Far Cry 3 was one of the best FPS titles released when it arrived in 2012, and it improved upon the mixed bag that was Far Cry 2 quite substantially. It returned to more tropical setting the series was initially known for, and refined the open world gameplay, making up for some of the poor design decisions found in the second game. This made it into one of the best open world FPS releases so far, and with the fourth game the series continues, this time in a Tibetan-style setting, with another charismatic antagonist.
It’s become a staple of the Far Cry series to throw the player into the fray following an impressive opening sequence that shows entry into the game world. Far Cry 2 had us contract malaria after crossing the border into the game’s African location. Far Cry 3 opened with a sky dive trip gone awry, and Far Cry 4 begins with another border crossing that doesn’t exactly go according to plan. The end result sees you sitting in one of self-appointed king, Pagan Min’s fortresses. It’ll all very civil, for a couple of minutes, until Pagan shows his rather unstable nature. Obviously, you’ll soon want to leave (unless you want to see the quick ending, in which case, stay where you are), and soon the game begins, and you’ll be knee deep in guns, bandits, and dangerous wildlife in no time.
As soon as you get into the game proper, you’ll be very familiar with Far Cry 4, assuming you’ve played the third game. In many ways, it’s virtually identical, and boasts a lot of the same mechanics, including radio towers that need to be taken to reveal the map and facilitate fast travel, the GTA-style mission markers and progression system, and the use of vehicles, including aircraft, to travel the vast world. This time you can also affect future missions and the game progression by choosing between several key missions. I should also mention the missions that involve Shangri-La, which are supernatural diversions that are easily a stand out feature, taking the otherwise serious game into some strange, and lore-filled directions.
In terms of scale, the world here is around the same size as Far Cry 3, but it’s much more dense, and far more detailed and lush. It’s a gorgeous title visually, and retains a solid and smooth frame rate. There’s the same selection of missions, side quests, animals to hunt, and collectables to pick up, and unlocking weapons and equipment uses a similar system of crafting and performing tasks for weapon vendors. Even the controls feel practically the same, which is no bad thing, as the gunplay of Far Cry 3 was great, and so it remains so here.
Now, you’re probably thinking that such a similar title isn’t all that great, and I’ve no doubt some will be disappointed in this regard, I know I was. The thing is, Far Cry 4 doesn’t simply continue the formula, but it improves upon almost every aspect in a way that makes the game worth buying.
Killing in Kyrat
Visually Far Cry 4 is gorgeous, and the environment is amongst the best I’ve seen so far this generation. Ubisoft has made the most of the added power available here, and what we get is a lush sandbox region that’s replete with wildlife, landmarks, and all sorts of Tibetan ruins and relics. The added depth of vegetation also enhances the stealth gameplay, as it’s easier for you to hide and stalk your prey. That said, it’s also easier for your enemies too.
In fact, it’s here where I noticed a big difference, and that’s the game’s difficulty. Playing on Hard really is a major challenge this time. Far Cry 3 never really got off the ground in terms of challenge, but Far Cry 4 certainly does, and I’d highly advise players lean towards the harder difficulty. The reason for this is the immersion and sense of danger the mode presents, which lends itself perfectly to the game’s focus on wilderness survival and hunting. If you can take masses of damage and lay waste to everything with a few rounds, it’s hardly that troubling. However, when even a honey badger can kill you if you’re not careful, and you have to carefully track and stalk your prey, you soon become engulfed in the world, and it’s great.
One of Far Cry 3‘s most useful features was the ability to scan for and tag enemies. However, as well as being useful, it also made enemy encounters far easier, as you could track foes, even through walls. This system is present again here, but has a big addition in the form of a new enemy type, the Hunter.
Hunters are very dangerous enemies. They’re as sneaky as you, use silenced weapons, and can even ‘charm’ animals, commanding them to attack you. This is bad enough, but they also only show up on your tagging system for a short time, after which they’ll disappear again. They use cover well, and you’ll no doubt be on the wrong end of an arrow plenty of times.
This makes sneaking around far more tense, and you’ll often never know whether or not you’re being stalked, by man or beast, and this forces you to stay more alert, even when trying to take a small outpost. There are other enemy types too, such as mortar crews, and these can make assaulting bases far more deadly. Stealth is even more important here, and if you’re detected, you’ll be in for a fight.
Once again, you can use the environment to your advantage, and this includes animals. Caged beasts can be freed to run riot in an enemy base, and you can also use bait (gathered from skinned animals), to attract meat eaters to a specific location. As the game is set in the Himalayas, Elephants are featured, and these can, understandably, be devastating if used tactically, easily wiping out an entire enemy outpost alone. Once you learn the right perk, you can even ride them, for predictably damaging results.
Hunt and evolve
Hunting was always important in Far Cry 3, and it’s still essential here. When you begin the game you’ll only be able to carry a single weapon, and limited supplies. To free yourself, you’ll need to craft gear from animal skins and bones, such as weapon holsters, larger wallets, and the ability to hold more healing syringes. You’ll want to do this soon, as the single weapon limit is a major hindrance, and your loot bag will soon fill up unless you craft a bigger one.
Levelling up your character is much the same as Far Cry 3. Instead of the tattoo system, here the game uses a dual-sided tiger and elephant skill tree. The tiger side focuses on combat abilities, and take downs, whilst the elephant has boosts to health and survivability. As you perform missions you’ll earn skill points, and these can be spent on new perks, opening up all sorts of new actions.
To the skies
Given the size of the world, and the beasties that roam it, vehicles are always a necessity. Although it’s no Grand Theft Auto, there are a few different vehicles, including quad bikes, Tuc Tucs, trucks, hang-gliders, and the new Buzzard mini-copter. This is a great new addition that let’s you fly around the world quickly, although it has no protection, so you need to be careful when under fire.
Vehicle controls are just as solid as they were in Far Cry 3, with each type handling differently. Quad bikes are speedy, but can be easy to crash and topple, whilst trucks are hardy, but aren’t as adept as skimming through dense jungle. The good news is that you can always fix a damaged vehicle from the off this time, and perks make this ability faster and more effective.
One addition here is the autodrive ability. By clicking L3 you can enable this, and your vehicle will follow the road (if there is one). This leaves you free to aim and fire, and makes some of the game’s vehicle combat sequences much more enjoyable.
Guns for hire
So, although it’s been improved very well in most respects, the game is still very similar to Far Cry 3, that much is clear. However, one area where Far Cry 4 improves a great deal is with co-op, and it’s here where the game really kicks into gear.
Far Cry 3 introduced co-op, but unlike the open world co-op play we were looking forward to, it instead isolated co-op, placing it into another separate mode with linear levels. It was fun, but I found the lack of a true, open world co-op experience soured it. I wanted to team up with friends and roam around the large world causing havoc and taking over enemy bases. This was not to be, until now.
Far Cry 4 has addressed this failing, and this time the co-op is a drop-in mode rather than a separate game. If you opt to play the game in the online mode (an offline mode is also available) friends can drop into your game, and you can play co-operatively in the actual open sandbox.
When in this co-op mode, the single player missions are disabled, and co-op outings are highlighted. As well as these, you can also tackle outposts and hunting, as well as other tasks, and it’s a whole lot of fun. Outposts in particular are great, and teaming up with a friend to take them down presents some of the game’s best moments.
What enhances the co-op mode even more is the ‘Keys to Kyrat’ option. This lets you invite any friends into your game (you get 10 keys), even if they don’t have the game (much like Shareplay). This is a great addition, and is also available on the PS3. It’s limited to two hours, but it’s a good way to get a friend into the game.
Friend or foe?
As well as the main game, Far Cry 4 also has a competitive multiplayer mode, which offers 5v5 play. Using the solid engine, this is probably the best PvP the series has delivered yet, and it actually makes use of the main game’s features, capturing the feel of the world, instead of simply dropping heavily armed guys into a pretty map.
The two sides play differently, with one being more focused on traditional guns and abilities, whilst the other team use bows and arrows (including a cool ‘blink’ teleport), and have supernatural abilities, such as being able to summon animals to guard areas.
This is all presented in huge maps that really make the most of the scale. As you fight, the rest of the world is still active, and you can be attacked by beasts, so you need to be careful. It’s a great take on PvP, although I fear most will ignore it, as Far Cry is seen as a story-driven solo experience.
Complementing this is the level editor. As always, this can be used to create your own multiplayer maps, and can also be used to build your own outposts, which you can tackle with a friend.
Far Cry 4 is once again a great example of an open world FPS, and it succeeds in bettering the third game, which was already a classic in its own right. The addition co-op features and a more rounded multiplayer only top off what is already a superb FPS experience. I do find the overwhelming similarities to the last game a little unfortunate, and much of the game is largely more of the same, but it’s still a highly recommended purchase.
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