It is hard not to make a lot of jokes in this review. At first I was thinking of copying the opening paragraph of our Far Cry 3 review from two years ago. Then I was going to make the tagline for this review “Close Call”. Every single joke that has passed through my mind centers around one main point: Far Cry 4 is, for better or worse, a near-exact copy of Far Cry 3.
The opening for Far Cry 4 immediately instills a sense of deja vu for anyone familiar with past Far Cry games. Upon entering the Himalayan country of Kyrat via rickety bus, Ajay Ghale is introduced to Pagan Min, King of Kyrat, the next name on the list of Far Cry antagonists who kill their own men to prove just how crazy they are. This throws a wrench into Ajay’s plans. He just wants to fulfill his mother’s dying wish and spread her ashes in her home country, but every inhabitant of Kyrat has other plans for Ajay.
After escaping a threatening dinner hosted by Pagan, Ajay is immediately thrown into the front lines of a civil war. Well, actually two civil wars: The Golden Path vs. Pagan Min’s army and Sabal vs. Amita, the two leaders of the Golden Path. Throughout the story Ajay is forced to back one leader over the other. Sabal always strives toward the traditional goals, wanting to preserve the old ways of Kyrat, none of which are especially progressive. Amita, on the other hand, is a modernist. She wants Kyrat to catch up to the rest of the world, and she will do what it takes to get there, no matter how morally questionable.
All of this story serves as a reason to get Ajay into this open world. Sure, the campaign has some notable features like multiple objectives based on choices, and an interesting approach to a villain that I have not really seen done in a game before, but these things are just small sparks of something new in an otherwise boring story that tries to recreate criticised moments from Far Cry 3.
While the story is generally boring, Kyrat is anything but. When talking about Far Cry 3, the most common conversations are about how crazy the world can make itself via random events, and while that stays true to Far Cry 4, things are even more amped up this time around. While skulking around an outpost trying to tag all the enemies I could find, the guards started freaking out and looking towards the skies. One of the deadly eagles indigenous to Kyrat was pestering them, providing a perfect opportunity for me to run around performing stealth takedowns on each guard — then the eagle killed me. Seriously though, the eagles in Kyrat are more terrifying than most horror game antagonists.
No longer do you have to wait for crazy stuff like that to happen, when skinning hunted animals Ajay gets both the animal skin and a piece of bait added to his throwables. Using this bait will usually spawn a hostile animal nearby, who will do your own dirty work and kill as many enemies as possible. Elephants are another animal that can be put to use; normally found roaming around randomly, they can either be mounted and rode into battle, or scared into certain directions, leaving a wake of destruction in their path.
Riding Elephants is locked behind a skill, as are many abilities that will turn you from a fragile boy into a powerhouse of a man. These skills, as with the other unlockables (like weapons), are doled out consistently and frequently, providing a constant feeling of progression that makes every quest, outpost, and bell tower feel important.
As I mentioned before, another improved return from Far Cry 3 is the hunting and crafting. Animals can range from demon fish to asian rhinos to the dreaded honey badgers. By using a bow on any animal, the skin is preserved, allowing Ajay to receive double the take from an animal. Because of this I always made sure Ajay had his bow on him just in case I crossed that one animal that I needed to upgrade my ammo bag.
The bow isn’t the only returning weapon, in fact the majority of the weapons are either the same or similar to weapons from Far Cry 3. New weapons serve their function, though the grenade launcher is accessible very early and makes any enemy interaction trivial, even helicopters can be taken down in one well placed shot.
The biggest addition to Far Cry 4 is the series’ new take on multiplayer. Co-op returns to Far Cry 4, but drastically changed, placing players in the open world of Kyrat together letting them run rampant throughout the countryside. All progress is saved for the host, but the player who joined will not have the outposts or bell towers unlocked once returned to their game. Having a buddy to run around with is extremely fun, but the idea that doing anything truly meaningful either can’t happen, or won’t actually mean anything for your buddy dampens the experience. Competitive modes are very bland. Various objective modes are available and function well enough, but are not especially fun and don’t do enough to stand out.
There is also a map editor which allows users to build outposts and other mission types. This is no cookie cutter editor, there is a lot of depth to this mode. Someone has already made a recreation of Shadow Moses from Metal Gear Solid. Downloading well made outposts from other players gives Far Cry 4 a longevity far beyond its at launch content.
Far Cry 4 is not for those who don’t like Far Cry 3. It is not for those who enjoyed Far Cry 3 but had their fill come the end of it. Far Cry 4 is solely for those who loved Far Cry 3 and want more of exactly that. Luckily I fall into that last group. Nothing about Far Cry 4 blew me away, but every time I flew over an outpost with a gyrocopter while popping off shots from my grenade launcher I couldn’t help but have a doofy grin on my face. In those moments of chaotic destruction, it was endlessly fun.