Forget Call of Duty: Ghosts and its next-gen dog gameplay; 2014 is the year of the elephant. Far Cry 4, Ubisoft's follow-up to the acclaimed 2012 shooter Far Cry 3, is set for release this fall and one of the big selling points for the game is the introduction of elephants, which the player can either ride majestically or aggravate into attacking enemy soldiers.
As a new documentary-style trailer for Far Cry 4 explains, elephants have been used as weapons of war in the past (though left to their own devices they are pretty gentle herbivores). The claim that they crave the taste of human blood is a little dubious, but you definitely wouldn't want to get on the wrong side of those big feet or those sturdy tusks. Whether the warning that "an elephant never forgets" means that the animal's AI will actually remember being attacked by the player long afterwards is unclear, but just to be safe it's probably best to keep their anger directed towards the enemy.
Getting the elephants on your side might be necessary in Far Cry 4, which puts players in the shoes of Ajay Ghale, the son of a revolutionary who returns to his home country of Kyrat twenty years after being taken to America. Originally intending only to scatter his mother's ashes, Ajay finds that Kyrat is in the midst of a civil war as its citizens fight back against despotic regime of self-appointed ruler Pagan Min, a former member of the Hong Kong criminal underground. After his transport into the country is immediately waylaid by Min's soldiers, Ajay becomes drawn into the fight for control of Kyrat.
Although Far Cry 4 moves the setting of the gameplay from a lush island to the snow-topped Himalayas, the integration of local wildlife into the combat isn't new for the series. In Far Cry 3 it's possible to set free a tiger or bear from inside a cage in an outpost and watch from a distance as the newly-released animal wreaks havoc upon its captors, and Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon memorably concluded with a battle sequence in which the player rides on the back of a giant talking komodo dragon that shoots lasers out of its eyes.
The portrayal of elephants in Far Cry 4 might not necessarily be realistic, but in a game that also allows the player to take on the role of a mythical warrior on a journey to Shangri-La, a little artistic license when it comes to pachyderms is permissible. With this trailer showing off the elephants' ability to stomp, toss and impale anything they see as a threat, it's almost a shame that you don't actually get to play as an elephant in the game. Maybe that can be the plot of Far Cry 5.
Have fun with the elephants of Far Cry 4, but try not to kill any of them. They are an endangered species, after all.
Far Cry 4 will be available for PC, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS3 and PS4 on November 18, 2014.