Take a trip to picturesque Kyrat. Take in the sights of the stunning mountains, the ambient verdant forests and the lush rolling hills. Oh, and d don’t forget to pay tribute to the local despotic warlord or he’ll hand you’re your liver with a spoon. Welcome to Pagan Min’s Paradise, where every moment is an exhilarating realization of your own fragile mortality.
Far Cry 4 may well be treading familiar ground with its surroundings and format, but in a ’franchise’ we don’t necessarily see this as any kind of a problem.. Because of this we will look on our foray into the realm of the ‘mad as a box of frogs’ Pagan Min, the man with a name like an Asian Death Metal Band, and enjoy every moment we spend in the lunatic’s playground.
From the word go with Far Cry 4 we are brought into this mentalists world with what has to be one of the most amusing and entertaining introductions to a videogame for some considerable length of time, we aren’t going to spoil it for any readers but we will just say ‘selfie’ and leave it at that.
Outstanding visuals that have an OCD feel to the highly detailed landscapes and environments are the order of the day and the first rate gameplay melds beautifully to create a thoroughly top class title.
The storyline is a well-crafted plot of political intrigue and revolutionary subterfuge as we are placed into the shoes of ‘AJ Gale’, ( better known to the locals as AJay Ghale, the son of the inspirational freedom fighters and founder members of the embattled Golden Path.
The Golden Path themselves are a well organized bunch of ‘rebels’ who are struggling to free their beloved Kyrat from beneath the constrictive heel of Pagan Min, the dictator with a penchant for embedding items of cutlery into civilians bodies to demonstrate his point. Founded in part by AJ’s mother and father the history of this separatist movement is a little hazy for our reluctant hero, however, time and tasks will enlighten you to the true back story to this contentious region as the game and its meaty storyline unfold.
Returning to his beloved homeland, following an enforced educational exile in the United States, ‘AJ’ is not met with open arms and adoring hugs and kisses by the locals and childhood friends he left behind, instead it is Pagan Min who swoops down in his private chopper to welcome the returning inspirational figure in his own inimitable way.
From here on in following this introduction to the laugh-out-loud lunacy of Kyrat and its enigmatic leader Far Cry 4 transforms into a brightly coloured open-world extravaganza of the kind that gamers would normally associate, say, with Bethesda’s Elder Scrolls series as opposed to a shooter. For this reason, and many others along the way, the developers at Ubisoft Montreal are to be highly commended.
The gameplay is a blend of first-person shooter action at its finest coupled with snippets taken from a myriad of other genres such as the undoubted leveling up system transported from a more traditional role-playing game, as well as moments of undoubted heart-in-mouth stealth that would be more at home in a title like Ubisoft’s Splinter Cell franchise.
However, that is not to say that they don’t work just as well here in Far Cry 4, far from it, everything that Ubisoft brought in to the gameplay works supremely well, and many developers of similar titles would do well to take a leaf out of the developers at Ubi Montreal’s book in that instead of being a ‘Jack of All Trades and Master of None’ kind of game, Far Cry 4’s designers have seen fit to put as much effort into all aspects of its features in order that the game pretty much handles like a dream in any situation.
Speaking of elements inside the format brings us neatly, ( ish ), to the core of the Far Cry 4 system, and that is its excellent use of a more traditional RPG styled gameplay which allows the player greater immersion into the realm before them as players are required to partake not only in the games main story to gain that all important XP, but also the seemingly infinite amount of mini-missions, side quests, challenges, collectibles, tasks and objectives that absolutely litter the entire region of Kryat much like the proverbial horses sh-h-h-h- ‘sugar lumps’.
Players can, of course, forego any and pretty much all of the side quests and just plough headlong into the single player campaign with wanton abandon, but, and it’s a Jennifer Lopez sized ‘butt’, ( you see what we did there? ), acquisition of new items that are certainly beneficial to the players chances of survival in the harsh badlands of Kryat are obtainable either far faster or not at all, without indulging in side activities and tasks.
Keeping in line with Ubisoft’s undoubted ‘the more the merrier’ policy Far Cry 4 comes with a massive amount of vehicles from cars and quad bikes right through to jet ski’s, hovercraft’s and microlights. On top of this comes the excellent array of weaponry available to the player in AJ’s personal armoury, ( all fully upgradable as well as being purchasable in ‘limited edition‘ format ), as well as a staggering number of enemies, animals, missions and side quests.
There is just so much to do in Kyrat that if you are wondering why the review took so long to get out there then let that be an indication of just how big this game is, as those regular readers and GmP subscribers will already know we ‘always‘ fully complete every game before we publish any review.
That being said many weapons and items are only obtainable through the campaign, so it really is best to fully clear and area and its many missions and objectives before attending any one of the appropriate ‘letters’ on the Kryat map which denote a particular NPC’s storyline.
The storyline itself offers up an interesting proposition also by making the player choose the path down which they wish to proceed on the way to liberating the Kyrati people. Will you side with the hotheaded young vixen that is Amita, or the more careful Sabal, the male side of this coalition government?
Along the way there are many weird and wonderful NPC’s for you to meet, such as Longinus the former African Warlord turned murderous Bible-thumper spreading the ‘Good Word’ with every round fired from his AK-47.
An excellent inclusion to the long list of people AJ will meet and greet has to be the roaming Sherpa’s who act as a travelling ‘base’ where players are able to complete every task they require from the purchasing of items and ammunition right through to actually upgrading equipment and character skills. This is a very handy way for AJ to keep on top of his enemies and his surroundings as Kyrat is vast in its playable area’s and, due to its Himalayan similarity, the region is not only able to explored along the horizontal but also the vertical too.
Kyrat’s lush verdant environment can quickly change from rolling fields and wooded valleys to snow capped mountains and perilous craggy cliffs. This makes for a wide variety of scenario’s, not least in the way players must traverse the region in order to just reach locations and objectives.
One such arduous challenge is the tracking down of clues for the local serial killer, Yulang, who leaves his victims in posed positions of death with a ceremonial mask on, ( or around ), their person. Each of these locations, along with the dazzling array of question marks that act as pointers for hidden area’s, serve as a good distraction as players open up the map. But it is within each zone that players will soon come to discover that the best option for clearing away the mountain mist that covers the map of Kyrat is to head straight for any one of the radio towers that proclaim non-stop messages of love and warnings of dire retribution should you fail to show Pagan Min any of it, as the hijacking of said tower will free the area and thus open up the map and give a few noted pointers to locations of –particular interest.
The only downside to this is that instead of the Kyrati State harridan who issues orders, edicts and warnings from the radio towers pre-emancipation is soon replaced with the inane dribbling’s of Radio Free Kyrat and its resident DJ, ‘Rocking’ Rabi Ray Rana.
Now, anyone who has ever listened to an amateur, pirate or ‘free’ radio station will tell you that, on the whole, the DJ’s tend to be entertaining and, more often than not, quick-witted and likeable. Rabi Ray Rana, on the other hand, seems to break with tradition on this as he has ‘none’ of this attributes or characteristics going for him. Annoying, inane, monotonous and dead pan the repetitive parrot-like droning’s of this witless wonder are one of the few low-points of the game, and developers should pay attention to the gamers on issues such as this when we say if you are going to give regular voices to NPC’s them give them more than four dialogue scenes. Why not give them new lines of speech with patches and updates to keep their ramblings fresh and relevant? Instead of the same constant whining on and on of predictable meanderings?
Progression throughout the storyline does change Rabi Ray Rana’s dialogue from time to time, but on the whole he sticks to a tired formula of daydreaming about being a fecal-fetish killer or warbling’s of his politically correct, enlightened lifestyle Uninspiring stuff to say the least.
Apart from this truly minor hiccup the rest of the game plays out with excellent opportunities to approach the story from a twin standpoint, even the option of attacking outposts comes with dual possibilities of all-out frontal assaults or stealth induced sneak-fests, for double delights and definite replay value.
Of course, this being Ubisoft, there are few sections of the gameplay that do have the Liberals reaching for placards and screaming at anyone who will give their nonsensical rants air time over such contentious issues as the hunting of ‘artificial reality’ endangered species. Yes, you read that right, the PETA Pleb’s are whining that so many non-living digitally rendered animals did not have to really die in order to bring gamers this wonderful entertainment. You couldn’t make it up, really you couldn’t.
But, Ubisoft being Ubisoft and so wonderfully and typically French their answer is a simple as the brainless minds who created this total non-issue in the first place, and that is?
“ if you don’t like it, then don’t damn well play it and don’t buy it! “
You have to admire the French for the no-nonsense attitude towards the more ‘intellectually challenged’ types of the politically correct world.
Multiplayer comes in the form of an online challenge arena that not only provides hours of entertaining fun, but also elite weapons that are only obtainable through this method, but the true jewel in the Far Cry 4 crown has to be the simply stellar Co-oP Mode.
If you thought traipsing across a sandbox world, hunting, sneak killing and tracking down serial killers and murderous dictators was an inviting prospect in the solo campaign then just wait until you dip a tentative toe into the perfect pool that is the co-operative challenge.
This is where Far Cry 4 truly shines, and it does so with such a brilliant light that it completely blocks out all of the sun from every other title in 2014 that prides itself on its Co-oP. Quite how this game never won Game of the Year is, frankly, a little puzzling, especially considering the title that did win the honour did so with an AI controlled four-player Co-oP that doesn’t come anywhere near Far Cry 4 for enjoyment, capability and performance. A true miscarriage of justice if ever there was one.
Story, single player, multiplayer, Co-oP and more challenges, missions, side quests, collectibles and tasks than even an Assassin’;s Creed title, Far Cry 4 is, for GmP at any rate, one of the most entertaining titles of 2014 and although we may not be the Golden Joysticks, ( yet ), we can see it receiving at least one GoTY award by the time our own ceremony is announced on December, 31st. A Tour De Force of a title and one that should grace every gamers library. 9 out of 10
FORMAT: XBOX ONE [reviewed])
DEVELOPER: UBISOFT MONTREAL
AVAILABLE PLATFORMS: XBOX ONE, PLAYSTATION 4, XBOX360, PLAYSTATION 3, PC,
SCORE OUT OF 10: 9 OUT OF 10