Far Cry 4 has learned a lot from its predecessor, taking the solid gameplay, exploration, and villainy to a new location: the battle-ridden Kyrat, where Ajay Ghale has returned home to scatter his mother’s ashes and fulfil her dying wish. It’s absolutely a mission of discovery, with both you and the protagonist uncovering the twisted past – and present – of this beautiful and flawed location.
Kyrat is almost a character of its own; just as Rapture in BioShock or the land of Skyrim feel like real, living places, with their own culture, history, and people, this mountainous area is more than just a backdrop for the story to be told: it’s the focal point, with the plot having you pave the future for the region as a one-man army, picking sides and single-handedly saving the world as you go.
Really though, Kyrat is a playground; it’s a multi-tiered obstacle course for you to work your way round; a large theme park where you make your own rides as you go along. Throw in some mountaineering with a grappling hook, plenty of vehicles, a good amount of wildlife, and even the wingsuit later in the game, and you’ll begin to see the appeal, particularly when you get two players and cause mass havoc.
Outposts are littered around the world, as are radio towers, creating opportunities for you to take over the territory. These will be familiar to anyone who has played Far Cry 3 or a similar open world game immediately. The radio towers – recommissioned traditional bell towers – spew propaganda to the masses, and opening these will clear up the large map, while outposts are essentially enemy hideouts.
The outposts have alarm systems, which will immediately call for reinforcements upon activation, so the best option is to sneak around and take these out (along with some enemies) before properly attacking. If there’s an animal cage handy, you can always set the beast free – be it tiger, dog, or elephant – or you can just jump on said elephant’s back and cause carnage, taking out waves of reinforcements with ease. There are a lot of ways to approach each situation, though the best option is almost always stealth.
It’s very much the same as the previous title, though – there aren’t many improvements in this area, even if riding a tusked giant is a hell of a lot of fun. In fact, a lot of the side stuff in the open world is quite similar too, with a decent amount of (somewhat repetitive) smaller missions, and an insurmountable number of collectables strewn across the many locations on the map. The big difference here is that all of this – everything aside from the main story – can be played co-operatively with another player, and it’s even more enjoyable to do so.
The new fortresses make for great co-operative opportunities. These are essentially the bases of characters who you’ll meet in the story, and work like larger scale outposts. You’ll need to weaken these first by completing missions and capturing other territories, but once you’ve done that you should be able to tactically plan your entry and then work together to secure the location, it can be quite exciting, a lot of fun, and often quite hard. In fact, even on easier difficulty levels, there are these difficulty spikes which, when coupled with a poor checkpointing and saving system, can make the game quite tedious at times.
Even though it may be a challenge in places, the game is often quite unbelievable, as your protagonist often feels like he has superpowers when he’s taking down entire armies without flinching. Similar, in a way, is Pagan Min, the maniacal dictator of Kyrat, a fine villain with Joker-esque (or Vaas-like) tendencies in amongst his calm and collected nature. He’s a great villain, voiced by the seemingly ever-present Troy Baker, and while his lack of screen time in the first two acts is a slight shame, you’ll love every second of him.
It’s a decent story too, which essentially focuses on the Golden Path – the rebels in this case – taking on the empire of Pagan Min and his army. It goes much deeper than that, with internal conflicts having you choose sides within the Golden Path, and this becomes the game’s morality system rather than what’s good or bad. It always attempts to stick within a grey area for choices, making them even harder to choose between at times, but this leads you to seeing different missions throughout your campaign.
The overall plot doesn’t really change much over the course of things, instead just splintering at points and offering slightly different approaches to missions, but you’ll often stop to think about whether what you’re doing is right, and even whether Kyrat needs saving at all.
The story will even take you out of Kyrat at points, into the Himilayas and it also explores the history of the region and the protagonist’s family rather well. Unfortunately, Ajay himself isn’t much of a character, not quite living up to his esteemed lineage (neither in terms of personality nor actions) and ultimately feeling like a pawn in this battle rather than an important commander. He’s far better than Far Cry 3’s Jason Brody, at least – but that wouldn’t take much.
Ajay can of course upgrade many of his abilities, with two skill trees – tiger and elephant – available. You’ll be able to get most of these, unlocking them by completing objectives and then spending skill points which you’ll get by collecting XP. There’s also a new karma system, which ties into the random events in Kyrat as well as other good deeds. This system is superfluous, not really adding much to the title other than another form of measuring your actions.
On PS4 at least, the game looks superb. The foliage in particular, as well as the fur on some of the animals, is quite impressive, and it’s perhaps one of the best looking game’s we’ve seen on this scale yet, with its only real contender being the new versions of GTA V. There’s also a good use of music in places where it might not quite make sense but works in terms of the game, and all of the sounds are pretty much spot on otherwise.
Unfortunately, it does suffer from some visual glitches at times (as well as AI bugs, which makes it worse) as well as noticeable texture pop-in while travelling at high speed. While making your way around the world on four wheels has improved with the addition of autodrive, allowing it to route you via main roads to your objective to focus on shooting, the controls can be awkward sometimes (though thankfully can be changed altered within the options) with too much focus on using the sticks rather than something more comfortable.
Far Cry 4’s open world isn’t the only draw of the game, though, starting with the competitive multiplayer. This comes in the form of a prequel to the main story and sees an asymmetrical battle between the Golden Path with their vehicles and automatic weapons, and Pagan Min’s forces using elephants, arrows, and more stealthy gameplay. It’s clear why Pagan is the ruler of Kyrat, isn’t it? With those tactics, you’re bound to win.
At least, that’s how it feels most of the time; the sides may be balanced but I certainly played better with the stealthier option. This portion of the game does have many traits from the story mode, with wingsuits, vehicles, and even large areas. These can feel a bit too big for 5v5, and this really brings the multiplayer down, though it isn’t really anything special compared to other games available already.
Better than the disappointing multiplayer is the map editor, allowing you to create your own hunting missions, kill-them-all battles, or even outposts to tactically capture. You can then share these maps with players worldwide, with rating systems and filters in place to find what you want if you’re just into playing. It’s actually really quite deep but very intuitive, echoing Far Cry 2’s own editor and even Tony Hawk games of yore. I was able to create a decent outpost in about twenty minutes, complete with AI controls allowing characters to sit down or patrol accordingly.
Although Far Cry 4 has learned a lot from its predecessor, it hasn’t quite evolved those mechanics enough in some places. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, though: those systems are just as brilliant as they have always been and the world of Kyrat only accentuates the fun to be found in these activities, providing a more vertical world for you to play in.
The story isn’t always fantastic, but when it hits the mark (read: when Pagan Min shows up), it can be absolutely wonderful. In this game, there’s tons to do, and you’ll really enjoy doing all of it, particularly if you’re riding an elephant as you go.
Version tested: PS4