Far Cry 4 is probably one of the craziest power fantasy games of the year. While it doesn’t stray very far from what its predecessor laid out — in fact, it’s incredibly similar to Far Cry 3 — it serves up just enough to stand on its on as an extremely fun, albeit overall silly experience.
As Ajay Ghale, a returning citizen to the fictional Himalayan country of Kyrat, which is under the dictatorship of an eccentric but ultimately deadly psychopath, your only mission at the opening of the game is to spread your mother’s ashes in her home soil. Things get complicated as always, and early on you join with the local guerrilla group bent on overthrowing the man in power, Pagan Min.
Unfortunately for Ghale, these guys are on war among themselves. The two leaders of the resistance have very distinct views of how to do what they do, forcing you to pick a side throughout the game, as they deal you missions that slowly, but surely, help spread your control through the gigantic map of Kyrat.
Kyrat is an incredibly beautiful and diverse locale, and much like the island from Far Cry 3, it’s put to great use during missions and is brimming with opportunities to simply stumble upon the sheer randomness of the butting of heads among nature and humans. The local wildlife is extremely dangerous, and more often than not, it loves to get in your way — and provide some of Far Cry 4‘s craziest moments, like elephants just tearing into an enemy camp and taking care of it for you, or the opposite, ruining your chances completely.
That’s why it’s a good thing you can continuously evolve your character the further along you get in the game. Most of the early ones are just about what you come to expect in a third-person shooter, more so if you have any experience with Far Cry 3, but unlike the previous game, Far Cry 4 has less variety, its upgrades basically filtered down from the long list of options given to you in the past. It ends up opting you between two approaches to gameplay that favor sheer force and stealth, but also help buff you up via crafting.
Crafting comes into play exactly like it did in Far Cry 3. Killing the correct types off of the local fauna will earn you gear upgrades that allow you, for instance, to carry more money or ammo. The further you get in these upgrades, the harder the requirements become, eventually ending up having you off unique animals via a group of side missions. There’s also very much the same approach to crafting shots that start with the simple healing kit down to hunting assists and the always welcome slow down effect. This time, though, most of these are crafted automatically as you pick up herbs and have space on your bags, which is quite useful, especially later in the game when space is plenty and it’s easy to lose track of what you have.
It’s also easy to lose track of what you have to do next simply because there’s way too much to do at practically all corners of Kyrat. Activities range from simply killing off a target to securing a shipment, but also involve a laundry list the size of a prison’s in terms of collectibles, which give you bonuses the more you find, serving as an incentive to write them off your list as you run around causing mayhem.
Being a Ubisoft game, it also goes without mentioning that there are towers to find and climb within Far Cry 4 to free the airwaves from the doctrine of Min. Also, in case you were wondering, you can also take down outposts if your bullets speak louder than your words. Heck, they’re always enjoyable and quite challenging, opening up quick travel routes the more you clear. Doing so also disrupts the trade routes among the strongholds, the bigger and more bad-ass versions of outposts that you can take down at any point during the game.
There’s also the fact that Kyrat is such a vertical intensive world in comparison to the island from the previous game. That allowed Ubisoft to add a few fun tools to your bag of toys while traversing Far Cry 4, namely climbing gear, a wingsuit, and the zipper helicopter, which come into play quite heavily throughout. The wingsuit in particular is incredibly fun to use and helps in getting around quickly and easily, while the climbing tools are only really available at certain spots, forcing you to sometimes still have to circle sections of terrain that don’t allow you to climb over. The helicopter is easily in a league of its own — in my game, it became my go-to hit and run vehicle due to its ease of use and set spawn locations around the map.
If you’re worried about what to expect in terms of the story, Far Cry 4‘s cast is diverse and interesting enough to keep you occupied. For as much as I could drone on complaining about how unsympathetic both of the rebel leaders are, or how much of a mindless klutz the protagonist is, it’s Pagan Min who steals the show, dropping in from time to time just to taunt you. Then there’s the duo of junkies who like to send you on drugged out trips, basically delivering the most colorful and insane set of missions in the game.
And just in case you find a particular part of the game to be too difficult, Far Cry 4 offers a co-op mode, allowing you to zip a friend along when taking over a particularly challenging stronghold, but sadly not during the campaign missions. These mount up to leaderboards, so it’s a fun incentive to get someone to tag along and get better scores. It’s worth mentioning that this is one of the first games to implement guest passes on PlayStation 4 that basically gift someone a fully functional copy of the game that’s available for a number of hours so they can join you, which works well in drawing new players in.
On the other side of the warzone, if you are interested in killing others instead of jolly cooperation, Far Cry 4‘s multiplayer mode is separately implemented from the single player content, and puts two rival factions against each other for control of territory or simply for the joy of mutual murder; basically the standard FPS online treatment.
As a fan of Far Cry since the beginning, it’s refreshing to see Ubisoft’s treatment of the franchise since the second installment. What began with an unique approach to the then already stagnant first person shooter genre, later turning the series fairly involved with their writing, with Far Cry 4 being the latest and most fun refinement of the formula.
In many aspects, this is a continuation of what Far Cry 3 began, under a new guise and world, with small refinements. However minute some of these improvements might be to an already established quality premise, the new setting and group of missions are strong enough to stand the game on its own. That might chance in whatever Ubisoft has in store for the franchise, but sticking to the present, their latest effort is an incredibly tight game that should keep you busy for a long while.