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FAR CRY 4 PLAT­FORM: PS3/4, 360/One, PC CAT­E­GORY: Open world FPS DE­VEL­OPER: Ubisoft Mon­tréal PUB­LISHER: Ubisoft DUE: Novem­ber 20, 2014

As great as the pre­vi­ous Far Cry games were it's hard to deny that Far Cry 3 was a break-out hit that pushed the se­ries fur­ther for­ward than ever be­fore. Not many people could have pre­dicted how suc­cess­ful that game would be or how high of a bar it would set for its in­evitable se­quel. So you'd have to as­sume that the process for lay­ing the ground work of Far Cry 4 would be a labour in­ten­sive study of what worked and what didn't in the last game and what needs to be added this time around. But it wasn't.

“It's a su­per funny story, our game di­rec­tor [Alex Hutchin­son] ac­tu­ally wanted to be able to ride an ele­phant in a game,” ex­plained Cedric De­celle, tech­ni­cal di­rec­tor of Far Cry 4. “So we started to do some re­search about where in the world are ele­phants, but also a wide va­ri­ety of an­i­mals as we have a lot of game­play tied to the an­i­mals. It also had to have a good di­ver­sity in vi­su­als and show gamers some­thing new, some­thing com­pletely dif­fer­ent and some­thing that would be cul­tur­ally rich. So we sat down and started look­ing around and were look­ing at Nepal, Bhutan, In­dia – but the Hi­malayas had ev­ery­thing we want. The ele­phant, an amaz­ing va­ri­ety of other an­i­mals, and you can start at the beau­ti­ful world at the bot­tom of the moun­tains and work your way to the top so you have a wide va­ri­ety of things to see.” MOUN­TAIN MEN >> As rel­a­tively easy as the process for find­ing a new lo­ca­tion may have been for the Far Cry 4 team one thing was never go­ing to be sim­ple – out shin­ing the true star of Far Cry 3. Vaas Montenegro, ex­pertly acted by Michael Mando, was a liv­ing nightmare whose de­meanour was closer to a tor­men­tor than an out­right en­emy. He was the kind of guy that would stab you in the stomach, twist the knife and ask how you're feel­ing. More than a run-of-the-mill so­ciopath spout­ing off witty one-lin­ers Vaas felt like a crea­ture of the is­land. As deadly as the wildlife that roamed around, he let you know that you were a toy to be played with and ul­ti­mately a com­mod­ity to be sold, noth­ing more. “Vaas was some­thing ob­vi­ously very good for Far Cry 3,” said De­celle. “We knew what we had, I mean we stum­bled upon it, but when we had it we knew. The way we de­velop char­ac­ters for Far Cry is the way we found Vaas. We go out and write su­per-strong scenes and we send that out to the ac­tors and see their per­for­mance. And when we get the magic and it's work­ing the way we want it to work we go with that. So of­ten the char­ac­ter will morph and change.”

Tak­ing cen­tre stage as the new an­tag­o­nist in Far Cry 4 is Pa­gan Min, por­trayed by pro­lific videogame ac­tor Troy Baker. Though he's still an un­hinged ma­niac Pa­gan is a very dif­fer­ent beast to Vaas. He's a gen­tle­man with grand am­bi­tions and a con­nec­tion to the player's char­ac­ter, Ajay, that you'll learn more of as the story pro­gresses. Born Gang Min, Pa­gan is the son of a Bri­tish expatri­ate and Hong Kong drug boss be­fore who out­grew his fam­ily busi­ness. Chang­ing his name to Pa­gan in hon­our of a 19th century Burmese king that killed his fa­ther to as­sume the crown, he be­gan fund­ing his own pri­vate army be­fore flee­ing to Kyrat in the 1980s to force­fully in­stall him­self as king. And a king like that is bound to have plenty of dukes and dames un­der his con­trol, which is where you come in.

“We wanted to ex­plore [the Hi­malayan re­gion of] Kyrat fully,” said De­celle. “It's has a re­ally rich cul­tural base and we get in­spired by places like that. And we wanted to put in a vil­lain that would kind of mix that up. Pa­gan Min doesn't give a shit about the people or the cul­ture; he came here to rule and in­stalled him­self as the king. He has his own vi­sion of the fu­ture and wants ev­ery­thing his way.”

“In the world of Far Cry the ba­sic game­play is to shoot people,” said De­celle. “Yes you ex­plore and find things, but what you spend a lot of time do­ing is shoot­ing people. So we needed an en­vi­ron­ment that al­lows you to do that. Ob­vi­ously a vil­lain in that con­text needed to be a ruler, maybe rule the coun­try with other vil­lains around the place for you to kill.”

“On the other side you have the rebel lead­ers that have a clear vi­sion of Kyrat and care about the place so as the player you start to choose be­tween the two fac­tions. You make choices that will lead you to new mis­sions with dif­fer­ent ob­jec­tives and ex­pe­ri­ences.” GET IN THE GAME >> If you're fa­mil­iar with Far Cry 3 you're go­ing to tran­si­tion into the new game fairly eas­ily. The E3 demon­stra­tion had me tak­ing over an out­post, a reg­u­lar oc­cur­rence in the pre­vi­ous game, in three dif­fer­ent ways – by stealth, gy­ro­copter or ele­phant.

Be­ing a bleed­ing heart an­i­mal-lover I chose to leave the pachy­derm alone on my first at­tempt and went stealth.

The first new toy I got to use was the grap­pling hook, which is fairly au­to­matic and in­volves sim­ply look­ing up at a sur­face it can cling to, shoot­ing it and climb­ing. Get­ting over the wall to the out­post I im­me­di­ately started tak­ing down guards with up-close melee at­tacks and silent cross­bow shots. Hid­ing be­hind build­ings and avoid­ing the laser sights of the nearby snipers I did okay for a while but even­tu­ally re­vealed my po­si­tion. The alarm was sounded and I had to re­sort to grab­bing an as­sault ri­fle but it wasn't long be­fore I couldn't fend off the re­in­force­ments any longer and it was back to the load­ing screen. In all the stealth was what I ex­pected but prob­a­bly not the best choice for some­one whose first-per­son stealth skills are a lit­tle rusty. Next up was the gy­ro­copter, which I choose to hand con­trol over to one of the de­vel­op­ers so as to save my­self fur­ther em­bar­rass­ment. Show­cas­ing the jump-in-jump-out mul­ti­player I re­mained in con­trol of Ajay while my co-op buddy joined as a 'gun-forhire'. Es­sen­tially they are a mer­ce­nary who can help when I need them and leave when I've had enough.

Fly­ing through the out­post I hung off the side of the gy­ro­copter launch­ing grenades and try­ing in vain to line up shots. Even­tu­ally we were shot down in the mid­dle of the base and had to work to­gether to sur­vive. Re­viv­ing each other be­came com­mon prac­tice as en­emy forces closed and overwhelmed us.

Again, I feel that with time I could do bet­ter, but what ex­cited me more was the prospect of two play­ers go­ing full stealth and clear­ing out a base like silent preda­tors. As fun as the gy­ro­copter is a two man stealth mis­sion sounds like it could be a awe­some. NEVER FOR­GET >> The ele­phant was my last at­tempt at sal­vaging some pride. Bathing nearby I walked up to one of these not-so-gen­tle gi­ants and climbed on its back. We were im­me­di­ately in sync and charged the en­emy gate, smash­ing it down and charg­ing a nearby sol­dier. The poor bas­tard was crushed in a sec­ond as I un­loaded a few rounds from my ri­fle into nearly guard tow­ers. Again the alarm went off and a jeep burst into the out­post with a cou­ple of ex­tra soldiers and a gun­ner on the back.

Still aboard the beast I charged the jeep and flipped it over, killing a few of the men be­fore jump­ing off to gun down the rest. My trusty ele­phant went on a ram­page, tak­ing down more soldiers be­fore be­ing shot to death it­self. Seek­ing re­venge I took over a nearby gun tur­ret and took out a few more guys be­fore a he­li­copter cir­cled the out­post. From there it was a los­ing bat­tle and soon enough I joined my gi­ant grey beast com­pan­ion in videogame heaven. PICK UP AND PLAY >> Game­play-wise, Far Cry 4 feels very sim­i­lar to Far Cry 3, but then again if it ain't broke don't fix it. That's not to say that there isn't plenty of new con­tent, but you'll know what you're get­ting yourself into if you're fa­mil­iar with the se­ries. Re­gard­less of whether you're a re­turn­ing fan or new to the se­ries Far Cry 4 will keep you up for hours as you dis­cover new lo­ca­tions, lib­er­ate more out­posts and won­der qui­etly what you could have done dif­fer­ently to keep poor Dumbo alive.

"Oooh yes, that's a nasty mole al­right. Here, lemme just cut that out for you."

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