Far Cry 4 is clearly a response to the adoration heaped upon Far Cry 3. In many ways this is more of the same, with wild animals to hunt, outposts to clear, loads of different options for travelling across the map and some ridiculous over-the-top action. All of these things it gets completely right. There were a few stumbling blocks in the last game though with a trashy story and irritating protagonist and this is where the newest entry has made the greatest strides.
Playing as Ajay Ghale you have a link to the ‘Kyrat’ region but you have lived your life in America. This kills two birds with one stone; you are an outsider, as you need to be for the narrative to be accessible, but then you have real links to the region so it makes a little more sense for you to be taking part in this war (unlike Far Cry 3 where you literally just dropped out of the sky). The new villain (Pagan Min) is enigmatic and makes a stunning entrance in the game’s opening cut scene. It’s easier to relate to these characters and a fairly broad cast of supporting faces are developed much more carefully this time around. No one starts to feel irritating and the humour that is here feels appropriate to the tone of the rest of the game. Yes you’ll be zipping down bunting to land on an elephant so you can lay waste to a small village, but you know why you’re doing it at least.
The new region, Kyrat, is set in the Himalayas. This means huge mountains, streams, rocks and elephants. The setting might not be as vibrant as the tropical paradise of the third game but it feels like a lot more care has gone into each piece of the map. Tiny little incidental details are liberally sprinkled around from notes to objects in unusual positions. The world feels authentic and interesting and exploration is always a joy. It’s nice when an open-world encourages you to explore for the sake of it rather than forcing you to on some kind of collectable hunt.
Of course there are collectables, ridiculous numbers, this is a Ubisoft game after all. You need animal skins (extra skin available if you use an arrow to take the beast down cleanly), you can find books, notes and there’s towers to climb and outposts to convert. It’s easy to sidetracked from the main mission and embark on a spree of clearing the map of all those pesky icons. Somehow it doesn’t get boring. Every attack mission is an excuse to try a new approach or new weapon, every collectable might unlock a new tool or skill on the skill tree. The game is always tempting you further but then rewarding you in equal measure, even if it’s just a spectacular vista over a mountain lake.
The graphics really are phenomenal as we’ve come to expect from the series. We’ve played it both on PC and Xbox One and it’s surprising how well the Xbox One version holds up. The framerate is fairly consistent, the texture work is outstanding and the view distance is impressive. Of course there’s some nicer anti aliasing options and the possibility for higher resolutions on PC but this really is one of the best looking games on next-gen consoles. Speed is important as you hurtle through woods on a quad bike and the game rarely lets you down.
Now if Ubisoft had released this just with the new single player game, we’d have said it was worth it for £40. There’s a few AI glitches and a couple of dull missions but generally it’s all good. Ubisoft have gone one further though and added a spectacular co-op mode to the game. If you choose to play online (an option when you load it up, an important one in the light of recent online-only game) a friend or randomer can drop into your game if you want them to. You can’t do campaign missions together but you can take on a number of side missions or just mess around in the world. This type of game is made for co-op and it works incredibly well. A lot of the vehicles are designed with two people in mind and stealthing your way through a village is much more interesting when you can attack from two sides at once. This is an incredibly open game and enjoying it with a friend makes it much better.
There are adversarial multiplayer modes and a map editor too but they’re nothing to write home about. The map editor can’t be used for PVP maps which is a shame as it’s so easy to use, and the multiplayer is merely functional, it’s unlikely to attract a large audience. That being said these things are just extra little curiosities on top of what is an outstanding game.
If you have any interest in Far Cry titles or any open-world games, you’re sure to find a lot to like here. The story has been toned down and matured a little for the better and the gameplay is just as compelling as ever.