Developers: Ubisoft Montreal
Plot: Ajay Ghale travels to Kyrat to bury his mother’s ashes, only to discover his mother’s last wish is sending him into the middle of a civil war and the tyranny of Pagan Min.
Farcry has always been that game that has been finding its feet all this time. It is fun, no one is denying that, but it has always seemed a little chaotic. There were all of these ideas in the pot, but as Farcry 3 suggested, there was no way of coherently mixing them together.
Farcry 4 makes its main objective to mimic Farcry 3, but iron out all those pesky little things that went wrong last time. Therefore, there is a sense that you are playing the same game as before, but a lot smoother. The first hour of gameplay might even go down poorly, as familiarity kicks in too comfortably. We are introduced to a beautiful foreign landscape (and Farcry 4 really is the most beautiful game I have played on a next-gen console so far), a nefarious bad guy who wavers a little too close to the insanity mark for comfort and the first few mission are almost identical to Farcry 3’s. The first playable part of the game is a stealth one, teaching you how to throw rocks as distractions and how to takedown an unsuspecting enemy from behind. The next mission introduces you to the rebels and you are soon sent to a) hijack radio towers to unlock weapons and new parts of the map and b) take over enemy camps to stagger the enemy’s influence on the surrounding area. Not only is it exactly like every Farcry game, but it is almost like every Ubisoft game, the main flaw that made Watch Dogs such a disappointment. But as soon as the game covers old ground and begins breaking into pastures new, then things really get going. New features come into play like bonus objectives that unlock your skill tree, the ability to ride elephants and, best of all, a choice aspect. The rebels are torn between two leaders, Sabal, who wants to revert Kyrat back to life before Pagan Min, and Amita, who wishes to look to the future. Seeing as you quickly establish yourself as their greatest weapon, you choose who you want to answer to, effectively putting one of them in charge. As the game responds to your choices, you end up manipulating the future of Kyrat. There are four ways to end this game (well five, if you include the little Easter egg that I won’t spoil here), and it gives Farcry 4 a little bit more playability.
But at the same time, Farcry 4 retains all of the good things that made Farcry 3 so much fun. There are just little moments where you cannot quite believe what you are playing. Sometimes the manipulating of gameplay is subtle – a change in soundtrack to the routine game. Some of the important fights are done to some inspiring music and the final showdown with Pagan Min involves driving to his palace along a lengthy stretch of road, accompanied by The River by the Bombay Royale. It is gaming direction at its best. Then there are the more heavy-handed moments, like the stoner scenes that see you take on the Kyrat landscape, while your vision is distorted by drugs. Sometimes they are a bit too much, frustratingly distracting for the sake of it, but they do switch up gameplay nicely. There is also a bonus mission where you travel back into the Legend of Shangra-La, playing as a mythical hero taking on the demons of Yalung. These additions are a little hit and miss, but the layout of Farcry 4 means that you can either complete them or skip them, so they never get in the way of the main story mission. The story mission has its own share of badass moments. One mission sees you knock a main villain unconscious and carry him out of his fortress, single-handedly. The following fight needs to be completed with one hand. The game balances the difficulty right. You feel like a total badass, yet it is tricky enough so it doesn’t feel like the game let you have this fight on the house. Another moment that almost makes you punch the air is a scene where you drive a quad bike down an airport runway chasing after a plane about to take off. The set-piece is stolen from James Bond, but hell, I don’t count that as a bad thing.
Farcry 4 also has some great characters. The last game was a bit hit and miss. Vaas and Citra were terrific players in the game, but there were also some blank spaces, like your back-packing buddies and Hoyt, who was a little anti-climactic as a villain. The entire cast is golden here. People might talk about Troy Baker’s performance as Pagan Min (as they should, he is endlessly fun), but the supporting cast are just as interesting. Sabal and Amita are three-dimensional as the rebel leaders, bickering over a direction, which is important as the choice factor in the game hangs on their complex character arcs. Sure, Amita might be making sense now, but are you giving her fiery personality room to grow into something darker? The villains are colourful too. De Pleur is the torture expert, who is often seen talking on the phone to his eight year old daughter back in the States. Noore is head of the fighting arena and has her own complicated reason for her villainy. My personal favourite is Yuma, who acts as the Harley Quinn to Pagan Min’s Joker. She is kept in the shadows until the final act of the game, but is by far the most interesting bad guy on display here. In fact, the only character who lets the game down is you, Ajay Ghale. Last time around, Farcry 3 became irritating because the lead hero was so unlikeable as a character. You had to get to terms with the fact you were playing a spoilt douchebag. However, Ajay Ghale could be argued to be even worse, coming without a back story. He is dropped into Kyrat and evolves into the silent hero of the piece. Sabal and Amita have these moral-crushing stories to wade through and Ajay silently agrees with every twist thrown into the mix. He sticks out like a sore thumb in a game full of explosive features. Yes, I am glad that every time Ajay opens his mouth I am not hating what comes out of it, but at the same time, what’s worse? A bad character or no character?
But that is more of a small downside to a truly epic game. Farcry 4 is inventive, fun and a major improvement on the third instalment. However, there are small moments where you wish that more was done. The choice system is interesting, but it could have been applied with a little more precision. You put a character in charge and witness the chaos that causes, but it would have been cooler if there were more subtle changes that could crop up. The middle act is so action-packed and adventurous that some of the endings to specific parts are a little flat. The bad guys could have been given a better send-off (this varies, depending on your choices). Farcry 4 just needed that bit of a polish to be a truly perfect game. However, as I said before, seeing as we have gotten rid of the little details that let Farcry 3 down, we have come a long way in my opinion. The minor errors in this one just make you wonder how awesome Farcry 5 is going to be.
Final Verdict: Farcry 4 takes the chaotic fun of the last game and applies a slice of intelligence. It feels more precise and mature, yet still the kickass shooter you remember.