I’d watched the guards patrol the outpost for a bit, waiting for one of them to make a mistake, and it wasn’t long before my patience was rewarded. A guard walked around a building, out of sight of his companions and away from their patrol paths. I took aim with my bow, drew an arrow and prepared to loose the shaft that would usher him into the afterlife. Unfortunately, I’d failed to notice the snow leopard that had snuck up on me. My arrow thudded into the building beside the guard, and my health bar was rapidly depleting thanks to the leopard that was now firmly attached to my leg. It wasn’t long before the whole outpost knew I was there, as well as the reinforcements that would be arriving shortly. A brief and bloody gunfight ensued, and the Outpost was mine, though not in the stealthy manner I had originally intended. Such is life in Kyrat…
As Ajay Ghale, you are returning to your birthplace, the country of Kyrat, to scatter your mother’s ashes. What sounds like a simple quest is quickly complicated when you are kidnapped by Pagan Min, the self-proclaimed King of Kyrat, and main antagonist of your little romp through Kyrat. It becomes apparent in the opening scenes that Pagan Min knows your mother, and of you, though no real details are given. You are soon rescued by the Golden Path, a group of rebels seeking to overthrow Pagan Min, and its two bickering leaders, Sabal and Amita. Sabal is a traditionalist who would see Kyrat’s ancient customs preserved, and Amita is desperately trying to usher Kyrat into the modern world and end it’s archaic belief system. You soon learn that your father, Mohan Ghale, is the revered founder of the Golden Path, and that you are the key to its future.
From this point on the game proceeds much like Far Cry 3 did, with a few variations. You must liberate the Bell Towers to reveal more parts of the map and unlock weapons, and capture outposts for the Golden Path. There are a number of side missions you can undertake, such as assassinating Royal Army captains, rescuing hostages, hunting wild animals that are plaguing the villagers, and fighting soldiers and wild animals to gain fame in the Kyrat arena. While they offer you something to do between story missions, the side missions do little to actually move the plot forward, and you are required to do a certain number of each side mission in order to unlock certain weapons, or skills.
The story missions are sprinkled with “Balance of Power” missions, in which your actions will decide who the ultimate leader of the Golden Path will be, along with deciding Kyrat’s future. You must choose to accept a mission from either Sabal or Amita, and your decision will strengthen his or her chances at becoming leader of the Golden Path. The game makes you feel like these decisions will have clearly defined consequences, but in the end the effect your choosing has on Kyrat is merely hinted at.
Having played Far Cry 3, I didn’t expect the story in Far Cry 4 to be a literary masterpiece, but to be honest it was still a little disappointing. I was surprised by how little I felt motivated to do the things I was asked to do. If I were in Ajay’s shoes, I think I would have just owed my dearly departed mother a huge favor and tried to make my way to the border of Kyrat. I’m sure she would understand why I didn’t risk my life for a group of people I had no connection to, beyond the legacy of my father, whom I don’t even know. I rushed through many of the earlier story missions just to unlock a certain skill, or weapon, and to unlock the northern part of the map in order to find more Bell Towers to liberate.
The characters you are introduced to during your travels in Kyrat all suffer from a lack of depth, and really only serve to provide you with more missions, or in the case of Pagan Min’s lackeys, an objective. Longinus is an arms dealer with a very interesting view on Christianity, whose story is vague and ends abruptly. Willis makes an appearance and sends you on a few missions to do the CIA’s dirty work. Yogi and Reggie are in pursuit of their next chemically induced state of enlightenment, and aside from introducing you to Noore, only serve to give you missions which essentially boil down to “chase this objective marker until we tell you to stop”. It would have been nice to learn a bit more about why and how these individuals came to Kyrat aside from the brief reasons given. Pagan Min’s merry band of misfits receive similar treatment. You’re given little information about them, and the missions in which you dispatch them aren’t particularly exciting either. Pagan Min makes a strong entrance, and you can tell the writers wanted to establish him as a quirky, yet brutal dictator who will stop at nothing to maintain his grip on the country of Kyrat, but sadly, he is relegated to a voice on the radio for much of the game, and the few times you interact with him aren’t very memorable. Fortunately for you, there’s a photo of your first meeting with him.
The gameplay of Far Cry 4 easily eclipses the failings of its story, and is a living breathing character in its own right. The lush greenery and even the snowy peaks give the illusion of tranquility, and if you aren’t paying attention will quickly result in getting a look at the loading screen as you wait to respawn. The myriad of wild animals, from the hyper-aggressive dholes to the seemingly placid yaks, in addition to the Royal Army soldiers patrolling the roads and forests, make Kyrat a very dangerous place. I won’t even comment on the eagles…yes I will, screw those damn eagles! I don’t know what they feed them in Kyrat, but it must consist of hatred and snake venom because they are psychotic, and I’ve seen them attack just about anything that moves. Luckily, you are given a rather sizeable arsenal to help even the playing field.
Each weapon has its own strengths and weaknesses, and there is something to accommodate any playstyle. If you favor a more stealthy approach, you can equip your weapons with silencers, or simply dispatch your enemies with throwing knives. The recurve bow also makes a comeback, and is an extremely satisfying weapon to use once mastered. The auto-cross, a semi-automatic handheld crossbow, is a lot of fun, and is slightly more forgiving than the bow.
If you’d rather just go in with guns blazing, you can equip yourself with an LMG and simply bury Royal Army soldiers in a torrent of lead and death, blow choppers out of the sky with the RPG, or rain grenades on them with the M79 grenade launcher. The guns in Far Cry 4 aren’t as finely tuned as you’ll find in Arma 3, or even the Battlefield series, but they’re believable. For example, the AK47 packs a punch at the cost of higher recoil, and the Vector .45 ACP will shred your enemies at close range, but only pepper them with bullets beyond 20 meters. The weapons all have a solid feel to them, and some can be devastating to the point of nearly feeling like cheating.
The vehicles remain largely the same in this installment, with a few new ones added this time around. The gyrocopter is the most notable addition, and makes traversing the map to liberate bell towers a breeze. Be wary though, taking to the skies will not protect you. I made the mistake of buzzing an outpost and was promptly hammered with small arms fire and RPG rockets. The hovercraft is another new addition to the vehicle lineup and handles much like you would expect; it’s not the fastest vehicle in the game, and you shouldn’t expect to be able to turn on a dime with it.
There are only 2 skill trees in Far Cry 4, one offering offensive abilities, like faster reloading, new takedown methods, and increased movement speed, while the other tree is defensive, providing you with more health slots, new health and survival syringes, and the ability to ride elephants into battle. If you complete secondary missions and karma events frequently, you’ll have no problem obtaining all the skills, though some of them are locked and certain story missions must be completed, or a certain activity or number of side missions performed in order to obtain them.
Aesthetics – Audio & Visuals
Despite the heroin-fueled wildlife constantly trying to murder you, and the packs of Royal Guards that seem to pop up around every bend in the road, Kyrat is a beautiful place. You can tell a lot of effort was put into making Kyrat look and sound as authentic as possible. The attention to detail can be seen in the fauna inhabiting the river banks, and in the craggy stone cliffs and passes you’ll encounter as you roam the countryside. It’s easy to get caught up in the gorgeous temples with their giant statues of Kyra, and wandering through the valleys and caves that dot the countryside.
The audio is just as immersive as the visuals in Kyrat. I would normally turn down in-game music because it drowns out the rest of the sound effects, and most often dialogue, but I didn’t have to with this game. Aside from riding in vehicles, the music in Far Cry 4 is subtle, and genuinely helps to set the tone of the game. I particularly enjoyed the Kill Bill-esque song that played as I made my way to the final confrontation with Pagan Min. The score definitely compliments the action in this installment of the franchise. The guns and explosions sound great, and you can almost feel the shock wave when you detonate the brick of C4 that you threw on a passing jeep.
Unfortunately, there were a few noticeable issues regarding the graphics. Most noticeable for me was the texture pop. As long as I was standing still, Kyrat was a marvel of graphical achievement. When I was moving though, it often became a hazy, blurred mess beyond roughly 100 meters. Buildings would seemingly disappear in the distance, only to pop into view as I neared closer. The stutter that Scannerbarkly experienced early on in the game’s life is still there as well, though maybe a little less pronounced now. There were a few weird bugs with the AI in the game that I encountered as well. One of the most frustrating was the teleporting guards. One moment, they’d be patrolling a wall, and the next they were on top of a nearby rooftop. It’s hard to line up that perfect 80 meter bow kill when your target might suddenly vanish and reappear a few feet away. The lean mechanic also proved annoying at times. I would have what appeared to be a clear line of sight on my target, only to pull the trigger and be rewarded with a spray of rock chips and a ricocheting sound. After the first few times this happened I stopped relying on it and would just move out of cover long enough to fire my shot, and then pop back into cover. It isn’t game breaking, but if you’re going to have a mechanic in your game, it’s nice if it works properly.
If you were a fan of Far Cry 3, then you shouldn’t be disappointed. If you were hoping for a vastly different experience than Far Cry 3 offered, you won’t really find it here. While Far Cry 4 did make a few improvements to the successful formula of Far Cry 3, it didn’t really do much to set it apart from it’s predecessor. It’s apparent that the developers wanted to replicate the success they had with Far Cry 3, but it feels like they played it a little too safe.
Despite its lackluster story, underdeveloped characters, and few graphical issues, the game is still fun to play. You are free to explore Kyrat at your leisure, and the verticality offered by its Himalayan setting is refreshing after the mostly hilly island of Far Cry 3. Your one-man war against the Royal Army can be fought however you decide, as a ghost slipping into outposts and silently eliminating guards with bow or blade, or by riding an elephant through the front gate and laying waste with an RPG. The few issues I did have with the game weren’t enough to deter me from dropping close to 60 hours of play time into the game, with no regrets. The issues that plagued the game at launch have been mostly fixed from what I can tell, and with luck the remaining issues will be patched out in the near future. If you pick it up during a Steam sale, I’m confident you’ll get your money’s worth out of this game.
Honor your mother, overthrow a dictator
Solid gameplay with plenty to keep you busy
Thin plot with little motivation to murder several hundred people. Minor graphical issues.
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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