Developers: Ubisoft Montreal, Ubisoft Kiev, Ubisoft Red Storm, Ubisoft Shanghai, Ubisoft Toronto
Release Date: November 18th, 2014
Available On: PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One
Reviewer’s Note: I played the PlayStation 4 version of this game. There may be differences between versions.
Far Cry 3 was probably my surprise hit of 2012. With fun gameplay, interesting characters, a cool story, and a great setting with a lot of things to explore, Far Cry 3 was a game that was seriously worth playing. So I was a little worried when Far Cry 4 came out with Ubisoft’s track record. So does Far Cry 4 manage to continue and become another surprise hit, or should I have known better than buying into it?
Far Cry 4 puts you in the role of Ajay Ghale, a man who is returning to his home country of Kyrat. His goal is to find a place called Lakshmana and to spread his mother’s ashes there. Things go wrong, however, when he is captured by Kyrat’s cruel dictator Pagan Min. Sprung by the Golden Path, a rebel group trying to bring Pagan Min down, Ajay must now join the Golden Path to both help with their goal, and to find Lakshmana. It may not seem like much at first, but Far Cry 4’s story is a surprisingly smart piece. A large portion of the game focuses not on the Golden Path’s efforts to bring down Pagan Min, but rather at the internal struggles of the group. Described as “an elephant with two heads”, the Golden Path suffers from split leadership. Sabal wants to stick to the country’s religious and traditional routes, while Amita wants to modernize it through any means necessary. It’s an interesting story about the dangers of both tradition and modernization, and how sometimes the devil you know is better than the one that you don’t. My only real complaint is that, compared to Far Cry 3’s Jason, Ajay is just an extremely uninteresting main protagonist. Jason started as a douchey college drop-out party kid, and ended the game a completely changed person. Compared to that Ajay is just… there. He never really does much of anything outside of gameplay and doesn’t really change much by the end of the game.
As expected for an open-world shooter, there is a ton to do in the game. Starting with just the main missions, you’ll be going through various activities that vary from all out fire fights, to stealth segments, to driving around. The game has over 30 main missions of varying length which take about 15 – 20 hours to complete. The game also encourages multiple playthroughs because at different points Sabal and Amita have different plans and you have to choose who’s you think is more viable. Not only that, but once you choose them then they become the temporary leader of the Golden Path and will decide the next few missions. The game really likes to change things up too. One mission saw me sneaking through an enemy base, capturing a leader, and then blasting my way out while dragging out their leader. Another saw me climbing up the Himalayas and have to keep myself supplied with breathing masks so I don’t drop dead. A third mission involved a drug trip, enemies exploding into flowers, running in circles around a giant facility, and a man named “The Chemist” lecturing me on math. It was all a ton of fun.
Yet it’s not just the story that will be having you do things. The game is packed with side activities. The biggest involve liberating outposts from enemies, and climbing towers to reveal parts of the map. Outpost liberation is easily the more engaging of the two. Each outpost can be approached differently, and you can either go in guns blazing or stealthy. A head-on approach may be the faster of the two, but you’re going to get the enemies to signal for reinforcement and have to deal with more than you may have initially thought. On the other hand, a stealth approach takes time, but each outpost can be liberated with no rounds fired. Even if you figure you are going to get caught you can at least shut the alarms off ahead of time and significantly reduce the amount of enemies you will have to fight. Towers are less intensive, serving more like platforming puzzles as you try to figure out how to get to the top. They’re not difficult, but they’re at least a good way to break up the game here and there. Both outposts and towers have good reasons to be captured though. Outposts serve as quick travel points so you can get around the (rather large) open world easier, while towers clear up the fog of war and let you see what’s around. Also, both of them unlock more side quests for you to get greater rewards.
Yes there is indeed more. Each outpost usually has about three side quests, and each tower usually has one. There’s about ten different kinds of side quests, with a few hits and a few misses among them. Some will have you assassinating commanders, while others have you saving hostages from Pagan Min’s forces. A couple interesting ones have you defending people from dangerous wild life, or hunting rare animals using specific weapons. The worst of the bunch comes from ones that require you to collect crates and then deliver them to a set point in a time limit, which often are just unfun and require you to either really haul ass, or be lucky and find a gyro copter. There’s a bunch of races as well that are either hit or miss, and one type of hunting quest that is basically just “take this bow and go shoot some harmless animals”, making me wonder what the challenge (or even point) of that one is. I also couldn’t help but get annoyed at how often random events happened. The worst offender is when your outposts get attacked by Pagan Min’s troops. Often I would find myself just leaving an outpost only to be alerted that an army had somehow slipped in behind me to attack it, the game even going so far as to automatically change my waypoint to the outpost I just left. Eventually I just ignored this, since there was no penalty to doing so.
There’s also collectables to hunt for, there being four different kinds with varying degrees of use. The game is at least nice enough to have a progress screen that clearly spells out the rewards you’ll get for however many of each collectable you grab, so you can know what’s worth getting and what’s worth ignoring. You can also farm plants to create drugs to help you in combat, hunt and skin animals to upgrade your equipment, and participate in an arena that throws waves of enemies at you and allows you to either take on a survival challenge or be limited to using specific weapons. If you’re enjoying all this then you can feel free to invite a friend to do it with you, as the game can be played co-op online at any time. Notably the PlayStation 4 version allows you to give a “Key to Kyrat” to a friend which allows them to play co-op with you for two hours even if they don’t own the game. This is a feature that absolutely needs to be put into more games.
While the ability to play co-op at any time is great, the one majorly disappointing thing with Far Cry 4 stems from its competitive multiplayer, labeled Battles of Kyrat. In this mode the two different teams actually play completely different. The Golden Path have access to guns and grenades, can use vehicles, and can spend money they earn in-match to buy better armor and ammo for use. On the other hand the demonic Rakshasa only have a bow and arrow, but can use special arrows to poison enemies or teleport. They also cloak while crouched, summon animals to assist them, and take drugs to increase their speed. Both sides have advantages and disadvantages, though in my time playing I honestly found the Rakshasa to have the better draw of the two. More importantly though, I wasn’t having much fun with Battles of Kyrat. The games are limited to 5v5 but have huge maps which led to a lot of pointless running around, and often I was dead long before I had a clue what killed me. As an aside, Far Cry 4 also comes with a map editor. It can’t be used for multiplayer maps like Far Cry 2 had (though apparently they’re going to add that later), but you can make single player missions with it. Hopefully we’ll see something neat come out of that one.
Battles of Kyrat aside, Far Cry 4 is probably one of the best AAA games to have come out in 2014. Its large open world, interesting story, fun gameplay, and extensive options to entertain yourself should keep you busy for a long time. Even near the end of the game I was still discovering new corners to Kyrat and taking in the wonderful sights of one of the most realized video game worlds of this generation so far.