Oh, what a glorious day it is, brothers, for Pagan Min’s light shines down upon us all. His grace and tenure brighten our lives and give us hope in an age of mediocrity, for he, and only he, understands the needs of the people of Kyrat. He has brought us wealth and hope, he has spread his wisdom unto us, but most importantly, he has assured Kyrat a future. Sort of. I mean, the money is technically worthless now, and we basically just hope not to get shot, but we’ve got, like, temples, I guess? You know what else we have? Guns. Crossbows too. And elephants!
Needless to say, Far Cry 4 has upped the ante in every regard. The insanity from FC3 has morphed into anarchy, the hilly islands have grown into mountainous valleys, and the komodo dragons have been replaced with blood-thirsty honey badgers. It’s as though the devs listened to what the people wanted and said, “Here, let me get that for you,” and chucked a few more elephants in for good measure. It’s by no means a perfect game, but Min be damned if it’s not an enjoyable one.
Far Cry 4 takes place in the failed nation state of Kyrat, a fictional region inspired by the likes of The Himalayas and Nepal currently in the midst of civil unrest. You play Ajay Ghale; a 22-year-old dude born in Kyrat but raised in America with the personality of a mortar and pestle, travelling back to his homeland to scatter his mother’s ashes. Before being able to smuggle your way into Kyrat (which you are warned against by the immigration office beforehand), you’re kidnapped by Pagan Min, self-appointed king of Kyrat and all round glorious leader. Cue your escape, joining with the rebels and liberating the people from Min’s oppressive regime… Although, if you’re like me, you won’t care about that last bit because you have no reason to.
The weakest part of the game is the main plot. You’re thrust into a fight with the motivation of scattering your mother’s ashes, but nothing drives you into doing what you do. While the arc involving Sabal and Amita is explored, not much else is. Significant characters are often introduced (not just referenced) in one cutscene and killed off in the next, so it doesn’t feel like a triumph to bring them down. The whole thing feels more like it’s there to facilitate the setting rather than drive narrative, which is a shame given the rich variety of characters in Kyrat. What the game lacks in plot, though, it makes up for in it’s writing.
As you could probably gather from first five minutes of the game, the dialogue in the game is fantastic, and the characters that get more than two cutscenes of screentime are great. Let’s take Longinus, the ex-warlord turned arms dealer obsessed with the word of The Lord who saved him. There’s a mission briefing where he touts verses from the bible at you while loading an RPG. Upon finishing the briefing, he leaves the tent, RPG in hand, with no explanation where he’s going, but you know damn well he’s off to spread God’s message. It’s this strangely insane humour that pervades almost everything in the game, and it’s fan-effing-tastic. I suppose it’s this err towards the comical that inspired RIDEABLE ELEPHANTS, and I, for one, am fully on board with it.
When I said Far Cry 4 had upped the ante in every regard, I meant every regard. While Kyrat is about the same size as the Rook Islands, everything is more tightly packed, more diverse, and more lively. Outposts still offer plenty of missions like hostage rescues and races, but random events will pop up as you’re commuting for you to engage in as well, including stuff like wiping out groups of enemies and quick bomb defusal missions. There is no shortage of stuff to do, and it’s made even better by the landscape of Kyrat.
Kyrat is primarily composed of mountainous terrain, which adds to FC4 tremendously. Because of the verticality of the landscape, there’s a lot more freedom when it comes to approaching your objectives, and getting from A to B is a bit more interesting than just driving forward like some brain-dead inebriac. This is taken advantage of by the wingsuit (a FC3 favourite) and the grapple, both of which open up more options for getting around and approaching areas differently. The game doesn’t just entice the player to exploit the land around them; it dares them to make use of the wildlife too.
One of the big additions to the game is the ability to lure animals into the foray, or, if you’re as much of a baller as I am, ride them the hell into battle. Instead of simply releasing an animal from a cage like in FC3, animals from the surrounding area can be enticed into attacking nearby enemies by throwing bait down. Of course, you probably don’t want to be in the way of those tigers and the bait, but you’ll love watching your enemies make that mistake instead. You can even coerce elephants into letting you a ride atop them, gloriously trumpeting and destroying everything in its path. Every. Damn. Thing. And let me tell you, it feels amazing.
If you’ve played any of the other Far Cry games, you know exactly what you’re getting into. The game feels and plays almost identically to FC3, from the controls, the UI, right down to the handling of vehicles. It’s not a bad thing because, well, the other Far Cry games have played pretty damn well, but a few things have been streamlined, thank Min. Selling items is no longer as tedious as talking to an ex about their newest love interests, crafting syringes doesn’t involve pausing everything to mix some leaves together, and auto-driving alleviates the need to focus on driving while drive by-ing fools wearing the wrong colours on the way to yo crew’s tastefully adorned monastery. These changes have made doing stuff a lot easier to do, but there is the occasional hiccup on the game’s end.
Not to alarm you, but the game has a few bugs… Kind of. No, I’m not talking about the bees or that strange lump in your right arm, I mean random WTF moments that don’t break the game but… Are odd. Watching the hang glider you just mounted fly away from you as you remain firmly planted on the ground or seeing a dog continuously walk into a wall are a couple examples, but they’re few and far between. The occasional little reality-breaker will crop up, but nothing that irrevocably destroys the game…
… But you have all the freedom in the word to wreck everything irrevocably in your path, and it’s easy to do. Getting places is now easier since there’s more vehicles lying around, and GOD DAMMIT, RIDEABLE ELEPHANTS, SERIOUSLY. You can still sneak, you can still shove C4 down their throats, and both are perfectly valid ways of approaching the game, but dude. Elephants. It might sound like I’m obsessed with them, which I am, but it’s for a good reason. No matter what route you take, including being on an elephant, it’s satisfying to pull it off. You’re given the freedom to approach the situation as you choose, and you’re given the tools you need to do it… In style.
Far Cry has always been a good looking game, and FC4 is no different. I wouldn’t say it’s a giant visual leap from FC3, but that’s not to say it looks bad by any metric of, you know, vision. Whether you’re deep in a cave or exploring the mystical Shangri-La, the game just looks bloody nice. The vistas are huge, the weapons don’t look like smudged blobs in your hands, and the facial details are impeccable. It’s a vividly colourful game too, something that has helped FC stand out from the crowd (except Fc2, but we’ll forget that ever happened). Carrying on from FC3, the performances by the people behind the characters are amazing.
Troy Baker’s voice. It’s like soft ice cream sloshing through your ears, but in a way that only Troy Baker could make pleasurable. Don’t lie, you know exactly what I’m talking about. He’s amazing at what he does, but every performance in this game is on par with Baker’s ever brilliant work. The rebel leaders squabbles don’t come across as disingenuous, Longinus’ voice straddles that fine line between enthusiastic preacher and little-too-eager zealot, and Hurk… Oh, beautiful, ‘Murica-head Hurk. They’re all enjoyable to watch and are all brilliantly executed. All of this is accentuated with a soundtrack that is both hilarious and perfectly appropriate.
In the first five minutes of the game, the tone is set by Joe Strummer singing those ominous words, “Should I stay or should I go?” as a potato sack is pulled over your eyes. From then on, every song is sung in Hindi, upbeat as hell, and fits the atmosphere of Kyrat like a pair of jeggings on that friend of yours that just put them on for fun but realised they fit way too well. It’s juxtaposed against the more ambient score of the game, which is inspired by traditional Indian music, and whatever songs play over the radio, which helps with the overall atmosphere of the game. So, yes, you could say the soundtrack gets the Nick seal of approval, which is just a sticker with me riding an elephant on it.
Far Cry 4 adds plenty of good things into the series, including a richer environment and streamlining the game experience. It’s a sandbox game for sandbox gamers, and every play style is accommodated for. While the plot is a hunk of something you’d find on the side of a Kyrat dirt road, the writing is still sensational, and the performances within the game are top notch. The ante has been upped, and Pagan Min’s light, benevolent and fulfilling, truly shines upon us all.
Please note: Far Cry 4 has multiplayer functionality, but that was not included in this review. And, really, who’s ever played Far Cry for the multiplayer? In addition, this game was provided to the writer by the publisher for the purpose of review.