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Far Cry 4 / 30th of November 2014

Far Cry 3 reinvigorated my faith in FPSs as Ubisoft delivered a more than solid shooter with a bit more plot and substantial meaning to all the killing and mayhem that we normally experience. This time round Ubisoft have taken us high into the Himalayan Mountains to a country called Kyrat, ruled by the well-dressed and slightly unhinged dictator, Pagan Min. Ajay Ghale is returning from the West to lay his mother’s ashes to rest but instead is thrown into a civil war between freedom fighters, The Golden Path, and Min’s Royal Army. In Far Cry 4 the player assumes control of this returning son of Kyrat, in an open world, action-adventure, first-person shooter aimed at carrying on the success of the Far Cry series. But is it successful in doing so? Yes, I believe it is.

The main story puts the player in the thick of it, fighting a war and having to choose sides within the Golden Path. The Golden Path has two leaders; Amita a strong and intelligent women who is looking to the future of Kyrat. She is at differences with her ally and co-leader, Sabal; he is undoubtedly more of a military man with traditional values and outlooks. The player is forced to pick sides, listen to both Sabal and Amita and chose the leader they believe in, as Ajay Ghale the player has an esteemed history without even knowing it. Both Ajay’s parent were allied or involved with Min, they then turned their back on Min and created the Golden Path to combat his reign. Ajay will end up on a path of enlightenment, one that will lead him to discover his true roots and the real history of his parents. It sounds like a very lovely story but it’s one I didn’t feel invested in at all, at least with Far Cry 3 I cared somewhat about my friends and brother being captured, this time round I don’t have that same motivation. That said the story doesn’t move along because of its witty plot, instead it entices the player to progress due to the many great characters that are introduced as you progress.

Far Cry 4’s characters really stand out much like they did in previous games, with Vaas, of course, being at the top of that list with his intriguing, character defining discourses on the definition of insanity. This time round we have Pagan Min, a superbly acted out and presented character with just the same amount of screen presence as many great screen villains. There are of course your Golden Path brothers and sisters and new main character, but we are also treated to cameos from past Far Cry characters that help in livening up the action. Kyrat is crammed full of life with an ever present populace that appear as a more tribal natured society with deep spiritual beliefs likened to that of the Tibetans with their Bön or Buddhist philosophies.

Aside from the main story that may or may not keep you occupied, Far Cry 4 has a plethora of distractions to keep you playing, for as well as unlocking signature weapons and new skills, there’s still so much more on offer. For players that spent numerous hours on the Rook Islands in Far Cry 3, many of the side missions and challenges will seem all-too familiar with a few new additions here and there; Kyrati Films; racing, Kyrati Films: survival, hunting: survival, hunting supplies, hunting: control, Kyrat fashion week, hostage rescue, Golden Path supplies, bomb defusing, armed escort, pagan’s wrath, cargo hijacks, eye for  an eye, assassination, the arena, outpost takeovers, fortress liberations, bell towers, propaganda centres, Shangri-la, lost letter: collectibles, propaganda posters: collectibles, Mohan Ghale’s Journal: collectibles, Mani Wheels: collectibles, Mask of Yalung: collectibles and different karma events. A truly massive amount of content to keep the completionist busy, and this time round, it doesn’t have to be done alone.

Co-op is different this time round as it doesn’t focus on a standalone campaign but rather lets one friend help another on all the previously mentioned side missions and challenges listed above. While that is a massive amount to do, the primary drawback of co-op play is that the main storyline is off bounds to both players and the second player will only gather experience, weapons and collectibles and will make no progress with any side missions, outposts, bell towers, etc. At the very least it is a good way to gain experience points and storm through single player with the knowledge of what to do and where to go, yet it offers little beyond this.

Much like its predecessor, Far Cry 4 has skill sets that you can spend experience points on to become a more effective combatant and hunter. Unfortunately this time round you aren’t adding to an ever expanding tattoo, instead, the skill trees are separated into two; The Tiger and The Elephant. The Tiger tree is full of all the takedowns and the more action orientated skills, whilst The Elephant tree is comprised of your health boosts, healing syringes and general survival skills. As well as acquiring skills to survive the crafting ability is still there and requires some dangerous hunts and special missions to fully craft a level four bag.

As to be expected the gun play is solid, smooth and a lot of fun. The array of weapons is still the same, offering flamethrowers, silenced sniper rifles and the bow with explosive arrows. Most of these weapons can have attachments applied to them allowing the player to personalize their style of play. The bow still stands out for me though, allowing me to take down enemies silently while at the same time switching to explosive arrows and taking on trucks with mounted guns or helicopters full of Min’s forces. Other than that though, the main weapon is really the knife coupled with the same types of takedowns experienced in Far Cry 3, allowing one to tear through outposts in seconds.

The graphics are superbly detailed, really showcasing Kyrat as a beautiful country full of gorgeous waterfalls, cliffs, snowy mountains, lush forests, poppy fields, lakes and rivers with religious statues, monoliths and decorations donning cliff walls and streaking across towns and villages. Walking around Kyrat felt as though I was walking through the land of Skyrim at times, beautiful and peaceful until a grenade goes off at your feet or an eagle swoops in on you.

Due to the power of our next-gen consoles, the wildlife has been greatly increased for Far Cry 4 featuring many species of animals ranging from small birds to giant Asian Rhinos and Elephants. While really adding to the beauty of the game and the foreign environment, the wildlife annoys me to no end! One moment you could be quite happily driving along listening to the crazy DJ when suddenly out of nowhere a Rhino comes charging at the car, destroying it along with its driver. Or during the middle of a firefight, a pack of wolves decide to descend upon me for no other reason than because they can. If this was once or twice I would love it, but it happens every time I go out to do a mission or to explore costing me ammo and syringes, not to mention my sanity. Clearly there is a tonne more wildlife out there, but it just so happens that at least 90% of it is now overtly hostile, almost like they’re secretly working for Pagan Min!

Apart from the frustrating wildlife, which can be useful at times, Far Cry 4 is essentially Far Cry 3, but do we really care? It’s prettier, bigger, more enjoyable, longer and just as damn good a game. I for one don’t mind playing through a similar game in a new land when the experience is just so well rounded. There is also the return of multiplayer and the map editor, offering even more hours of mayhem and magic. With all this on offer, any fan of the series, or FPS enthusiast, will undoubtedly find that their money has been well spent here.

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