The Far Cry series has had quite an interesting life so far. What started out as a narrative-driven FPS revolving around a Jungle island and weird, aggressive monkey-like super mutants turned into a much more down to earth franchise about various protagonists fighting to save countries in the throes of revolution. This has been the theme of the Far Cry series since Far Cry 2 and Far Cry 4 has continued this direction and scope of game play pretty well. Far Cry 4 certainly stays true to what has become of the Far Cry series, but does it add anything new to the series that is worth hanging onto and does it improve on the ground work laid by it’s predecessor?
The first thing players will most likely notice in Far Cry 4 is the location. To put it simply, it’s gorgeous. Kyrat, a small fictitious country in the Himalayan Mountains is a land covered in lush green forests, snowy hill-tops and colorful open fields. Visually this is the most strikingly dynamic, as a well as beautifully designed landscape in the Far Cry series to date. The landscape varies from location-to-location and is quite diverse even within those individual sections. The Mountainous regions are impressive, covered in blindingly white snow the blows through chasms and gullies that one may expect to see at the top of the world. The less mountainous regions are covered in everything from old tall trees and fields full of violet poppy flowers to old stone ruins littering the countryside. While the land is stunning, below lies an unruly populous and a vicious monarch. Kyrat as a country feels like it has a long and storied history and you’re simply the most recent chapter of it. There is even a feeling that there will be much more to come after you. The way characters speak of the future of Kyrat as well as the past that’s shaped it helps to bring a kind of weight and morality to your actions. While this kind of sentiment is definitely found in Far Cry 3, it’s not to this amount. There are even more exotic locations in the game that really display the depth of it’s beauty that shouldn’t even been mention, lest it give too much of the story away. Most everything is great to look at and while some aspects of it’s design could have used some added work, they are largely insignificant and players won’t be dwelling on it unless they suffer from some extreme rock-related form of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.
Pagan Min, the self-appointed “King” of Kyrat is voiced by the talented Troy Baker. He does a good job at a follow-up villain in Far Cry 4. Pagan Min as a character had a tough act to follow after Far Cry 3’s strong antagonist, Vaas. While not nearly as crazy, Min certainly brought a smooth, cunning and charismatic aspect to characters that seemed to be somewhat lacking in the other Far Cry games. Min has a uniquely calm and evil aspect to him that leaves the player wondering what he is going to do next. He is easily the type of character that is likely to shake your hand as he is to put a bullet through your head. Many players may find themselves in a odd “love/hate” relationship with the character, as he brings quite a bit to the table and is a great addition to the villains in the Far Cry franchise. Ajay Ghale, our fearless protagonist isn’t much more than a generic centerpiece. Ubisoft does just enough to get you investing in who he is to carry the player through the story. He’s full of great one-liners though and his family’s history is compelling enough to keep the player wondering in Ajay’s past. While he’s not brilliant, Ajay is definitely the most impactful protagonist in the series to date. Ajay’s allies and the leaders of the Golden Path are frankly are difficult to relate to. Both Amita and Sabal come across as uncompromisingly strict assholes in many scenarios. Neither of these characters are straight with you, despite being the most important person in their revolution. Unfortunately players may be found struggling to make a decision on who to side with. This is not because they both offer something important that players may want or feel aligned with, but because they come across as incredibly untrustworthy and manipulative characters. Ironically enough, the villains are much more relatable. They make no attempt at hiding their true nature and what their goals are with Ajay. The enemies are simply more trust worthy because they do exactly as they say and in many cases come across as being much more human than the characters that claim to be on your side. Characters like Paul De Pleur are compelling and interesting. They seem to have many different sides to them with unseen motivations that affect their actions. While these do not necessarily impact the story it certainly adds to it’s development. The problem here is that none of the friendly characters have any of these in depths qualities which ultimately hurts their motives. There are a few characters that manage to be completely off the wall, untrustworthy and yet fun as well. Keep a close eye on Yogi and Reggie.
The lesser NPCs in the game are pretty generic. They look good with quite a bit of detail in their design, body language and even their audio queues. These characters really help to fill to the world with “living” people. There is a lot of repeating actions and dialogue that is difficult to ignore however. If the player isn’t looking too hard it’s something that won’t bother them, however if they happen to be the type of gamer that’s looking for an in-depth, comprehensive world that has new things to offer from every NPC at every turn, it may be something that bothers them. That said there is a whole lot of detail in each model. Min’s soldiers range from the young to the old, with clean shaven baby faces, to grizzled and scarred complexions and facial hair. Whether friend of foe though, they all seem to be somewhat worried about the wildlife in the area and with very good reason.
Almost all of the animals that exist in Kyrat are aggressive in one way or another. Some much more than others, but if the player pushes their luck with them they may find themselves on the wrong end of a horn, claw or talon. These animal models are absolutely stunning! Whoever did the design and modeling for these beasts deserves a pay raise. The wild cats especially stand out. Tigers and Snow Leopards had some real love put into their designs. After killing one (because that’s the only way in hell you will get close to them.) the fur looks fluffy, thick and as if each individual hair stands on it’s own to make a fine, shiny coat for the animal. It’s fun to watch a tiger stalk it’s prey through the tall grass, or a Black Eagle plunging down to pick up a wild boar and carry it off. Other animals like the Rhino and Elephant are designed with equal amounts of care put into them. Their movements are fluid and the signs that they are about to become aggressive are hard to miss. Players may find themselves making the mistake of getting too close to watch them while they lumber about and get attacked, but it’s well worth it just to see them moving around and watch their mannerisms. These animals help to create the illusion of a stable and beautiful ecosystem that most other games can’t compete with.
The game’s audio is pretty solid. The music is a good mixture of modern electronic and historically Asian influenced music mixed together. It’s enough to fill in some of the down time while the player is driving to a mission or is quietly scouting an outpost looking for a good point to attack without intruding on their concentration. Enemies will yell some pretty entertaining and unique things at you while they are looking for Ajay or even actively shooting at him. The weapons audio is great as well and melee combat has a satisfying “Thud” or “Shink” sound to it that lets the player know their attacks have hit the intended target.
Quite a few of the weapons are pulled right from Far Cry 3. This isn’t exactly a bad thing since that game had some really great guns. Some of these are nice to see again, but it would have been nice to have a few more new guns, if you’ve played Far Cry 3 then you pretty much know what to expect for the weapons and upgrade system that is available in Far Cry 4. It seems to work really well and there’s not reason to fix what ain’t broke, but a few more additions would have been nice. Players may find that they become comfortable with their “favorites” too. While this is fine, to get the most out of the game and play around with different tactics players should really look at trying different weapons regularly. They may find themselves pleasantly surprised when using something new. Far Cry 4 does a great job at giving players options, especially where tactics and weapons are concerned. It’s really difficult to get bored of the combat too with so many options. You can go in as a quiet assassin, knifing anyone you come across, or a ranged ghost filling your targets full of arrows like the Kyrati hunters of old. Players can run into an area full of enemies, loudly gunning them all down, throwing led and their aim out the window as they plaster Pagan’s guard with bullets. In some cases players can even use the wildlife itself as a weapon. There is no shortage of available weapons or tactics however and that should keep most players easily entertained.
The ability to traverse the world has certainly improved as well. Players may remember unlocking the “Wing-Suit” in Far Cry 3 and it’s reappeared in the latest game, giving players a bit more maneuverability and a way to avoid simply plunging to their deaths so easily. Far Cry 4 has also introduced a grappling hook. This allows players to climb a steep cliff faces and swing from ledge to ledge without too much of a risk of death. This grappling hook is a nice addition to the game that gives a player very specifically added mobility. While it’s not usable in many situations, it is certainly indispensable when the player wants it. The hook also helps to give them game some vertical scale since players can now explore some of the cliff faces for items or even use them as a vector of attack. While it’s not necessarily a game changer, players have certainly gotten creative when using the grappling hook to their advantage and it’s a nice addition to the Far Cry series.
Unfortunately the game does have more than it’s fair share of bugs. Players may run into the occasional clipping glitch that causes them to get stuck in a wall or firmly lodged between two objects in the world. The game also appears to suffer from diminished “polish” as players progress. While it may have been a coincidence, a vast majority of bugs I ran into were in the last 20 percent of the game. These bugs include odd graphical problems that seemed to cause a blue lighting effect filter over the entire game while outside that could only be fixed by restarting. A more noticeable as well as annoying bug that caused me to be unable to steady my sniper rifles by holding by breathe also came up quite a few times. While the option was available to use it simply did not work when I pressed the key to activate it. I attempted to correct this by changing scopes, rifles and even reloading my previous checkpoint however I could not resolve this problem until I restarted the game all together. All of these bugs I experienced in the last section of the game which seemed to be strange. It simply could be poor timing, however there were noticeably more problems for me as a neared the end of the game.
All-in-all Far Cry 4 is a decent game. If you love exploration and a good FPS that gives players choice and flexibility in how to tackle an objective then you’ll most likely enjoy Ubisoft’s lately installment in the Far Cry series. There are however a few issues that made the game frustrating. The glitches seem to be a symptom of nothing more than a lack of consistency and a rush job that could have easily been avoided had the game be delayed for even an extra month or two. While the content that is there is good, it does repeat itself a lot and it does limit the game to some degree. With all that said though, the combat is satisfying and there are some wonderfully well represented characters in the game that should stick in your mind for a long time to come. The environments are breathtaking, expansive and are rewarding to explore. For me, the experience was overwhelmingly positive and despite it’s flaws I had trouble pulling myself away. As long as you’re not expecting Far Cry 4 to reinvent the First Person genre or even the Far Cry franchise then you’ll most likely be very pleased with the time spent in Kyrat.