Far Cry 4

360, PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox One

EDGE - - GAMES - Pub­lisher Ubisoft De­vel­oper In-house (Mon­treal) For­mat 360, PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox One Re­lease Out now

Oh, Ajay, you mon­ster. It’s not your fault, you un­der­stand – you seem a per­son­able sort, and you’re a good son, re­turn­ing to the coun­try of your birth to grant your mother’s fi­nal wish and scat­ter her ashes. No, this one’s on us. It’s be­cause of us that you ping an ar­row into the first pig you see, cut it open with a hunt­ing knife, scoop out the goo inside and pop it in a bag. It’s our fault that within a cou­ple of hours of set­ting foot in the Hi­malayan na­tion of Kyrat you have hunted, killed and skinned more an­i­mals than we can count. You see, this is Far Cry, and you don’t know how it works, that the trick is to make your­self as pow­er­ful as pos­si­ble as early as you can. That means craft­ing, and that means a rapid, in­dis­crim­i­nate cull. One NPC puts it best, after watch­ing us fire a rocket at the feet of a placid rhi­noc­eros, “What the hell are you do­ing?” Sorry, old chap, but we need a big­ger bag for ex­plo­sives. Within a cou­ple of hours, we are fright­en­ingly tooled up, the Kyrati land­scape is an eco­log­i­cal dis­as­ter site, and Ajay Ghale has been cast as a psy­chopath. In fair­ness, he’s in pretty good company. While Far Cry 3 set out to ex­plore the darker side of in­san­ity, here Ubisoft is more in­ter­ested in its brighter points. The cast is a carousel of almost-like­able head­cases, pink-suited despot Pa­gan Min giv­ing way to born-again arms dealer Long­i­nus, camp fash­ion de­signer Mr Chif­fon, and Yogi and Reg­gie, a pair of back­pack­ers of­fer­ing spir­i­tual en­light­en­ment for your Ri­zla money, and who just can’t re­sist stick­ing Ghale with sy­ringes of a psy­chotropic con­coc­tion. Then there’s Hurk, a bearded ally whose form is bor­rowed by co-op part­ners as you wreak emer­gent havoc across this beau­ti­ful – un­til you got here, any­way – open world. As an en­sem­ble, they help Far Cry 4 dodge the tonal dis­con­nect of its pre­de­ces­sor, which sur­rounded its fist-bump­ing, thrill-seek­ing lead with a cast of darkly de­mented mur­der­ers.

Ad­mit­tedly, Brody would have loved it here. Kyrat may lack the Rook Is­lands’ trop­i­cal splen­dour, but it’s more of an ad­ven­ture play­ground. This is made clear when an early trader of­fers up a wing­suit, some­thing Far Cry 3 held back for almost 30 mis­sions. It’s a use­ful tool in this ver­tig­i­nous land­scape, where fol­low­ing wind­ing roads to a way­point might take you a kilo­me­tre out of your way. How Brody would have de­lighted in hop­ping off the near­est sheer drop, spread­ing his wings, then head­ing to his ob­jec­tive as the crow flies. A grap­pling hook caters for the re­verse sit­u­a­tion, of­fer­ing routes up or around moun­tain­sides via pre­or­dained mount­ing points. The Buzzer mini­copter is a speed­ier al­ter­na­tive to both, but it’s a rare sight on Kyrat’s enor­mous map.

You start in the far south­west, and will likely stay there for hours, hunt­ing to up­grade your hol­ster and loadout ca­pac­ity, and spend­ing skill points to fur­ther bol­ster your op­tions. From there, you spread east and north, climb­ing tow­ers to un­cover the map and

The stu­dio has fo­cused on flex­i­bil­ity even more, tak­ing the out­post ethos and ap­ply­ing it to Kyrat as a whole

clear­ing out en­emy outposts. Th­ese ac­tiv­i­ties are, as be­fore, the beat­ing heart of the game, but outposts can now be cleared out on ele­phant back, or with­out lifting a fin­ger by lob­bing some bait over the walls and let­ting lo­cal preda­tors do the wet work. De­spite the ad­di­tions, it’s all highly fa­mil­iar, feel­ing not like a con­tin­u­a­tion of the Far Cry se­ries but a straight se­quel to Far Cry 3. That’s no bad thing, nec­es­sar­ily, but the game does a poor job of set­ting it­self apart from its pre­de­ces­sor, at least ini­tially. Its open­ing hits the same beats: you ar­rive, are cap­tured by and in­tro­duced to the vil­lain, then es­cape into the arms of the op­pos­ing fac­tion. There is, how­ever, one slight but in­struc­tive dif­fer­ence.

Far Cry 3’ s open­ing in­sisted that you sneak to free­dom. Here, you dash to a truck and shoot your way out in seconds, and can then choose your ap­proach as the world opens out be­fore you.

After that, you can’t help but spend the open­ing hours iden­ti­fy­ing and ap­pre­ci­at­ing other sub­tle changes. The stu­dio has fo­cused even more on flex­i­bil­ity, tak­ing the ethos of the outposts and ap­ply­ing it to Kyrat as a whole. You now have a choice of mul­ti­ple mis­sions at once, for in­stance, do­ing away with weary­ing treks to­wards a sin­gle dis­tant mis­sion marker. As well as the 30-plus outposts, there are four fortresses, one each for Min and his lieu­tenants. They’re es­sen­tially outposts, but big­ger, more for­ti­fied and bet­ter staffed, although you can still go in quiet or loud, grap­ple or fly over the walls, or ride an ele­phant right through the front door.

Flex­i­bil­ity is one word for it, but em­pow­er­ment might be a bet­ter fit. When you first visit a trader, you im­me­di­ately un­lock a dozen guns, and while Ubisoft Mon­treal can’t quite keep that pace up, it has a pretty good go. Skill points come at a lick, and any weapon you pick up out in the field is yours to keep. One early side mis­sion yields a grenade launcher, which we kept by our side right through to the endgame – an ex­am­ple of, in the con­text of a Ubisoft re­lease, the game’s re­fresh­ing will­ing­ness to sub­vert its own sys­tems. It even finds time to sub­vert other ti­tles, too. Across seven years of As­sas­sin’s Creed, the call of an ea­gle has been a warm­ing pat on the back for suc­cess­fully scal­ing a view­point. Here, it is a warn­ing tap on the shoul­der ad­vis­ing you that you’re about to have your eye­balls pecked out.

Ea­gles are the worst: tough to shoot down and at­tack­ing with a canned an­i­ma­tion that tends to kick in just as you’ve fi­nally got the thing lined up in your sights. There are other ir­ri­tants, too, like the tiny, ag­gres­sive honey bad­gers. Keep your dis­tance from a Ben­gal tiger, how­ever, and it’ll let you pass; rhi­nos pay you no mind un­til you start fir­ing rock­ets at their feet. The wildlife is more be­liev­able than in Far Cry 3, where it was im­pos­si­ble to look at a shark with­out see­ing a wal­let. You’ll feel guilty as you stoop, knife in hand,

over the furry corpse of a snow leopard. Min may be the mar­ket­ing fo­cus, but Far Cry 4’ s menagerie pro­duces its real stars – wildlife is of­ten a threat, some­times an aid, but al­ways helps give Kyrat a sense of place.

It’s a great boon, too, to Ubisoft’s well-de­fined ap­proach to mak­ing open worlds. Where it might drop a trin­ket in another game, here it spawns a bear; in­stead of a guard pa­trol, you’ll face a pack of wild dogs. It gives the world room to breathe, and of­fers the im­pres­sion that ev­ery­thing has been placed by a de­signer rather than an an­a­lyst. The ele­phant in a field half a kilo­me­tre from an out­post isn’t set dress­ing, it’s a sug­ges­tion: sure, it’ll slow the jour­ney down, but you’ll cap­ture the base in seconds. Side mis­sions are care­fully placed, and dy­namic events are reg­u­lar with­out be­ing over­bear­ing. It all hangs to­gether with de­light­ful co­her­ence.

The cam­paign is, in places, a dif­fer­ent mat­ter. While a de­vel­oper tak­ing your toys away can be pow­er­ful when used spar­ingly, here it’s leant on a lit­tle too reg­u­larly, and a hand­ful of more lin­ear mis­sions be­come trial-and-er­ror ex­er­cises in work­ing out what the stu­dio wants you to do. It puts a slight damp­ener on the cam­paign’s main fo­cus, dubbed Bal­ance Of Power, in which you must choose be­tween two very dif­fer­ent per­spec­tives on how Kyrat should be set free. Sa­bal wants a re­turn to the na­tion’s tra­di­tional re­li­gious val­ues, and to pro­tect lives; Amita has a more rad­i­cal take, and val­ues the big pic­ture over a few ca­su­al­ties.

Th­ese choices are no sin­gle-mis­sion con­ceit. Sa­bal is fu­ri­ous when our decision to search one al­lied camp for in­tel in­stead of pro­tect­ing another re­sults in nine deaths, but our dis­cov­ery yields plans of a much worse as­sault on a cher­ished monastery. It all builds to a gen­uinely un­com­fort­able fi­nal decision that saw us While this par­tic­u­lar one ar­rives to es­cort you high up in the Hi­malayas on a mis­sion for Long­i­nus, Sher­pas are a fre­quent sight in Kyrat. They’re trav­el­ling traders, sav­ing you from lengthy de­tours when you need ammo switch a game-long al­le­giance, and while it still might not quite sit right with those up­set by Brody’s role as en­light­ened white saviour, Ghale’s roots make his arbitration a lit­tle eas­ier to stom­ach. As one western NPC puts it: “Amer­i­can on the inside, one of them on the out­side. You’re per­fect.” He isn’t. He’s worse than Brody in a way, who in his cap­tured friends at least had mo­ti­va­tion for his trop­i­cal ram­page. Ghale keeps his mother’s ashes in his shoul­der bag across 20-plus hours of slaugh­ter­ing man, woman and beast. Like the cull for craft­ing ma­te­ri­als at the start, how­ever, it’s our do­ing, not his – some­thing one of the end­ings makes clear in in­sight­ful fash­ion.

That, re­ally, is this game’s great­est achieve­ment; where its pre­de­ces­sor’s in­con­sis­ten­cies made you ques­tion the writ­ing staff, Far Cry 4 makes you ques­tion your­self. Far Cry 3 asked for the def­i­ni­tion of in­san­ity, and its se­quel an­swers it. In­san­ity is post­pon­ing your mother’s dy­ing wish to skin dogs, to climb one side of a moun­tain then jump off the other, to spend hours in the Shanath arena work­ing through wave-based sur­vival chal­lenges in front of a bay­ing crowd, and do­ing a lot of it with a smile on your face. It’s an un­com­fort­able re­al­i­sa­tion, but also quite a won­der­ful one. Far Cry 4 smooths out its pre­de­ces­sor’s lit­tle kinks, ex­pands its scale and scope, and gives you all the tools you could ever need to be the big­gest psy­chopath on the planet. It is, in that sense, the ideal se­quel. Now, if you’ll ex­cuse us, we’ve got a back­pack full of rock­ets, and those poor rhi­nos aren’t go­ing to kill them­selves.

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