Far Cry 4 let me ride an elephant off a cliff. Now, if you’re anything like me, you won’t need to read the rest of this preview. Just knowing that you can ride an elephant, and that you can – in that inimitable Far Cry way – do just about anything you like while upon the broad, leathery back of said elephant, should be enough to immediately recommend this game to you. If you need a bit more information, and I don’t know why you would, then feel free to read on.
The playable demo showed much of the same gameplay that you might have seen on stage at E3. It was an enemy base in a kind of fort on a hillside. You had three options, which were obviously only included as a means to demonstrate your approach – the completed game will allow these decisions on the fly, rather than via a pre-load menu.
You could choose to stealth your way into the base, picking off stray guards when their patrols took them to a secluded spot and thinning the crowd before you finished them off and liberated the base. That’s traditionally one of my favourite approaches in Far Cry games because I always enjoy the unique little challenge that each outpost poses in its layout and type of enemy resistance.
The second option was to fly in. This is what was probably most predominantly shown at the streamed press briefings. You can basically call in a pal with a microlight to fly you over the base, rattling off machine gun fire from above. It’s something new to Far Cry but setting this fourth instalment in the Himalayas always meant that there would be a much greater sense of vertical scale and having flying machines – and deployable wing suits – makes a great deal of sense in that context.
The third option – a simple text field on the menu screen at this point – said “Ride.” Intriguing. “You can ride an elephant and use it to knock down the gates” said the gentleman manning the demo station. I’d selected the option before he’d even finished his sentence. “Why would I choose anything else?” I asked him. “Nobody does” came his frank and obvious response. And then I was riding an elephant.
The first thing I did was ride it in the wrong direction. I found a very small cliff, which my elephant – I called him Nelly because I have a very poor imagination – effortlessly dropped off. Then I turned around and tried to make him scale the steep hillside before realising that I should just follow the path back to the starting position before the warning about leaving the play area stopped my demo. Once I found the little stream and the looming fort gate again, I was ready to take my new buddy for a run.
Clicking in the analogue stick makes the elephant charge and if you charge at the gate, your proboscally gifted companion will handily thump a great big hole in it. Charging at enemies reduces them to squishy spots on the floor or rapidly disappearing flecks, arcing towards the horizon. The nefarious enemy contingent, understandably alarmed at the arrival of a furious elephant, quickly start discharging small arms fire towards Nelly. At this point, you can leap off, run for cover and sneakily observe as your enormous new friend goes entirely berserk on a camp full of screaming gunmen. It’s glorious.
It’s not quiet though. It wasn’t long before reinforcements arrived in the shape of four-wheel drive vehicles and beret-wearing back-up. These are easy enough to dispatch, providing covering fire from behind the bins as your elephant chum continues his rampage. What’s not so easy to survive is the helicopter that soon arrives. It killed me. “You can shoot the pilot and the helicopter crashes.” interjected the helpful demo man. “Or there are some very useful weapons hidden around in the houses.”
So there I was, back at the menu screen with those three options open to me again. “I should choose one of the others, to experience them for the preview.” I thought to myself, before quickly choosing to ride the elephant again.