- Format: PS3 (version reviewed), PS4, PC, 360, Xbone
- Unleashed: Out Now
- Publisher: Ubisoft
- Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
- Players: 1 (offline), 2 (online co-op), 2-10 (online competitive)
- Site: http://far-cry.ubi.com/en-US/home/
It’s not fair (or accurate) to describe Far Cry 4 as a lazy remix of its prequel, but there’s a lot that will be familiar here. The open world is grassy and mountainous, and the map is still filled in by climbing to the top of radio towers. Fast travel locations are unlocked by ‘liberating’ outposts; one of the first weapons the story gives you is a bow; there’s still the surreal requirement to skin a particular number of particular animals to craft storage upgrades; heck, there’s even a mission where you’re tasked with burning drug fields. Far Cry 3 veterans will slip into the experience like they would into their favourite, but slightly worn, pair of slippers.
So, generally, speaking, we know what to expect here. There’s a competely different story of course and, we’re happy to report, it’s a distinct improvement on that of the last game. Gone are the tedious trendy white Americans, by turns defeating and being persecuted by non-Americans with funny accents. Set in a fictional area of India, enemies and allies alike are almost exclusively non-white. The script very briefly (but intelligently) touches upon the issues of prejudice, racism, and imperialism; but somewhat ironically, Pagan Min is played by the distinctly non-Asian Troy Baker, and the Indian-American hero Ajay Ghale is played by white Canadian James A Woods.
Putting that ickiness to one side (and commending the scriptwriter for portraying the only two overtly white Americans as distinctly unheroic), it must be said that Pagan is an excellently written, excellently acted, and thoroughly memorable antagonist. The acting for named characters is good throughout, which adds extra weight to the choices you’re asked to make. You see, there are times in the campaign where you’ll be forced to make a choice. Not only a few ‘does this person live or die’ occasions, but there are also times where you must side with one of two opposing factions within the rebel ‘Golden Path’ organisation. Your choice will have a minor effect on the story as a whole as well as the following mission, and it’s never ‘good choice A or evil choice B’. Both options will be morally ambiguous. More of this please, games industry.
But let’s look at the bigger picture, and the picture is big; a huge, sprawling map that is about the same size as that of – yes – FC3. There’s a gigantic amount to do outside of the story and, in keeping with Far Cry tradition, it’s largely up to you how and when you do it. ‘Liberating’ (murdering everybody in) an Outpost is a good example. Do you go all sneaky-sneaky, taking soldiers out one at a time with takedowns, silenced guns and arrows? Do you perhaps attract local predators by throwing in some bait that you’ve kept from animals you’ve skinned, or maybe release an animal they have caged? Or do you go loud, laughing maniacally as you spray bullets and explosives everywhere, not caring how many reinforcements may arrive? Perhaps meet halfway, and carefully disable alarms undetected before going on a killing spree?
There are plenty of ways to move about the world, too. Gliders return along with the wingsuit, and you can pretend you’re in that James Bond movie with a gyrocopter while you’re flying a gyrocopter. On the ground, vehicles now have a very welcome ‘autodrive’ option. You can use this as a sort of chauffeur when you set a waypoint, but it’s meant to be used to allow you to concentrate on murdering with a gun while driving a moving vehicle. But why drive a vehicle when you can, with the relevant unlocked skill, ride an elephant? You can command your psychotic pachyderm to charge and bash, and it doesn’t go down easily. The first time you hear a terrified soldier scream “elephant!” and dive for cover is almost worth the price of admission alone.
There are however blushes which FC4, without the novelty FC3 had, cannot cover. The PS3 frame rate is a tad juddery, but not enough to spoil the experience (we experienced none of the horrors early digital adopters had with our disc). More irritating is that the game demands you stand in exactly the right place to interact with objects. Combine this with the fact that the same button is used to search corpses and swap your weapon for theirs for extra frustration! Of much greater concern however is the fact that generally speaking, campaign missions throw you into a corner and force you to shoot your way out. This is completely at odds with the nature of the rest of the game and, indeed, the rest of the series – and is particularly irritating if your preferred playstyle is stealthy.
The game finds redemption in online co-op, which is fun with either a friend or a stranger. Not only are activities suddenly a little easier, the dynamic with another person to support and be supported by is completely different. The campaign is offline only but, to be honest, it probably wouldn’t be any better dragging somebody else through it. The objective-based competitive modes are a nice distraction – one team are modern with guns and vehicles, the other mystical with arrows and animals – and we never had trouble finding a game on PS3. But they didn’t hold our interest for very long. Longevity is at least promised in the comprehensive (if slightly awkward) map editor, which allows you to share and play user created challenge maps.
It’s a shame that FC4 doesn’t distance itself more from FC3, but it’s still very much its own game. In fact if you haven’t played the prequel, add another mark to the below score. Either way, this is a quality open-world adventure that guarantees dozens of hours of fun – and this time, you can bring a friend. For some of it.