The success of Far Cry 3 was a double-edged sword for fans of the franchise. On one hand, Ubisoft finally found a formula that works for the first-person open world shooter. On the other, it’s pretty clear that they’re going to capitalize on that success by giving fans more of the same, as is seen in Far Cry 4. For better or worse, Far Cry 4 sticks to a nearly identical formula as its predecessor. The good news is, Far Cry 4 is a good game. Much like Far Cry 3 was. It drops players into another beautiful exotic location to do battle with an eccentric big bad, while banding with locals to overcome. It’s another wild ride for an unsuspecting tourist, albeit one that feels very familiar.
While many of the pieces are different, the puzzle is still the same. We’re introduced to a new, more likeable protagonist. More likeable in the fact that he doesn’t project much of a personality to dislike in the first place. Ajay Ghale heads to the fictional locale of Kyrat to spread his mother’s ashes in their home nation. Trying to enter the country, Ghale unexpectedly finds himself smack dab in the middle of a civil war between a rebel group known as the Golden Path, and an army led by maniacal dictator, Pagan Min. Like Vaas in Far Cry 3, Min is an eccentric fellow, not your typical bad guy, and once again an interesting component of the Far Cry story, even if he feels somewhat over-built and underused.
Eventhough Ajay is thrust into a pivotal role in this civil war with little explantion as to why, the story takes you down a path of not only trying to overcome Min, but shaping the leadership and ideals of the Golden Path. You’ll be forced to make moral decisions, and back a leader for the rebel army. While much of Far Cry 4’s story is linear, there are some options to take along the way, and plenty of colorful characters to get involved with. Ghale may be a more likeable protagonist than the rich kid who transformed into a tribal warrior in Far Cry 3, but he’s also a little more confusing. Where Jason Brody was clearly wrapped up in the goings-on of Rook Island on a quest to save his family and girlfriend, Ajay’s path is more cloudy as it’s slowly revealed that this is some sort of destiny adventure for the traveller.
While the story is totally serviceable, it’s not exactly the star of Far Cry 4. Kyrat, and all its open world sandbox goodness is what’ll keep you hooked. Ubisoft has got a pretty good formula on their hands here, and has refined the gameplay further in Far Cry 4. There are more outposts to takeover, towers to climb, and animals skins to collect, Far Cry 4 is definitely on par with its predecessor in terms of gameplay, and sheer wealth of activities to complete. Unlocking all of Kyrat is fun, and is done by invading and taking over outposts across the sprawling map. Like Far Cry 3, here’s where the game really opens up and offers players many options to complete their objectives. Players can use stealth tactics, brazen approaches, animal attacks, or any combination of techniques to overthrow Min’s army at a given outpost. Doing so unlocks it as a fast travel point. Propaganda-spewing puzzle towers are also re-used in Far Cry 4, and reaching their summit will remove cloudiness from the world map, allowing you to see new areas, new outposts, and other key items and locations on the map.
Of the more interesting mechanics that Ubisoft introduced in Far Cry 3, the animal hunting and skinning mechanics return, and still play a primary role in the progression of your character’s capabilities. Kyrat is a dangerous place. It’s not only overrun with gun toting rebels and Min’s loyal soldiers, it’s teeming with wildlife. Hunting and killing these various animals will allow you to keep bait for devious animal attacks to be used on unsuspecting enemies, or traded in for better powerups for Ajay. Each area in the world wap is a hotbed for different animals, some rare and dangerous, others more common and less threatening. There’s a nice random element to this aspect of the game. You never know when a giant rhino might leap out of nowhere and have you fighting for survival, or birds of prey make you for easy pickings.
Tying these collectible animal hides to Ajay’s progression makes it less of a sideshow and more of an activity that you want to complete. Coupled with an overarching XP system and skill tree, there is always something to do within arms reach that’ll better your character, making Ajay a more capable warrior. It’s easy to get pulled into Far Cry 4’s open world, because much of the content has meaning, or a worthwhile goal to achieve. Bottom-line though, it’s largely similar to what was seen in Far Cry 3 when it comes to these open world aspects. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but you could see a situation where without some meaningful betterment down the line for the series, a lot of this stuff that feels new and fresh, could begin to become stagnant.
So what has changed between Far Cry 3 and Far Cry 4? Aside from the storyline and locale, not much, actually. The game looks great on new consoles, but it’s definitely not a generational leap like we saw in Assassin’s Creed: Unity and the series’ aging engine is the likely culprit. Kyrat offers a fresh perspective, but there are certainly moments where you could mistake some of lush areas of the country for Rook Island. The snow-capped mountiain backdrop and mountainous areas that you can actually get to do change up the aesthetic at times though. Given the more rugged terrain, Ajay has new traversal tools to use. A grappling hook allows for Ajay to scale hills and mountains more easily, and a new gyrocopter could be your preferred method of transportation once unlocked. Though if you do choose to stay on the ground, the introduction of autodrive is a nice convenience mechanic for those who don’t want to deal with the sloppy controls of the automobiles in Far Cry 4.
Co-op has been changed significantly as well. Players can team up in the campaign to complete side mission content at will, but it feels more like a half-hearted attempt than anything new or original. Limiting players to side missions only, none of the main storyline campaign content can be completed as a team. Two capable players can tear through just about any outpost that Min’s army holds, but the tick has been added to the back of the box nonetheless.
Single player is the star of the show in Far Cry 4, but there is a lot to keep you playing the game after the credits roll. While not the most robust cooperative mode around, playing the campaign online adds a connected dimension to the game for those who don’t want a solitary adventure. Map Editor tools allow creative types to build unique standalone missions to complete, and share with the Far Cry community. If you enjoy the single player missions and shooting element of Far Cry 4, the Chronicles of Kyrat Map Editing tools and downloadable maps already have a ton of additional content to explore. Quality is hit an miss, but downloading the user-created maps is fairly quick, and you can randomly select a map to try new things.
Far Cry 4’s five on five multiplayer mode is ambitious, if anything. Seeing a drastic overhaul from Far Cry 3, the multiplayer offering here better captures all the good parts of the single player story, pitting spirit warriors against military forces in a selection of traditional gamemodes. Though the actual gameplay is anything but traditional for a multiplayer first person shooter. The spirit warriors are a team that relies on stealth and bow & arrow weaponry to fend off Min’s forces when on defense. Where on the other side of table, Min’s soldiers are outfitted with an assortment of firearms, grenades, and other advanced firepower. This sort of multiplayer set-up has been seen before in Ubisoft games. It can almost be compared to something like Spies vs. Mercs in Splinter Cell, where one faction relies on stealth tactics, and the other on brute force.
There are a lot of moving parts Far Cry 4’s competitive multiplayer, and it’s actually kind of fun if you can come to grips with what each faction’s strengths and weaknesses are, as well as some of the deeper mechanics, before putting it down without a chance. Given some of the complexities and the necessity for teamwork, it’s hard to tell if Far Cry 4 players will stick around for the multiplayer as it’ll likely be an acquired taste.
Far Cry 4 is more of what made Far Cry 3 a great game, and that’s OK. So long as Ubisoft doesn’t get too comfortable here. The franchise probably needs an engine upgrade for the next iteration as some aspects of the game feel a little antiquated. Gameplay wise though, they’ve got a good formula, that works, but Far Cry 4 is more of a side step rather than forward progress. That doesn’t make this tale of tourism gone awry any less enjoyable.
Far Cry 4
- Available On: Xbox One, PS4, Xbox 360, PS3, PC
- Published By: Ubisoft
- Developed By: Ubisoft Montreal
- Genre: Open World, FPS
- US Release Date: November 18th, 2014
- Reviewed On: Xbox One
- Quote: "Ubisoft has a formula for Far Cry and they're sticking to it, as there's very little deviation from what made Far Cry 3 a success. Far Cry 4 is more of what's familiar, including an aging engine. That said, it's a fun formula for open world gameplay enthusiasts."