Following in the footsteps of Ubisoft's celebrated 2012 open world shooter Far Cry 3 was no easy task for the Far Cry 4 development team, especially since many fans were hoping that the next entry in the series would smooth off the rough edges and flaws that held Far Cry 3 back and deliver the best entry in the series so far.
This, in fact, was exactly what narrative director Mark Thompson promised in interviews about the game: a subversion of Far Cry 3's story in which the foreigner arriving in the game's main setting is a villain, not a hero, and the protagonist is a native tasked with taking his country back. Thus, players are cast in the role of Ajay Ghale, a native of the fictional Himalayan country of Kyrat, who becomes embroiled in a civil war after returning to scatter his mother's ashes.
The first reviews for Far Cry 4 are now in, with some exceptions. PC Gamer explained that Ubisoft was unwilling to send a PC review code, making it impossible for the site to review the game on its platform of choice. Polygon, meanwhile, received a non-functioning copy of the game on PS4. Both sites will presumably have reviews up sooner or later, but for now here's the roundup of published reviews. For us, only dev kit builds were available and we're awaiting a retail launch copy.
Destructoid - Chris Carter:
"The campaign is fantastic and completely worth buying Far Cry 4 for alone... If you enjoyed its predecessor and didn't grow tired of Ubisoft Montreal's open world formula, you'll have a blast living the experience again." 9/10
Joystiq - Ludwig Keitzmann:
"There's a staggering number of adventures to extract from Far Cry 4, whether you chase the ones laid out by the game explicitly, or the ones that develop naturally as you take in the sights. It's another interesting and absorbing world to fall into, shoot through, burn and then guide to new beginnings. Far Cry 4 may have installed a despot, but it's still the undisputed king of the open-world shooter." 9/10
Games Radar - Edwin Evans-Thirlwell
"The best open-worlders are those that balance their emergent odds and ends against a strong narrative thrust. Without a story as breathtaking as those forested vales and icy crags, Far Cry 4 rings a little hollow, and doesn't fully achieve the spiritual heights this series is capable of." 8/10
Eurogamer - Aoife Wilson:
"For the most part, Kyrat simply isn't as striking a setting as the South Pacific islands of Far Cry 3... When you aren't bugging out or having an out-of-body experience, the vast expanse of land at your disposal gets quite samey." 8/10
IGN - Mitch Dyer:
"Far Cry 4 capitalizes on every available strength to make it an amazing open world for first-person action and adventure, while failing repeatedly in creating enjoyable characters within it. Its most notable misfire is the hollow, ambivalent protagonist. Ajay Ghale, the American son of Kyrati freedom fighters, returns to his Himalayan birthplace to scatter his mother’s ashes, and becomes embroiled in his parents’ revolution. It’s a smart, human premise that justifies Ajay’s rampant warpath throughout Kyrat, but Ajay isn’t remotely as interesting as the things he does."
CVG - John Robertson:
"Such complexity shows a studio at the height of its powers, one clearly comfortable and eager to pull off the difficult trick of interlinking isolated points of design in such a way that they strengthen and reinforce one another... Don't let a lacklustre multiplayer deter you... The strength of the world and its systems alone makes this one of the year's best games." 9/10
When it comes to the characters, reviewers are pretty much in agreement that Ajay is a blank slate and Pagan Min is disappointing, especially in light of how much the character has been hyped in marketing. Similarly, Min's lieutenants (the mini-bosses) aren't in the game enough to ever get interesting. Overall the story and characters are considered one of the weakest aspects of Far Cry 4, though The Golden Path's argumentative leaders Sabal and Amita, and the moral choices offered by them to the player, were generally praised.
The strengths include the vast, atmospheric open world of Kyrat and the often chaotic blend of gameplay elements that lead to plenty of unique circumstances in combat. The combination of wildlife, human enemies and the many different weapons and approaches offered mean that things frequently take a turn for the insane.
Far Cry 4, like the previous game, has a multiplayer mode and the general consensus is that it doesn't add much and some reviews are withholding a score until the actual servers and full functionality are live. Players who have a burning desire for PvP may want to check it out, but it sounds like there'll be plenty to do in both single player campaign and co-op without ever needing to delve into the unimaginative competitive multiplayer. Luckily it doesn't sound like Far Cry 4 has been plagued with as many bugs as Ubisoft's other big release this week, Assassin's Creed Unity, so this could be a title worth snapping up right away.
Far Cry 4 releases November 18, 2014 for PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, and Xbox One.