Far Cry 4 is a strange game. Not the most traditional way to begin a review but it has to be said. It’s almost impossible to talk about Far Cry 4 as to do so effectively you need to talk about 3 games, not one. In this review I will talk about those 3 games in what I hope will be a coherent fashion. By the end of the review I hope you both understand how I feel about the game and why I feel the way I do. So, lets get stuck into it dear reader. Sit back and relax and I will tell thee a tale of the game that was, the game that is and the game that should be.
In Far Cry 4 you play the part of Ajay Ghale, a young man who returns to his home country of Kyrat to fullfill his mothers final wish and spread her ashes. The shit hits the fan almost instantly as the self professed King of Kyrat Pagan Min shows up and kidnaps you, bringing you to his palace. You get pulled out of hot water by a man name Sabal who tells you of Min’s despotic rule and its effect on the country of your birth. From that point on the rollercoaster begins and you drive, paraglide and wingsuit your way across Kyrat. There are plenty of characters to meet in the form on Longinus the gun running priest, Wilson the CIA agent and Reggie and Yogi, two tripped out drug users who are always chasing their next hallucinogenic voyage.
Over the games run time you will learn a lot about Kyrat, its history and the people who live there. Your father is something of a legend who started the Golden Path, a band of rebels who wish to overthrow Pagan Min and return Kyrat to the people. Needless to say being his son brings a degree of expectation and you are very quickly running and gunning with the Golden Path. Within the Golden Path there is also an ongoing power struggle between Sabal and a woman named Amita. Sabal longs for the old days and traditions, Amita is willing to do whatever it takes to bring Kyrat into the future.
At times over the course of the game you will be forced to make a choice between doing a mission for Amita or for Sabal, between the old traditions and the promise of a brighter future. Truthfully I found myself having difficulty connecting with either character and would just choose whichever mission sounded most fun. This disconnect wasn’t just limited to these two characters though, none of the different characters or their stories really interested me beyond Pagan Min and even he would eventually lose my interest by simply talking too much and doing too little. It’s easy to see that Min was the writers attempt to recreat Vaas from Far Cry 3 but while Vaas felt natural, the gamers strange connection to him occuring almost as a natural reaction to the game, the attempts to replicate this with Min feel forced. Troy Baker does an amazing job with his voice acting but overall Min feels like a good character trapped in otherwise bad writing.
Min’s supporting cast barely even gets a look in, ex spook De Pleur, the former human rights activist and current queen of the brutal arena Noore and ex Triad member Yuma are all dispatched with very little interaction. I effectively had no idea who these people were or why I was killing them, I just knew that Sabal and Amita wanted them dead, so dead is what I made them.
Overall this would be a major issue within the game, Min had some kind of relationship with Ajay’s father and mother, Yuma somehow hated him for it, Sabal and Amita had something going on between them that would turn out to be far more than just ideological differences but none of this was delivered in a way that felt impactful or even made me care. I just wanted cutscenes to end so I could go back to shooting.
Whilst I could tell the game wanted me to hate Min I found myself unable to do so because I couldn’t connect in anyway with the country he was running into the ground beneath the jackbooted foot of his Royal Guards. In Far Cry 3 Vaas was an easy man to hate. He killed Brody’s brother and threatened the lives of all his friends, Ajay lacks any real connection to Kyrat and effectively has nothing at stake. You get the impression that he is helping because blowing shit up is fun, not because he is feeling a connection to what is happening in the country around him.
I’m going to say right now that I wasn’t impressed by the writing in Far Cry 4. Characters felt weak and shallow and very difficult to connect with. Yogi and Reggie were just annoying, constantly doping Ajay up and the resultant missions were little more than timesinks with no value to the narrative or the game world. I didnt even feel a strong urge to venture into Shangrila, the “other” Kyrat where myth and legend can be relived and experienced. Nothing about the game really grabbed me and I was far more interested in just blowing things up.
Min had some kind of relationship with Ajay’s father and mother, Yuma somehow hated him for it, Sabal and Amita had something going on between them that would turn out to be far more than just ideological differences but none of this was delivered in a way that felt impactful or even made me care. I just wanted cutscenes to end so I could go back to shooting.
The truth of it is though, blowing shit up IS fun. The mechanics of the game are very much the same as Far Cry 3. You take radio towers to open up map areas and then you take Outposts to give yourself shops and fast travel points. Each of the four main bad guys has a Fortress, which is like a mega-Outpost that can be taken after their death or provide a stiff co-op challenge. The Skills system is largely similar but now contains only 2 trees instead of three. You can drive all manner of land and water vehicles and you can use hanggliders and a wingsuit. Added to the game this time is the ability to grapple up steep cliffs and use a gyrocoptor. All in all though, its a remarkably similar game to Far Cry 3 mechanically and it is this simple iteration, rather than evolution which is both the games strongest and weakest point.
Yes, shooting things is fun but if you have enough time spent in Far Cry 3 it also feels very similar, and the end result for me was to start to lose interest in the game sooner than I expected to. Dozens of side missions that required me to save hostages, kill wild animals and take things to people who needed them didn’t get done because there was no attraction there. The game felt familiar from the off, which was nice for a while but eventually made it feel tired. Serious mouse acceleration issues didnt help the cause either and it is more than a bit of a black mark against the PC version of the game that it released with no way to turn the mouse acceleration all the way off. Fine aim became a serious issue and spray and pray was largely my modus operandi for the duration of the game.
All that said, at a base level those same mechanics are a lot of fun and loading a vehicle up with C4 and rolling it down a hill at an enemy Outpost still feels fantastic. The guns feel and sound great, explosions have the kind of weight and heft you want and fire effects, smoke effects and particles all add a huge amount to the immersion factor of the action. A really nice touch is the difference in the sound of a weapon as the magazine runs dry.
Parts of the gameplay mechanics I found less enjoyable were how Ubisoft hid weapons away behind certain requirements for doing activities within the game. The Arena, while a nice idea, becomes a real chore and a pointless time sink when they want you to hit level 10 in it to get access to the Bushman assault rifle. While the game is certainly open world there was too much drive from the devs to make sure I did everything in it at least once, if not the 4 to 6 times it would take to get access to a certain gun. It kind of struck me that they were afraid that people would just do the story missions only and finish the game too quickly and that is never a good thing. It’s an open world that feels decidedly less open than it should, due to the devs constant poking and proding of player behaviour.
Overall the mechanics are fun because Far Cry 3 was fun and nothing much has changed here but it would have been nice to see Ubisoft try and add more to the game to make it feel fresher. As it is, it seems Ubisoft feel they hit a sweet spot with Far Cry 3 and they are traditionally relunctant to move on from a formula that they feel works. As such, when Far Cry 5 is announced I would expect more Outposts, more towers to climb (or in my case fly to the top of in a gyrocopter) and more animals skins to collect to make assorted holsters and bags to keep your deathdealing weapons in. I suspect that by then the formula will be wearing a little thin though.
Overall the mechanics are fun because Far Cry 3 was fun and nothing much has changed here but it would have been nice to see Ubisoft try and add more to the game to make it feel fresher. As it is, it seems Ubisoft feel they hit a sweet spot with Far Cry 3 and they are traditionally relunctant to move on from a formula that they feel works.
Kyrat itself looks beautiful though. All deep valleys and craggy cliffs and snow covered moutaintops. Animals look and sound fantastic, roaming in dangerous packs around the landscape and the game is filled with fantastical sites from giant monuments to tiny prayer bells framed against glorious backdrops of the Himalayan mountains. Small towns and villages make their presence known with brightly coloured flags and ribbons festooning the walls and roofs of their buildings and leaves, trees and grass are all resplendent and vibrant. The game really does LOOK fantastic.
It should be an absolute joy to travel around but here another ugly aspect of the game raises it head, the stutter. Oh that stutter. Try to move too fast and you will be dropping frames like it is going out of style and overall my experience was fraught with technical issues. From odd graphical errors to shadows detaching themselves from the assigned global source of illumination and quite literally revolving around me to an almost endless amount of crashes the actual build itself leaves a lot to be desired. Add in two days worth of issues even trying to start the game and it is safe to say that Far Cry 4 tested my patience.
To return to the three games theory this iteration owes a LOT to Far Cry 3. If you enjoyed Far Cry 3 for the action then you will more than likely enjoy that aspect of this one. Far Cry 4 itself though is a little bit of a lame duck, the writing feels weak and stilted and the world in which I found myself just didnt really engage me beyond trying to blow it up. Add in the problems getting the game to run and then keeping it running smoothly once I did and we are left with the spectre of the game that should have been, a fully working and well tested title that not only replicated the successes of Far Cry 3 but also built upon them in a positive fashion. If anything Ubsioft managed to remove some of the magic that made Far Cry 3 such a fun game for me and that is a shame. It has been a hard year for Ubisoft when it comes to their larger game launches and Far Cry 4 is no different, with Ubisofts own forums being filled with unhappy customers. As such , it is very difficult to predict how the game might run for you if you pick it up.
It’s also important to note that the games issues really did frustrate me and steal from my enjoyment of the title and while that will never excuse the weak writing, if you want a game where you get to blow up things that look good then waiting until Ubisoft have correctly patched out all the problems the game is having is certainly not a bad idea. Recommending the title right now is something I can only do for the diehards but for anyone else who is willing to wait for the relevant patches and a steam sale it should provide just the right amount of mindless action under those circumstances.
Still A Far Cry From Perfection
When it comes to action it doesn’t dissapoint
Messy writing and oddly restrictive
On sale and after more patches
For details on release dates and other related info, head to Far Cry 4’s game page.
** When is it worth the price? — In lieu of review scores, we opt to give our opinion on whether the game is worthy of it’s release day price, or if you should wait for a patch or a sale. **
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