Disclaimer: Before you read any further, while I could appreciate it for what it was, I did not enjoy my time with Far Cry 3. Having said that, while I feel that Far Cry 4 adds some rather intriguing features, it falls into some of the same pitfalls that its predecessor did. While it succeeds in introducing a terrific tyrant and some really satisfying new elements to the Far Cry formula, it also has its fair share of shortcomings.
The game begins as you, Ajay Ghale, arrive in Kyrat to spread your mother’s ashes. Upon arriving, you are immediately introduced to the main antagonist, Pegan Min, in — arguably — one of the greatest opening sequences of the past year. Following the stirring opening, you find yourself at Pegan’s mansion for lunch, only to have him excuse himself in order to torture one of your acquaintances. From here, you finally take control of Ajay, and your first task is to meet up with a group of freedom fighters, known as the Golden Path, who are there to rescue you and bring you back to their village. In the village, you are introduced to the two leaders of the group, Sabal and Amita, and you learn that your father was a founding member of this organization. Naturally, it is now your duty to help the Golden Path overthrow Pegan and reclaim Kyrat in their name.
You quickly learn that both Sabal and Amita have very different views for the future of Kyrat and the Golden Path. The story plays out as you take on the role of handyman, tending to whichever group leader’s missions sound more appealing to you. Missions range from trying to sneak into a town to gather intel, to fighting your way through an opium facility. You'll experience several trippy missions from a variety of ancillary and main story characters, all of whom decide they're going to drug you because Ajay must look like a guy who needs drugs in his life. That is pretty much the premise of this game. Pegan is easily one of the game’s strongest assets, but his actual on-screen time is limited to the opening and ending scenes. While he is not always on-screen, he will call you several times throughout the story to remind you he's there. If we are all being honest here, no one is playing this game for the story. In fact, you can be done with the story — literally — the moment you take control of Ajay if you choose not to move from the table. The real appeal of this game is Kyrat itself.
Kyrat is easily bigger than wherever forgettable location Far Cry 3 took place. The environments look fantastic, from the beautiful river scenes that reflect the sunrise in your face to the snowy Himalayas, and there's no denying that this is a gorgeous looking game. Unfortunately, bigger is not always better. You will spend hours doing much of the same stuff you did in Far Cry 3’s open world, including liberating outposts, hunting wildlife to craft bigger pouches for all the junk you carry, climbing radio towers to get rid of the fog on the map, and forgetting that fire spreads like butter on toast as you find yourself in flames after throwing a molotov at a guy behind you, only to continue scouting an outpost as the fire creeps up on you in a matter of moments. There are a few new side-mission types, one of which has you racing through various points, but ultimately they are hindered by the games poor car handling controls. There is actually an auto-drive mode for your vehicle which will take you to a marked location of your choosing on the map, but hold on as the game seems to have a hard time figuring out how to take turns as well. Fortresses, which serve as checkpoints for the game’s story, are also new additions to the mix and are "weakened" as you progress through the story, making them only slightly more challenging than your typical outposts to liberate. The tattoo upgrading system is done away with in favor of 2 skill trees — one representing an elephant and the other a tiger — that are unlocked with XP points (note: some remain locked for purchase until you complete various side and story missions). The elephant side focuses on endurance enhancements, such as a larger health bar and auto-crafting health syringes when you pick up green leaves, while the tiger side provides you with more offensive abilities like being able to stealth kill heavy enemies and ride a certain animal.
While that's all fine and dandy, the game does offer some new things to make doing these familiar tasks more entertaining. Let me tell you about the bad-ass feeling of taking over an outpost while riding in on the back of an elephant with a rocket launcher. Enemies scream in fear of the majestic animal you ride upon, meeting their demise from either your elephant flipping them up into the air or you blowing them up with a well-placed rocket shot. In fact, this is one of those moments where you encourage the helpless minions of Min to sound the alarm, just so you can immediately topple the cars as the reinforcements arrive.
Elephants are not the only new toy the game gives you. At various points throughout the game, you stumble across this duct-taped flying contraption called a Buzzer, which looks like something you would see in one of those Red Bull energy drink commercials. It is actually a blast to fly around in and much more effective than the hang glider. The game also gives you a wingsuit that you can use to glide around like Batman when you leap from a mountaintop or decide to randomly jump off your Buzzer in mid-air. Another new gadget to the series is the grappling hook, which has its various, and obvious, uses for traversing the world.
As with Far Cry 3, the series’ fourth iteration features co-op play, this time allowing you to invite a friend into your game world. It’s fun to liberate outposts and fortresses as a team, and coming up with crazy stuff to do together is always a good time. This includes using your grappling hook to hang beneath your friend’s Buzzer as he/she flies around the game environment. You can even die if they get too careless with you hanging underneath them. It is in these few moments of absurdity where the game shines brightest.
"When it comes down to it, if you loved your time with Far Cry 3 — and have a hankering for more of that kind of Far Cry action — you will have a terrific stay in Kyrat."
The fun does come with its caveats, though. Gone are the stand alone co-op missions introduced in Far Cry 3. Even though you and a friend can roam freely throughout Kyrat — taking down outposts and fortresses as mentioned previously — that is about the extent of the game’s co-op; story missions are off-limits cooperatively. There is competitive multiplayer included in the package, but it is full of generic Far Cry-themed 5v5 capture modes, many of which you will be hard-pressed to find anyone playing. There is also a map editor that players can use to create unique missions and share them with everyone else. While I didn't mess with the creation tools, I did play some of the fan-favorite created maps, and I had more fun with these than most of the game’s story missions. It does not help that the supporting characters – Amita and Sabal, specifically – were characters that I just could not get behind. They treat Ajay as a mindless pawn with which to push their individual plans for Kyrat, and in doing so, will leave you listening to one of themguilt-trip you for not siding with them in the previous story mission. It paints them as extremely weak characters, unfit to be leading the Golden Path, and begs the question of why Ajay even cares. Sabal relies on his knowledge of Ajay’s father’s involvement with the Golden Path to throw it in your face and paint you as a disappointment, whereas Amita faults you for stunting any potential hope that Kyrat has for a future. Remember, Ajay came here to simply scatter his mother’s ashes, not to get involved with this civil war. Eventually, as the story progresses, I found myself wondering why Ajay even cared about any of that.
Overall, Far Cry 4 is far from a bad game. It falls into the category of being a “by-the-numbers” sequel, offering up a couple of gimmicks that make it just interesting enough to have its own identity. Ajay doesn't become quite the annoying cry baby the protagonist in Far Cry 3 was, and I feel that Pegan Min is a far better bad guy to be chasing after than Vaas ever was. The game’s story is ultimately a throw away tale, but in the end, it still brings a handful of really fun missions to the table, albeit at the cost of actually paying attention to the core plot. Allowing for co-op adventures throughout Kyrat is a great touch, but the game definitely leaves a lot to be desired in terms of cooperative content. When it comes down to it, if you loved your time with Far Cry 3 — and have a hankering for more of that kind of Far Cry action — you will have a terrific stay in Kyrat. Despite its flaws, there is still an entertaining package awaiting those willing to look past its blemishes.
Frankie loves pizza, video games, and controversial opinions. Follow his gaming exploits on Twitter @Vyprstryke.
- Causing mayhem from the back of an elephant is a blast
- Pegan Min is an extremely entertaining bad guy
- Story explores the well-crafted game world from the snowy Himalayas to the lively jungle setting of Kyrat
- Co-op play in Kyrat's open world can lead to many hilarious situations
- Supporting characters outside of Pegan are forgettable
- Story is ultimately rather pointless
- Tacked on competitive multiplayer
- Replayability hinges on your enjoyment of the side missions or replaying outposts