mission of taking down Pagan Min, who took control of Kyrat several decades early in a bloody coup, and freeing the country.
The Golden Path are led by Sabal and Amita, who both have very different beliefs in how Kyrat should be led once Pagan has been deposed. There are several key missions during the story that allow you to choose to complete the objective as either Sabal or Amita would prefer, and this leads to your choice being in charge of the Golden Path until the next mission.
As well as the main story missions, there are tons of side missions such as the hunting quests (returning from Far Cry 3) races, assassinations and a few side stories including the ones featuring the always stoned Regi and Yogi that lead to a number of quite bizarre missions.
You’ll weaken the Army’s hold on Kyrat not only by completing missions but also by liberating fortresses and deactivating bell towers. Anyone who has played Far Cry 3 will instantly recognise this as the same setup as the outposts and radio towers from that game, and they work identically again here. Shutting down the bell towers cuts off Pagan Min’s propaganda broadcasting in the area, and taking over the outposts gives you new quick travel points and opens even more side quests.
New to Far Cry 4 are fortresses, larger versions of outputs that are run by Pagan Min and his lieutenants. It’s best to complete story missions until the game recommends that you take down each fortress as otherwise their difficulty is ramped up significantly.
It wouldn’t be an open world game without collectables, and in true Ubisoft fashion there are absolutely tons of them. There are the journals of Ajay’s father Mohan Ghale, the founder of the Golden Path, which fills in the backstory and history of the country, a series of letters between a previous visitor to Kyrat and his wife back in England, as well as a number of other items.
You’ll also collect parts of a Thangka, a painted tapestry which are quite common in Nepal near where the game is set. The Thangka tells the story of a demon attack on Shangri La, and also acts as backstory for the religion and customs for the Kyrat. You get to play through these parts as the warrior Kalinag, as he fights against the demon Yalung.
Kyrat is a fictional landlocked country in the Himalayas, meaning the playable area is surrounded by unscalable mountains, a nice visual change from most open world games that will typically surround the playable area with infinite water. As you’d expect, the countryside is very detailed and realistic, with the landscape looking stunning. The terrain changes as you head north too, with the south of the country being more lush and green while the north is more brown and autumnal and often snowing. A few missions even send you away from the main map of the game to areas further up the mountains, where everything in deep in snow which look great.
Gameplay wise, it’s very similar to its predecessor, with Ajay controlling almost identically to Jason. Vehicles get a new control scheme that I really couldn’t take to, but thankfully the previous controls are also an option.
Ajay does have a couple of new ways of moving around the landscape though. Firstly, as Kyrat is quite mountainous, everything is a lot steeper than the islands of Far Cry 3. To make it easier to get around then, Ajay is equipped with a climbing hook which can be thrown to anchor points that allow you to climb up cliff faces or swing across gaps.
One of the most advertised parts of the game pre-release was elephant riding. While riding an elephant you can quickly defeat large numbers of enemies as well as smashing through some destructible structures. Elephants can take quite a lot of damage before dying, so they can come in very useful when attacking a large group of enemies or make for quite a fun way to take an outpost.
There’s also a notable new vehicle, the buzzer. A small one man helicopter, this allows you to get around Kyrat very quickly and is super handy for darting about the countryside looking for collectables. It does stall out if you go too high though so you have to be careful when looking for things up the mountainsides that you don’t end up breaking the buzzer and falling to your death, which I did a number of times.
Ubisoft clearly have taken feedback from Far Cry 3 into consideration. The death of Vaas about half way through that game left it both without a compelling antagonist for the second half of the game as well as losing some of the momentum it had built up. No one really cared about Vaas’ boss Hoyt and so defeating him didn’t really seem to matter as much as taking down Vaas did, and so Pagan Min is wisely the main villain of the game.
Pagan Min is voiced with great flamboyance by the very versatile Troy Baker, and he delivers a number of amusing and well voiced speeches and tirades through his appearances and radio messages through the game. The rest of the voice cast are fairly decent (including Lost actor Naveen Andrews as Sabal) though as tends to happen they all rather pale and fail to stick out against Baker’s fantastic work.
As much fun as it is though, I kept coming back to the similarities between this and the previous game. Aside from the mountaineering, the buzzer and elephant riding there isn’t really a huge difference between them. The gameplay fundamentally is exactly the same, to the extent that many of the sound effects and a lot of the character animations are simply copied. The controls (once you change the driving controls back from the rubbish new ones, that is) are identical to Far Cry 3. Kyrat by design looks very different to the islands of Far Cry 3, but the difference really only is skin deep. It’s not just down to the gameplay similarities though, there are also missions that just feel like straight up copies too. Remember the cave with all the mushrooms in Far Cry 3 where you would start to hallucinate your way to the objective? How about the one where you have to burn all the drug fields? Both make reappearances here.
I also found a few bugs while playing, mostly graphical glitches and enemy AI weirdness such as enemies trying to walk into walls, but I did have an issue at one point where I was on a mission where I had to find a couple of items and return somewhere that was near a fast travel point, so I used it. All progress on the mission was dropped, as well as the collectables that I had found on the way all being lost too. There was no warning from the game that this would happen, and a message stating this or even simply disabling the fast travel while on a mission would have been welcomed.
On the multiplayer front, Far Cry 4 has a full game co-op mode, and sadly this is one of the changes I would happily have done without. Huge chunks of my time playing Far Cry games are me wandering off across the countryside to find collectables and hunt animals and so on, which is fine for just me. It doesn’t exactly make for the most exciting co-operative experience though.
Far Cry 3’s episodic and more action based co-op mode worked much better in my opinion, and I’d much rather have seen something similar used again here – plus I was really hoping they’d have brought the characters back so I could have gotten to play as foul mouthed Scottish football fan Callum again. I can see that it could work fine if you just drop into a friend’s game while they’re not doing any collecting to assist taking down outposts and the like, but I prefer to play an entire game co-op beginning to end and that just doesn’t feel right here.
You’ve also got your typical selection of competitive multiplayer modes, with a number of objective capturing variations. These pit you as Golden Path members taking on the hunters of the Royal Army, with the Golden Path being more weapon based while the hunters focus on bows and stealth. Completing matches and objectives gives experience to level up, which unlocks new upgrades and skills that you can customise your character with.
If you enjoyed Far Cry 3 and want more of the same, then this is certainly a game for you. I did, and thoroughly enjoyed my time with the game but the sheer lack of new will certainly be a mark against it for many and I would be hard pressed to really recommend it as a full price purchase because of this. Those who may never have played Far Cry before won’t have any of these issues and I think would enjoy the game a lot more because of it.
Far Cry 4 is out now on PC, Xbox 360 and One and PlayStation 3 and 4.