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This review focuses on the single-player aspect of Far Cry 4. GamesBeat will run a later review of the multiplayer after release. –Ed.
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When developers or other spokesmen tout the possibilities to “craft your own story” due to a given title’s emergent gameplay, what they pitch and aspire to is what Far Cry 4 achieves.
These personal storylines are natural outcomes in well-designed open-world games, from Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor to even Forza Horizon 2. Every player collects a series of unique experiences in a given playthrough, but it’s rare games like Far Cry 4 that compel you to share those events with your friends — sometimes immediately.
From my playthrough on the PlayStation 4 (also available on Xbox One, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC on November 18), I recall the butterfly effect of a lone eagle interrupting an otherwise quiet infiltration into an enemy outpost, which resulted in my panicked reaction to shoot my then-alerted enemies with a rocket launcher, killing hostages in the process. Then there was my hurried ATV escape from a dozen soldiers, where driving off the beaten path snowballed into a series of three consecutive unplanned vehicular cliff jumps — leaps that I somehow survived. You’re never short on these kinds of moments in Far Cry 4.
What you’ll like
Simple goal, complex story
The “tropical vacation gone horribly wrong” premise of Far Cry 3 effectively worked like a playable version of the book-turned-movie The Beach. As welcome contrast to that game’s hedonistic beginnings, Far Cry 4’s premise is more heartfelt and ordinary. Ajay Ghale, Far Cry 4’s playable protagonist, is simply visiting South Asia to scatter his mother’s ashes in his parents’ homeland. It just so happens that Ajay’s father is a legend of sorts in this territory. In the eyes of the locals, the name Ghale carries a lot of weight and meaning, enough that a rebel group, The Golden Path are eager to recruit Ajay to their cause.
Far Cry 4’s narrative unfolding prescribes to the notion of the journey being more important than the goal, which is to end the oppressive leadership of antagonist, Pagan Min. Adeptly voiced by Troy Baker with a quality performance that closely rivals his memorable work on The Last of Us, Min has the charm and sense of humor of a typical Bond villain while also showing the same cold-blooded ruthlessness of Far Cry 3’s Vaas Montenegro.
If we’re relating this to the supporting cast, the journey is simply more interesting than the goal. Sabal and Amita, the conflicted leaders of The Golden Path, manage to overshadow Min, partly due to receiving much more screen time than the likeable villain. Both rebels have the same objective of defeating Min but fundamentally differ on how how to accomplish that. The heated discussions and disagreements effectively showcase depth in their characterizations and the story overall. Their respective reasoning in a given situation are both often equally valid, and thus, you having to choose one leader’s strategy over another’s is never an easy choice. This is akin to the toughest decisions you have to make in BioWare games — the kind that compel you to replay a game until you’ve seen all the outcomes.
Before you do this, do that
Far Cry 4 tests your inner dog — namely the part of you that can be distracted by something as tiny as a squirrel. I only had been airborne for five seconds in my first gyrocopter when I spotted a drove of pigs, whose hides I needed to make a new loot bag so I could hold more of my stuff.
Naturally, I had to land, but since I had exhausted all my sniper rifle rounds in a recent mission, securing a couple pig hides involved some extra work. The ensuring foot chase alerted some nearby adversaries, and as much as I didn’t mind the extra experience from killing them, I was more focused on the pigs — pigs that, at least in Far Cry 4, run really fast. You might be planning a 20 minute session but don’t be surprised of such a playthrough unexpectedly stretches to 120 minutes. Distractions in Far Cry 4 are to be embraced, no matter how goal-oriented you might be.
Improvising goes hand-in-hand with adapting. If the best judge of character is how one handles himself in a crisis, Far Cry 4 is a hotbed of such judgements. It’s one thing to patiently mark guards from a distance with your binoculars, but it requires another level of preparation to also study the layout of an enemy base before going in.
If a stealth operation goes awry, how do you adapt? Do you charge at every enemy in the hopes that their cumulative rounds of ammo won’t kill you, or do you use your knowledge of the lay of the land to temporarily hide, heal, and pick off each foe, one by one?