REVIEW / Far Cry 4 (PS3)

2015.02.09 update: This game made our Top 5 console games of 2014 list!

The Far Cry franchise has had a storied history and fans the world over have come to expect an FPS that is over the top, full of action and excitement with a crazy story that involves the absolute suspension of reality.  Ubisoft has endeavored to out-do their last entry and has seemed to have succeeded with amazing results.  Far Cry 4 delivers on every aspect that the franchise has become known for and some.  Not a company to rest on its laurels, Ubisoft has crafted a new adventure that is built on the shoulders of its award-winning predecessor to deliver the most immersive and ample Far Cry experience ever.  The world is entirely new and massive giving you and your friends the ability to play together with the game’s integrated drop-in/drop-out open world co-op gameplay.

 

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Pagan Min is the charismatic, psychopathic leader of Kyrat. You do not want to cross him.

 

Far Cry 4 takes players to the fictional country of Kyrat which is nestled deep in the Himalayan mountains.  Its peoples live lives steeped in tradition while trying to survive the violence that has plagued the country ever since the rise of the oppressive dictator Pagan Min.  The player takes on the role of Ajay Ghale, a typical everyman who has traveled back to Kyrat to fulfill his mothers dying wish to have her ashes spread over her place of birth.  You’ll have to navigate a colossal open world that is filled to the brim with wild animals, hidden secrets and the oppressive forces of Min with an ever expanding arsenal of weapons if you plan to be successful.  Kyrat is a huge country with lots of possibilities and you will need the help of your allies and your wits if you want to make it out alive.

At its core, Far Cry 4 is an FPS through and through but at the same time it is so much more than that.   The weapons that Ajay can choose from to dispatch the forces of Pagan Min are scarce at first but as you progress, you will be able to take weapons from the enemies that you have felled and as you level up your skills and complete missions, more weapons will open up so that you will have a diverse array of weaponry to choose from in order to have the right tool for the particular job you are on.  For example, initially you only have a rifle so when you kill animals you only get so much of the hide to use in upgrading your equipment.  However, once you obtain the bow, you are able to make much cleaner kills and therefor will obtain twice as much of the hide than you would by killing it with an automatic weapon.  Balancing out how many weapons are available to you at one time along with how many you can carry at a time is perfect and adds a bit of strategy in how you decide to take on the missions that you are tasked with completing.

 

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This is just a small section of the map and it doesn’t even begin to represent the enormity of the Far Cry 4 world.

 

The world of Far Cry 4 is probably one of the largest that I have ever seen.  There is so much to do and see that it can be overwhelming at times.  However, the structure of the missions and your ability to purchase maps that highlight important locations on the over-world map really helps to allow you to tackle the game and explore the various locations in a way that suits your style of gameplay.  If you purchase a map that shows all the locations of loot in a particular sector, you can spend an evening looting chests so that you can build up enough currency to buy better weapons and to purchase the upgrades for those weapons.  Then you will be ready to tackle the missions, confident that you have enough ammo and equipment to be successful.  I found this to be one of the best parts of the game because it allowed me to feel like I had total control over how prepared I was to take on the more challenging missions in the game.

 

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Weapon Customization Screen: You can add or remove attachments as well as get a 360 degree view of your weapons.

 

The weapon and equipment upgrade system in Far Cry 4 is one of the standout features of the game and really felt like an integral part of my characters progression and not just a tacked on component.  To level up your gun holster so that you can carry more weapons for example, you have to kill a specific animal.  These animals will be different for each level so you have to use your map to find out where you might be able to find it and then do some hunting.  Having the upgrade system in this fashion helps to make it more challenging because as you level a particular piece of equipment, the animals that you will need to hunt become of a variety that would be more difficult to hunt in the wild.  For me, this really made the hunting aspect of the game feel more realistic and an important part of the game because it forces the player to interact with the environment, otherwise there would be no reason to have such a varied amount of wildlife and it would all be just for show.

 

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Visuals are breathtaking and if you see it you can usually go to it.

 

The graphics in Far Cry 4 are truly amazing considering I was playing my copy on a system that is eight years old.  Don’t get me wrong, the Far Cry engine is old and it is definitely showing its age but I have to say that the people at Ubisoft have been able to squeeze every ounce of horse power out of the aging PS3 and it looks absolutely gorgeous.  There are some minor issues with popup but not so much that it takes you out of the game.  The draw distance is amazing and you can go to any place that you can see on the horizon.  The character models look a little blob-y and the same models used for the liberation army recruits and Min’s militiamen are used repeatedly but overall they look great.  The models of the different animals and birds are equally impressive and when I was attacked by a vicious honey badger, I actually screamed out loud because I knew I was in for a fight.

The sound effects in Far Cry 4 are spot on and are an absolute amazing feature of the game.  Hearing the reports from gunfire off in the distance felt authentic and is often an indicator to Karma events that help you to level up your character.  The importance of listening to the sounds that happen around you can be the difference between killing a pack of wild dogs or them killing you.  You can hear the rustling of dead leaves and the crackle of sticks breaking under your boot heels but you must also pay attention to the hiss of a poisonous snake or the snort of a pack of wild pigs.  If you hear them before they see you, you increase your odds of sneaking up on them and making the kill.  In addition, you will often times be alerted to the patrol of Min’s men by the conversations that they will be holding as you come upon them.  Being alert and aware of your surroundings is crucial to navigating the wilds of Kyrat and successfully coming out alive.

 

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The Skills Menu: You can upgrade everything from drop attacks to more health bars and the ability to ride elephants.

 

While the overall presentation of Far Cry 4 is spectacular, there are a few issues that are worth mentioning.  While this is not so much a complaint as it is an observation, the character of Ajay Ghale is rather bland and a bit of a blank slate.  I figure that this is simply because it allows the player to place herself/himself into the shoes of the protagonist as a way of gameplay immersion.  Having the main character too fleshed out takes away a bit of the players ability to imply how they would respond to being put in the seemingly impossible situations that Ajay has to face.

In addition, the driving controls for most of the vehicles is absolutely dreadful.  Having the direction control and speed control mapped to the left joystick made driving any of the land based vehicles a lesson in futility.  They just don’t respond very well and it felt more like gliding on ice than driving an actual vehicle on gravel or paved roads.  I found that it does work well for the watercraft for some reason and also for the Buzzer, the small one-man helicopter.  While the vehicle controls could use some tweaking, the damage system for the animals could use some tweaking as well.  I unloaded three clips into a honey badger before it went down, a full clip into a monkey before it went down and one round into an eagle to kill it.  There are definitely some balancing issues involved here but I am sure this will be addressed with future updates.

 

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You can lure wild animals to attack your foes but be careful because if you get too close, they will attack you too.

 

There is so much to do in this game…almost too much.  But I’m not complaining.  You are definitely getting the biggest bang for your buck with a purchase of Far Cry 4.  The sheer volume of land mass is astounding, the amount of missions to tackle will take you a while to get through and the downright number of cool weapons should keep any serious FPS fan satiated until the next blockbuster drops.  While the story is a little far fetched, it is grounded enough in reality that it seems like something that could actually happen, even if the motivations of Ajay Ghale are a little suspect.  This is a fun romp in a beautifully crafted environment where danger lurks around every corner and absolute chaos is only one elephant ride away.

 

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