Far Cry 4 Review
One could argue that objectionable characters are perhaps the most frightening. One could also argue that in an open-world sandbox structure, story is nowhere near as critical as it is within a linear adventure. Your enjoyment of Far Cry 4 may hinge on where you stand on each of these questions. If you put aside the clichéd and even occasionally disgusting storyline and focus on the diverse and enjoyable gameplay, you’ll have a great time. If, on the other hand, you have an issue with stereotypical characters with no redeeming qualities, you might be downright annoyed.
From a visual standpoint, the developers have produced a deep, engaging environment that can be wildly immersive. The slopes of the Himalayas are rife with uncertainty and peril but you won’t spend the entire time on snowy slopes. I was surprised at the environmental variety on display and I appreciated the attention to detail in each exotic locale. Character detail is good, too, and the effects can be utterly mind-boggling, especially when you decide to go big (elephants, big weapons, and absolutely no subtlety whatsoever). However, as it did have to fit on older platforms as well, one can sense that FC4 couldn’t take full advantage of the PS4 and Xbox One.
The voice performances are excellent, even if you can’t stand the radio personality who tends to dominate portions of the game. This personality dreams of becoming a serial killer whose calling card is smearing human feces over his victims. …yeah, it’s like that. But anyway, with top-notch talent like Troy Baker leading the way, the voice acting is a definite highlight. I liked the music selections as well because they emphasized the wildness of the backdrop and the urgency of the chaotic situations. The effects are solid but not exactly memorable so in the end, you get a relatively impressive technical presentation that benefits from a big budget and industry-leading talent.
Much has been made of the game’s new villain, Pagan Min. He’s prominently featured on the box art and he makes his presence felt early. He’s the cocky, twisted authoritarian ruler of Kyrat and he’s completely broken. It’s obvious that we’re not even supposed to regard this guy as human; he pursues suffering and laughs at the tortured cries of his fellow man. Now, on the surface, this could be a truly terrifying character. The problem is that he has no real dimension and as we have to assume that insanity is the only cause of his dysfunction, he’s almost immediately boring. Yes, nutjob that kills for fun. Got it. It’s actually a relief that Min disappears for most of the campaign.
As protagonist Ajay Ghale, you’re on a melancholy quest to scatter the ashes of your dear departed mother, as per her wishes. Of course, doing so in the land of Kyrat means you’re embroiled in a ridiculous mess of villainy and chaos, so Ghale has to adapt or die. It’s a tumultuous world of constant freakishness, betrayal and animal instinct, but the story doesn’t go beyond this admittedly surface traits. There’s just nothing underneath this sordid craziness besides more craziness. There are a few political statements and puns that fall flat but aside from that, it’s just insanity from start to finish.
Now, don’t think this is a 100 percent negative. It kinda isn’t. If you’re going to create a game in which you can use elephants as weapons, fly mere feet from deadly cliff faces in a wingsuit, and have access to a wide and uber-fun assortment of weaponry, Kyrat is perhaps the perfect place to visit. As I said above, you just have to establish your personal priorities. If you care more about the gameplay, which features great control and even innovation, satisfying and challenging missions, and an exhilarating sense of freedom and power, your money will be well-spent. If you can’t stand the clichés and rampant use of drug-culture stereotypes and humans behaving like beasts, you’ve got a problem.
Me, I just tuned out the story and characters because I chose to dismiss them as a failed opportunity. I do that a lot in video games and it doesn’t mean I end up hating the game; in fact, some of my favorite interactive experiences came from titles that featured artistic elements I hated. There are just so many thrills in Far Cry 4 that it’s impossible to ignore the fun: There are activities everywhere, dangers lurking around every corner, endless opportunities to experiment with your growing arsenal, and the combination of vehicles and that bad-ass wingsut to enhance your exploration. Honestly, what more could one ask for in a sandbox production?
There’s no order or organization here. It’s chaos. It’s even more chaotic than Grand Theft Auto because GTA portrays twisted individuals living among normal civilization (and the ensuing clash is what makes it so dynamic). Here, just about everyone is screwed up and you’re a long way from anything even remotely resembling civilization. Bears, tigers and even honey badgers stalk the unforgiving wilderness, drug runners intent on money and/or their next high can show up anywhere, and through it all flows this tainted stream of villainy and debauchery. You never know what you might encounter but whatever it is, it probably wants you dead.
The campaign offers a fair amount of variety, too, as you’ll play everything from shoot ‘til they all drop missions to insta-death upon detection stealth missions. Furthermore, it has never been more entertaining to play with a friend. This is one of the few games where I’m actually inclined to call up a buddy and suggest playing for a few hours. I almost never do that; I’m almost always more drawn toward the solo aspect of the hobby. That being said, I’m definitely more interested in co-op than competitive multiplayer and FC4 offers fantastic fun for co-op aficionados. It’s the kind of madcap awesomeness you’ll be talking about for days after the session ends.
Returning to the campaign, it’s a little irritating when you feel pushed and pulled in a hundred different directions. You can liberate an outpost and within minutes, it’ll be under attack and you have to return and defend it. I didn’t like constantly defending my territories in Saints Row and I don’t like it anymore here. Even so, how can I really condemn the sheer amount of content that’s available? Sometimes, it actually feels overwhelming, as it does in Ubisoft’s other massive fall title, Assassin’s Creed Unity. With so much to do, it’s just impossible to get bored; hours drop away in the blink of an eye.
I also like the economy and advanced systems, which revolve around the constant reward stimulus. You have to work to earn your money, but you’re eager to do it because the rewards are just so enticing, and you know you’ll have a blast earning that cash. This is more of a pronounced feature than it ever was in the Assassin’s Creed franchise, but it’s not so heavily centered on loot as Diablo III. It’s just a nicely balanced system that encourages you to experience more of the game; doing so will deliver some nifty pieces of equipment to your sandbox doorstep, and you’ll be itching to put that equipment to good use.
As for the competitive multiplayer, I’m not the biggest fan but it’s functional and even attractive in a variety of ways. The objective changes depending on the mode you selected, and the designers tried to implement fresh multiplayer elements that allows FC4 to stand out in a sea of shooters. They made the right decision by allowing the use of many of the campaign’s best tools, like the wingsuit. Whether you’re trying to capture and retain a tower that reveal hunters on the mini-map, or you’re engaged in a pitched five-on-five battle, playing against others is an enjoyable and fulfilling option. It’s just not the meat of the product, that’s all.
Pagan Min is a horrid individual and he’s surrounded by similarly horrid individuals, though not half as psychotic. The story falls short in its attempt to provide a narrative that actually means something, and you never really care about the main character. These are major drawbacks, especially because Ubisoft has promoted the story elements of this game quite a bit. Furthermore, I don’t think anybody will like the idea of not being able to customize their loadouts in the midst of a mission. If you want to change your gear, you have to restart the entire mission…and that’s not good. Then there’s the absurd radio personality who is just too over-the-top to be effective or interesting.
And yet, despite all the flaws, Far Cry 4 pounds out an open-world FPS maelstrom of ridiculousness. It’s always in your face and it’s never afraid to throw numerous and diverse dangers in your path, just to see if you can adapt and survive. There’s a distinct sense of power when you make your assault on the criminals of Kyrat and that’s something I can get behind. The mechanics are sound, the co-op feature is excellent, the world is just loaded with activities, and in the end, this one will keep you busy for many, many hours. You simply have to make the requisite concessions. It isn’t a literary tour de force; it’s a bombastic, expansive, imperfect adventure that never pulls any punches.
The Good: Well-designed, exotic world filled with danger and wonder. Fantastic voice performances. Excellent arsenal and several great modes of transportation. Cooperating with buddies is great fun. Top-notch presentation and production values. Tons of content.
The Bad: Terribly written story and one-dimensional characters. Villain goes too far and falls flat. Vehicle control isn’t always perfect. Stealth isn’t well developed.
The Ugly: “When you get too ugly, you start to lose an audience.”
11/24/2014 Ben Dutka