Far Cry 3 was a really interesting experience for me. That game had so many flaws in its story and characters that, if the gameplay wasn’t as fun as it was, would have rendered the game unplayable for me.
On one hand, you had Vaas, who might be one of the best bad guys to ever grace a video game. Between his look, the voice acting and the ability to sync his face to his words (so few games do this well that it’s obvious when it happens) he hit on all cylinders. He was roughly 10% of the story and died way too early. That’s the bad part.
Then you have the other hand. The main character who you played as was a giant, flaming douchebag. There isn’t any way around it. Your goal, within the context of the story, was to save your friends. All massive douches as well.
There is a portion of the game where you are trying to save a friend by sniping from a distance as he runs for safety. When you get to him, after he was being shot at and had explosions going off all around him, his first words to you are “Whoa, dude! Nice tat!” Exhibit A on why these were some of the worst protagonists, ever.
The gameplay, though! Oh how they nailed that! You were put into a living, breathing world with tons of activities and life happening all around you. Cars would drive by, a tiger would try to murder you and you could swim in the bright blue ocean. The controls worked as well as you’d hope any FPS game to. It was really solid from a gameplay standpoint.
I’m spending a lot of time talking about Far Cry 3 for a Far Cry 4 review. That is because, quite simply, this game is nearly an expansion pack to the previous game with a few upgrades on the previous iteration’s formula. That might sound negative, but it is not. For myself, I’ve not yet hit series fatigue with Far Cry like I have, say, Borderlands. Each game in both series is just more of the same and for some that works, others it does not.
The key difference here is the attempt at making a character you care about. A person you want to be. Not a sky-diving rich kid who has lots of daddy’s money to play with.
You’re cast as Ajay (which is sometimes annunciated as AH-jay or just AJ), a national coming back to your parent’s country to disperse of your mother’s ashes. The area you are placed in is Kyrat, which is a fictional Himalayan area. Think Peru and its mountains and you have a good idea of the landscape. The map is so similar to Far Cry 3’s in appearance and scope that it barely feels like I’m paying a new game. Just like Far Cry 3 the land is hilly with lots of trees, grass, dirt roads and hidden caverns. The ocean has been replaced by lakes and rivers with darker water. The only thing that really feels different are the story missions that take place on the mountainside, as those are snow covered and offer low visibility.
The story this game sets out to tell is the complete antithesis of the last game, but it’s almost like Ubisoft doubled down so hard on being better than FC3 that they still made the so story over-the-top that it’s not very engaging. Ajay is rescued from Pagan Min at the beginning of the game after his bus is hijacked by Min’s soldiers. Min is the county’s evil ruler and this game’s version of Vaas. He’s almost as engaging as Vaas, which is saying something, but much like the last game, we don’t get very much of him.
The people who save Ajay are the “Golden Path” and of course, they want you to help fight the good fight against Min. You oblige instead of dropping your mother’s ashes off and getting the hell away, because you have a big heart? Something like that. This is better and ultimately, more interesting than FC3, but the story remains inconsequential to this game. The fun is everywhere but the story.
I’m sure that sounds like a another knock against the game, and it might be for those who are bored of Far Cry, but for me it’s the life that’s in the world and the activities I can take place in which keep me rather entertained.
One of the first major differences you will notice is that the the game obviously looks a ton better on the current gen. Even with saying that, I can’t wait until we get games that are made for this gen only (and not both PS3/4) because that’s when we are going to start to see the visuals in games take off.
On top of looking better, the world feels even more alive this time. There are more animals (some of which are annoying, screw you, birds and Demon fish!) and more people. You can engage in “karma events” this time around which are random events all over the map which allow you to do everything from saving people from animal attacks to destroying cargo vehicles of the enemy. These are just two examples of events that take place in the world to make you feel more engaged, even if all you are doing is walking from point A to point B.
Also… elephants. Elephants you can ride. Elephants who break stuff, as evidenced below.
The side activities include a lot of what the last game did. There are outposts to “liberate” by killing all enemies within them, climbing towers to stop the spread of audio propaganda and delivering supplies from one area to another. Pretty much so stuff in every game with fetch quests, ever. Something new are the single (or co-op) player arenas which act as a horde mode. You can take weapon specific challenges or go through endless waves should you so choose. I’m leaving a lot off of the list here, but rest assured, there is enough to do to keep you busy well past 30 hours.
Far Cry 4 is also absolutely loaded with different weapons to unlock. On top of that, there are some cool customization options like paint, scopes and silencers for certain weapons. You can only carry 4 at a time (after crafting the proper size holster) and I stuck with a few of them as soon as I unlocked them. The bow & arrow is verify satisfying, as it is in many of today’s recent games (Tomb Raider and The Last of Us did do the bow more justice, but it’s no slouch in Far Cry) so that was always in my inventory. There are assault rifles, sniper rifles and rocket launchers, the standard stuff you’d expect to see in any FPS game but with more selection than I think is typically found in other single player games in the genre.
I alluded to the crafting in the last paragraph and that is another activity to get yourself lost in. You can craft syringes which grant certain status effects by collecting plants around the map. That’s pretty mundane overall, the real fun comes in when crafting weapon pouches and loot bags for your character. To start off, you need to hunt a certain number of a specific animal and the difficulty rises with each level (each item has 4 levels). For most items, once you hit level 3, you then need to hunt a rare animal of which there is only one and these are typically the hardest to find & fight. Hunting has become one of my favorite activities in video gaming since I played Red Dead Redemption. Something about the joy of hunting without having to kill real animals gets me and this is some of the most fun in-video game hunting I’ve done.
The fact the story is inconsequential might turn some people off who play games for story only, but anyone else who likes open world FPS games probably won’t find a better one. The inclusion of co-op (only one partner) makes the game and its side activities even more fun. There is a tacked on multiplayer mode but, trust me, it’s very much so tacked on.
Should you play this?
It’s mindless fun and it’s even mindless fun you can share with another friend. I find it odd that you cannot play story missions co-op, but there is so much else to do in the world it doesn’t matter. With it’s gorgeous, alive world, tight controls and overall fun factor, this is one of my favorites of this gen, so far.