This should be the easiest review to write with just a few simple questions-
It is humbling to admit when you’re wrong, and after having very little fun playing Far Cry 2, I purposely gave Far Cry 3 the swerve until a full year after it was released. That turned out to be a huge mistake as it went on to be not only one of the best games of the previous generation, but one of my favourite games of all time. Everybody I spoke to about it had different stories to tell about their in game experiences brought about by the freedom that was gifted to you. And once again, Ubisoft have got it spot on.
In the most blatant case of “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it”, Far Cry 4 is eerily familiar. Some critics are calling it Far Cry 3.5, and this is a fair summation. It feels more of a retelling of Far Cry 3, albeit with less water and more mountains. More has been added than taken away, and none of the additions make the game any worse. And with such a solid basis, Ubisoft would have been hard pressed to muck this game up.
Ubisoft went a much better direction with the promotion of this game than other recent titles. Sticking to actual in game, final build advertising was a smart move. If Watchdogs taught us anything, it’s that the gaming public will very much notice if you do not deliver on your promises. Although not as blatant as Watchdogs, Assassin’s Creed Unity also hyped so much, but came out feeling rushed and partially broken. No chance in Far Cry 4, as it runs solidly and beautifully across five platforms and two generations. I think congratulations are more in order for Ubisoft not on the amazing graphics on the highest spec PC, but how fantastically it still runs on the 360. If Unity gave a Division 1 performance, then the presentation of Far Cry 4 is Champions League. Draw distances are impressive, colours are lush and vibrant, and pop ins are barely noticeable even when looking for them.
The play area can be slightly repetitive, but there is some switching up through stand-alone sequences such as drug induced hallucinations, visits to the snow-covered mountain peaks and internal mind quests into Shangri-La. But the majority of the time you’ll be sticking to the formula of exploring the islands, liberating outposts and blasting away God’s creations. As you progress, quick travel points are unlocked, but with such a beautiful and expansive sandbox, luckily there are a fair number of vehicles to traverse it.
Driving in Far Cry 3 was, in a word, mental. In a “so bad it’s good” sense, steering in a first person perspective from inside the vehicle in the drivers seat was and still is great fun. However, it very rarely made for a clean getaway, as you careered straight into one of the thousands of trees that litter the sides of the roads. And forget about accurate shooting! Far Cry 4 has moved control of the vehicles entirely to one stick, presumably to make the driving even stupider. To balance this though, Ubisoft Montréal have added auto drive, which will keep you on the straight and narrow direct to your waypoint. Coupled with the massive variety of weapons that can be fired from the car, along with all explosives, driving now feels a bit easy mode. It may be strange putting a sequel down for fixing what was broken , but some of the fondest memories I had from Far Cry 3 were of missing a turn and ploughing straight off the side of a mountain, enemy machine gun turret following me, trigger squeezed all the way to inevitable doom. A moot point perhaps, as auto drive can be turned off, but it is one of the few really new additions that I feel doesn’t quite work.
What has been retained is the sense that you are on your own adventure, experiencing different things that are completely unique to you. The pace and the direction you set off are closer to an RPG than a traditional FPS. I personally had at least half of the map discovered and a large number of the craft and skill trees completed before even touching the main story. By liberating individual outposts, at least one or two side quests is unlocked and playable right then and there. These include hunting and assassination missions, much like Far Cry 3, but also hostage taker “negotiations” (as in massacre), and the masterstroke of the ability to retake outposts in an arcade format. There are a number of different race formats and one-off Karma events to keep everything interesting.
Hunting was one of my favourite parts of Far Cry 3, so I was over the moon to initially see the wider variety of wildlife in to Kyrat. I say initially, as I was soon to discover how deadly the majority of animals are. You’ll learn to hate eagles which attack on a constantly frustrating basis, but I find that there is a sense of fairness in the how nails the rest of the apex predators are. Put a human with a bow and arrow up against a bear or rhino in real life, and that human is losing 99 times out of a 100. In Far Cry 3, the odds were always in your favour, but here in Kyrat you’d better run. In fact, the animals in this game are going to give you a much tougher time than any human opponent.
Overall I was always going to be slightly biased with my review of this game, but I feel it is justified. It may be more of the same, but the blueprint is ludicrously fun. If you got bored of Far Cry 3 you may wish to wait for this game to drop in price before purchasing, otherwise I highly recommend buying what is a shining beacon in an otherwise muddled release quarter. I’ve not touched on multiplayer or the map editor yet, and the co-op missions are hit or miss, but Far Cry 4 more than justifies its purchase price on the solo play only. The inevitable DLCs will come out, but nothing has been purposely held back to maximise Ubisoft’s bankroll, so I have no problems in buying these at a later date. It is an unashamedly big, loud, and often ridiculous title, that never slows down from being downright good fun.