A LITTLE LESS EAGLE AND A LOT MORE ACTION
While I was playing Far Cry 4, I couldn’t help but be reminded of BioShock 2. Not because they are both AAA first-person shooters, but because they are both sequels to critically-acclaimed games. Let’s face it: No matter how good BioShock 2 was, it wasn’t BioShock. It would never live up to that legacy. Far Cry 4 fell into the same hole before it was even released: Far Cry 3 was so good; what could Ubisoft even do to make the sequel better? Luckily, Far Cry 4 is one of the better sequels I have played, and even more importantly, the best first-person shooter of the year.
In Far Cry 4, Ajay Ghale (pronounced a couple different ways throughout the game) returns to his homeland of Kyrat to spread the ashes of his deceased mother. His now-deceased father, Mohan Ghale, founded a group called the Golden Path, and the group is at a crucial fork in the road when Ajay arrives. Pagan Min, the dictator king of Kyrat, is causing havoc, and the Golden Path are the rebels who must resist his oppression. I appreciate what Ubisoft tried to accomplish with this story; after all, Far Cry 3 received a ton of criticism as a story where the “white man saves the helpless island people”. However, the developers put themselves back into the same pit, because the situations Ajay is placed in could easily be resolved if just one person would help him out. I’m sure there are several Golden Path members who could do objective B while Ajay does objective A. Instead, only Ajay is allowed to make these decisions, which annoyingly makes him the “savior of Kyrat”.
With Ajay being a native of Kyrat, Ubisoft felt he would be a more relatable character. However, I felt absolutely no connection to Ajay. In fact, I felt more detached from Ajay because he wasn’t American. Throughout the story, Ajay is portrayed as both Kyrati and American, yet seems to be neither at certain times. Because of this, the story isn’t quite as strong as Far Cry 3, which was weak in its own right. The Golden Path is going through changes and needs a leader, and Ajay gets to decide who that leader will be through specific missions where he will support either Sabal or Amita, the two most popular figures in the Golden Path. Choosing between Sabal, who believes in tradition, and Amita, who wants to do away with old school methods, did become interesting after a while. And I did enjoy the ending immensely, mostly because the game lets the player make a few key choices towards the end of the game that made the ending MY ending.
Overall, I feel like the stories that I made for myself through unscripted, random gameplay stuck with me more than the scripted sequences. Perhaps if Pagan Min had been utilized more, the story could’ve been more impactful. Instead, he’s nowhere to be seen between the first mission and the 19th mission. Not cool, Ubisoft. At least he looked eccentric enough.
Far Cry 4 is as visually stunning as cross-generation games get. While it doesn’t look as sharp as Ubisoft’s other big release, Assassin’s Creed Unity, it still manages to impress with stunning vistas and mountaintop views that make Windows 8 stock backgrounds look like amateur Microsoft Paint projects. There are certain textures and small things that make you realize that this game could’ve been even better if it were a current-gen exclusive though: blades of grass are blown by the wind as a whole set rather than individually. Small things like this make me wish Ubisoft had opted for a current-gen only release of the game. However, the game still looks like a dream trip to the Himalayas.
The sound design of the game is definitely a highlight: guns sound great when you’re emptying a clip and the sounds of nature when traveling to your destination make the world feel more alive. The voice acting is nothing to scoff at, either: Troy Baker voices the antagonist, Pagan Min, and the supporting cast around him do a good job of pulling off native accents. Hearing bears roar and native birds caw immerses players in the game and makes them afraid to take another step lest they be mauled.
Far Cry 4’s core gameplay is the same as Far Cry 3, and there’s not much else more satisfying in this world. Ubisoft has found the perfect combination of first-person shooter and role-playing game and made the sweet, sweet combat of Far Cry 4 as pleasant as ever. The FPS controls are the best in the business, hands down. There’s no better feeling than getting extra XP for a headshot or stealth takedown from above. Ubisoft took the smart route with this one, not fixing what wasn’t broken.
I was quite surprised to see gameplay elements from Far Cry 2 manifest themselves in FC4 after they skipped the third entry. Things like weapon condition (which became a huge issue for me in FC2) and sleeping in outposts to fast-forward time made a return without hindering the experience. Not having to use the repair tool as a weapon slot is a small change I highly appreciated.
New to Far Cry 4 is the grappling hook: Now, instead of having to walk or drive around a mountain, Ajay can scale the mountain by hooking into certain points and climbing up. This is a timesaver and a no-brainer for a game set in the Himalayas. Also useful is the foot-pedaled helicopter, which gives Ajay an air advantage over enemies. Combining this vehicle with a grenade launcher spells bad news for any who would oppose the son of Mohan. Calling in an AI companion when friends can’t co-op with you is a smart addition by Ubisoft. Another cool feature is the ability for vehicles to pilot themselves en route to your objective while you focus on aiming and taking down your enemies. These additions to the franchise fit perfectly and will hopefully be a staple going forward.
Ubisoft added several layers to the already-delicious cake that is Far Cry’s leveling system. The karma system provides random missions that deliver their own XP; with an increase in karma level, special unlocks become available. These karma missions range from rescuing hostages to helping out your Golden Path comrades as they fend off Min’s minions. However, this karma system isn’t implemented into the main story missions. This leaves your choices feeling unjustified in major moments.
Of course, all the standard things you do, such as killing enemies, completing missions, and finding secret items all go towards your standard XP bar and skill trees. FC4’s skill tree is split in two: The Lion, for new offensive techniques, and The Elephant, for those who want to build up their health and become badass syringe makers. Upgrades to weapon and money pouches in FC4 require animal skins. Luckily, the land of Kyrat is plentiful with animal species, and too plentiful with eagles, which become annoying quickly if you travel on foot frequently.
It’s safe to say that there’s a ton of stuff to do in Far Cry 4, and the mission variety contained within is impressive to say the least. One minute, you’ll be flying a foot-pedaled helicopter over a mountain to get to a bell tower; the next, you’ll drop out of the airplane in pursuit of one of Pagan Min’s truck convoys. Then you’ll notice a certain animal you need to upgrade your money pouch. This cycle never ends in Far Cry 4, and it’s what makes the game such a joy to play, whether alone or in the online co-op mode with friends. There’s nothing like storming an outpost while riding an elephant and having your friend roll in with a truck with a mounted .50 cal to take out the reinforcements.
The competitive multiplayer included in the package is just icing on the cake. It’s nothing groundbreaking, but it is a solid mode all on its own and will provide you more entertainment if you somehow see all that Kyrat has to offer.
The Verdict: 9.4 out of 10.0
Far Cry 4 is one hell of a game. Its mission variety and satisfying gameplay make it a definite game of the year contender. While its villain could be better utilized, it still does a great job of tying a bow on the end of its savior of Kyrat story. The massive world is filled to the brim with collectibles and diversions to keep even the most dedicated players busy for quite some time. It builds on the gameplay of its predecessor (which seemingly needed no improvement) in smart, useful ways. I don’t know what else to say about it, except for this: I recommend you and your friends buy it and get to liberating those outposts. Ubisoft has solidified Far Cry as one of its top franchises, and that is good news for gamers everywhere. Too much of a good thing is always a good thing.
For more information about what the score means, check out our official review scale.
Matt Middleton is an associate writer for MONG. He is also a lover of Mexican cuisine, How I Met Your Mother, and fun video games. Follow him on Twitter for a daily dose of song lyrics and pictures and thoughts about the aforementioned food and video games.