Having seen the internet-sized backlash to Assassins Creed Unity, it was with some trepidation that I put my Far Cry 4 disc into my Xbox. As implied here and here, Far Cry 3 was one of my favourite games of the previous generation, and the possibility of the sequel suffering the same depressing fate as its sister franchise was a very real possibility. The words of Creative Directors stating that certain elements were not going to be present as they were ‘prioritising’ did nothing to alleviate the growing knot in my stomach. I have therefore decided to take my time to be able to get a true understanding of the game I have in front of me before posting my review.
I say this as the absolute truth – right now Far Cry 4 is the best game available on next gen consoles bar none.
You are Ajay Ghale; an American returning to his home country of Kyrat in the Himalayas to scatter your mothers ashes. Your opposite number is Pagan Min, a pink suited smooth talking violent maniac who happens to be king of Kyrat. Captured, you are rescued by the resistance (The Golden Path) who help you on your journey towards enlightenment; whether it is a spiritual or violent journey is down to you. As with its predecessor, Far Cry 4’s plot is a fine balance of immersive without being overbearing. Some evenings I have followed the story, running from mission to objective to cut scene to grandstand event. Other nights I have just aimlessly wandered off into the distance, with no intent other than to explore. Both approaches are equally engaging and rewarding, but my personal opinion is that it is the latter where the game really comes into its own. I have wandered through the beautiful mountain panoramas in search of mystery, intrigue and stuff to shoot, yet I found myself staggered by the diversity of what I found. Bears, leopards, tigers, dive bombing eagles, majestic stags and bastard devil fish; the myriad of fauna goes on and on. When you think you have exhausted the menagerie of animals to hunt you’ll stop, and only when you look around you’ll find yourself standing in the middle of a herd of buffalo, extremely angry rhino’s or, if you are very lucky, group of enormous majestic elephants.
The elephants, in case you wondered, are absolutely awesome. Once you have unlocked the ability through the broad and diverse skills tree you are able to ride wild elephants, which essentially equates to being able to tear the earth asunder beneath four padded feet of pachydermal fury and rage. Trucks are violently tipped over. Enemies are thrown mercilessly from cliffs and bridges with one sudden powerful swing of their mighty trunk. Animals are stomped remorselessly into the earth as part of a seemingly unstoppable rampage. The few times that I have done so, I had a genuine pang of sadness when my elephant compatriot eventually succumbed to the onslaught of enemies and died. This was short lived as I was still prepared to take some skin for crafting purposes. Many of the animals seem nothing but incidental to the actual story, and to see so much depth and character is truly a joy to behold.
Returning to the plot, you find the now traditional blend of Far Cry profundity. You undertake missions of spiritual discovery, of emotional absolution, and a feeling of being embedded deep in the plot is achieved by it molding around the decisions you make. You choose which path to walk, and you live and die by those decisions. I haven’t bonded with my character since I was masquerading around the floating streets of Columbia as Booker DeWitt, and it’s only when you get a good one that you realise just how important empathy with your character is to a single player story mode.
There has been a sense with Far Cry 4 that it is just recycling an old formula. The format isn’t a giant leap away from Far Cry 3, and talk of Ubisoft’s ‘climb a tower and reveal more map’ rinse and repeat strategy across their franchises rightly refuse to go away, but you do really have to say if it aint broke don’t fix it. And broke has been a bit of a big word for Ubisoft at the moment. I have heard talk of bugs in the game, but I have to be honest I’ve been playing nothing else for the past two weeks and I haven’t found a single one. I was genuinely surprised at how…..finished….the game feels, something that seems to be a bit of a rarity these days.
Whilst I could wax lyrical for another thousand words, I’m actually going to draw the line here. The reason being is that I’m enjoying it so much I want to get back to it, and also that there’s so much going on that in the not too distant future I’ll be returning to my Into The Wilderness articles with some tales Kyrat. So I will leave with this – Far Cry 4 really is the only game you should be buying this Christmas, as it’s the first 10/10 game I’ve played this year.
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Drew Pontikis is an avid gamer and writer. A fan of racing sims and first person shooters, Drew is notable for talking almost exclusively using Futurama quotes.He's usually found in front of his Xbox or his laptop, follow him on Twitter as @drew060609 Gamertag: drewski060609