Lock and load, gamers. There's a psychopath running things in Kyrat and it's time to go insane and kill everyone associated with him. If you loved the beautiful open-world vistas of Ubisoft's Far Cry 3 and the fun-focused, action-packed gameplay it offered, then you'll totally dig Far Cry 4.
Coming a quick two years after the release of Far Cry 3, the fourth core franchise installment puts players in the boots of Ajay Ghale as he visits his native homeland of the fictional Himalayan region of Kyrat to spread his mother's ashes. From there, it takes just a few seconds before meeting the game's antagonist, the dictator Pagan Min.
After putting about 10 hours into Far Cry 4 and testing it on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, we can happily say that the game runs silky smooth and is surprisingly polished (outside of a few instances of the sound dropping) given the complex nature of open-world titles - especially given the performance issues Ubisoft's other flagship release, Assassin's Creed Unity, has endured since release.
The environments are large, gorgeous, full of life and... death. As you'll learn very quickly from the opening and first few story missions of Far Cry 4, Ajay's parents were leaders of a rebel movement dubbed "The Golden Path" against Pagan Min. These are your allies in Far Cry 4 and just like the game's predecessor, drive different colored trucks and wear different colored clothing than the red-clothed enemies. According to notes I read in the game, wearing the colors of The Golden Path will get you shot.
The similarities don't even begin to stop there. Every facet of the game so far is nearly identical to Far Cry 3, from the tower-climbing, outpost-liberating geographic progression and crafting systems, to the gunplay, hunting, use of syringes and camera-enemy-tagging. It feels like I'm playing Far Cry 3 from the beginning again, learning the same skills and hunting similar animals as I fight the same enemies in the same outposts but in a different environment.
There's a tad more polish and a few more details to the fundamental game mechanics, such as throwing flesh to serve as bait for predators who can distract and attack enemies (a feature first introduced in Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon). New this time around, players can also kick boxes and explosive barrels, shoot while driving and flying, grapple hook up and down predefined climbing spots, and yes, ride elephants. It's surface level stuff but it does flesh out the gameplay a little bit and builds on the successful formula.
Liberating outposts to reclaim enemy territory is still the highlight of the game, and this time around, Ubisoft built the co-op into the open-world game. Now, other players can join you exploring the world, helping out on outposts and taking on the larger and more dangerous fortresses (which the game recommends to play cooperatively). Each time you complete an outpost, a few little side quests open up that ask players to rescue hostages, escort or locate supplies, or assassinate bad guys, etc.
The strategy remains the same. Suppressed weapons and the bow and arrow are your best friends. Throwing rocks to lure enemies or throwing meat to call in predators to attack and distract. Crouching and moving slowly through bushes and tall grass -and burning or blowing stuff up - has never looked so good in Far Cry which makes it an easy recommendation for fans.
Be warned though, where Far Cry 3 really put the theme of insanity on the forefront, and offered legitimate motivational factors to what you're doing (escaping, drugs and rescuing friends), Far Cry 4 - at least, so far - doesn't deliver when it comes to Ajay Ghale. Far Cry 3 even worked in the progress to a tattoo which marked your character but its successor abandons that. Without that needed context, without actually seeing your character and who he was/is, or his relationship to his parents, most of the interactions with other characters may fly over your head, or at the very least, aren't very meaningful. Hopefully, that picks up later in the game.
That being said, the core gameplay is there and the shooter aspects are amazing. The little details of seemingly moving, traversing obstacles, swimming, diving, hopping into vehicles, laying traps, shooting over cover, violently taking down enemies up close and chaining kills together is all wonderful. Far Cry 4 is nailing it on the combat and traversal mechanics.
Our own Hannah Shaw-Williams is much deeper into the game so stay tuned for her full review.
Far Cry 4 is available on PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One.
Follow me on Twitter @rob_keyes.