Review by Derrick Carter
In 2012, FAR CRY 3 was released and garnered a massive amount of critical praise. That game’s reputation is more than well-deserved due to its clever open world mechanics, adrenaline-pumping action, and riveting plot. It was obvious that any future FAR CRY games would have a lot to live up to. A mere two years later, FAR CRY 4 dropped. Though some praise was lauded on this game upon release, it has since gained a reputation as somewhat of a disappointment in the series. As someone who played both games within mere weeks of each other, I have to say that FAR CRY 4 is fun while it lasts. However, that’s not exactly high praise or a great quality.
FAR CRY 4 has a straightforward, simple story. Ajay Ghale is returning to his native Himalayan country of Kyrat to scatter his mother’s ashes. His somber trip of remembrance is suddenly derailed when tyrannical dictator Pagan Min kidnaps Ajay for unknown reasons. When an opportunity arises, Ajay escapes and runs headlong into the “Golden Path” (a rebel movement who are slowly gaining ground against Pagan Min’s rule). Ajay must aid the Golden Path and take down Pagan Min’s forces…one evil foe at a time. However, Ajay must also choose which direction the Golden Path will follow as the rebels are currently led by two bickering leaders with very different ideologies.
Where FAR CRY 4 undoubtedly improves over its predecessor is in the gameplay and overall graphics. The massive country of Kyrat is quite the beautiful sight to behold as fast-travelling from location to location will almost become an outright necessity, assuming that you’re liberating the games 24 outposts as you progress forward in the story. When you head out on your own path occasionally, you’ll discover that there’s plenty of locations to explore as well. The stunning graphics bring the realistic environment to life in a way that’s very convincing. For the first few days that I played FAR CRY 4, I was blown away by how it looked and that made the experience ten times more enjoyable.
As far as the gameplay is concerned, there is a ton of stuff to do in FAR CRY 4. Side quests include your usual hunting missions, assassinations, and supply runs. However, there are also timed racing trials (which were far more enjoyable that I initially expected), drug-fueled trips to find missing things that are missing, and spiritual journeys to Shangri-La. There’s also a gladiator arena that holds life-or-death battles and I must have spent (at least) two full hours on those ultra-violent (but hugely fun) side quests.
FAR CRY 4 tries to be very ambitious in certain areas too. The outposts range from incredibly easy (near the beginning of the game) to ridiculously difficult (near the end of the map). However, they’re never frustrating to a point where I felt like giving up. Instead, I strategically planted traps and mapped out each approach in entirely new ways. Fortresses also serve as bigger (more adrenaline-pumping) versions of outposts and there’s one controlled by each of the four big bosses. The wildlife can seriously fuck up the enemy’s day (or yours, if you’re not careful) as rhinos, elephants, and even honey badgers (who don’t give a shit) make their way into the mix. Some of the best experiences I had in this game featured myself riding on the back of an elephant, while ripping enemies apart with a massive machine gun.
As my progress through FAR CRY 4 moved forward (I wound up clocking in a little over 30 hours, including the main campaign and many side quests), I couldn’t help but notice that flaws were sticking out more and more. The game’s biggest problems are bland characters and somewhat hollow story. While FAR CRY 3 had loads of insane individuals and a gripping transformation of the main character, FAR CRY 4 lacks in these departments. Ajay is a wooden protagonist who doesn’t really evolve as the story moves forward. One minute, he’s on a bus and the next minute, he’s transformed into friggin’ Kyrati Rambo. Pagan Min is the best character of the bunch (as a main villain), but he’s not seen nearly as much as he should be and the smaller bosses feel like generic henchmen.
Where FAR CRY 4 offers some interesting developments are in missions that ultimately shape who leads the Golden Path. You’re given ethical dilemmas between choosing Amita (who loves the idea of making Kyrat a drug country) or Sabal (who seems a little to eager to enact Kyrat’s version of Sharia Law). These decisions presented moral choices that ultimately shape the direction of your gameplay. Sadly, I still found myself underwhelmed by the overall plot and the ending felt very unsatisfying. Some people might say that this was the game developers’ intentions to make things unsatisfying. However, the campaign’s weak conclusion left me with a bad taste in my mouth. As a result, I don’t think I’ll be returning to play this game again anytime in the near future (unlike FAR CRY 3).
This being said, there are two technical complaints that I have to level at FAR CRY 4 too: the ridiculous difficulty curve and the flawed trophy system. When you are halfway through the main campaign, FAR CRY 4 throws major curve balls at the player in its rising difficulty. Soldiers were suddenly much harder to take down and unexpected roadside encounters could spell certain death. In some ways, this felt like a severely unfair shift in the game’s difficulty. Sure, it forces the player to adapt in drastic ways, but expect to die…a lot. Also expect to get frustrated with dying a lot.
As far as the trophy system is concerned, FAR CRY 4 has easy trophies to earn and then no trophies for fully completing certain tasks. It’s like the game doesn’t want to reward you for clearing all four fortresses…instead just giving you a trophy for doing two of them (half-assing it). There’s also no trophy for clearing all of the bell towers (just half of them). At the end of the day, it felt like the developers didn’t want to provide incentives for players to fully complete certain aspects of the game. This wouldn’t have been such an issue if FAR CRY 3 didn’t reward you for fully clearing all radio towers and whatnot. It might be a minor gripe, but it definitely rubbed me the wrong way.
The best thing that I can say about FAR CRY 4 is that it’s fun while it lasts. Unlike FAR CRY 3 (which is easily in my top ten shooters of all-time and a game that I’ll repeatedly play in years to come), FAR CRY 4 feels like a slapdash effort to duplicate that game’s success. The gameplay, graphics, and sheer amount of shit to do has definitely improved. I can’t praise those gladiator battles enough. However, the plot, characters, and game’s difficulty/trophy system are far weaker this time around. The ending is also sure to rub lots of people the wrong way. It’s depressing, but not in a way that feels earned or necessary to the (already bland) story. FAR CRY 4 is okay. It’s fun, but I had lots of mixed feelings about it afterwards.