Far Cry 4 Review – Cabin Fever

The Assassin’s Creed franchise may have begun to feel a bit stale in recent years, but not Far Cry. Ubisoft’s jungle-hopping open-world FPS brand has never been afraid to leave lengthy gaps between its releases, emphasizing new ideas, clever gameplay, and above all, a sense of thorough, underlying quality and meat to the experience: something you don’t usually find with properties operating on a yearly release schedule. The gap between Far Cry and Far Cry 2 was four years, as was the gap between Far Cry 2 and Far Cry 3. This is the approximate dev-cycle enacted by heavyweights like Zelda or Grand Theft Auto, names that have essentially become synonymous with quality.

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With Far Cry 4, Ubisoft feels it has found a way to turn out a Far Cry game in nearly half the time, and if you’ve been paying casual attention, you’d be hard pressed to find anything amiss. I expressed minor concerns when I tried the game at industry events leading up to its release, but chalked them up to a need for polish or last-minute planning that would surely be implemented. Flash forward to November; Far Cry 4 is here, it’s out, and it’s only taken Ubisoft Montreal two years to execute. Has Ubi’s A-team effectively compressed time and space to deliver the Far Cry everyone is expecting? It’s hardly a yes or no question.


A Dense World

The most memorable thing about Ubisoft’s preliminary promotion of Far Cry 4 was its stylized box art featuring boisterous, pink-suited villain Pagan Min, and it’s no surprise that he’s also the most interesting part of the game. A power-hungry despot, Min rules the land of Kyrat with an iron fist, but also flamboyant charm and a sense of humor that’s quite magnetizing — as a spectator from the couch, anyway. It’s a shame I can’t say the same about main character Ajay Ghale who, like many FPS player-heroes of the modern day, is grievously caught and ensnared somewhere between empty-vessel avatar and memorable personality within a mere a 30 minutes of playing. Aside from a few moments toward the end of the game, he was never able to escape said purgatory, which is disappointing.

Still, a lot of my enjoyment playing Far Cry has historically come via the characteristics of its open world, and Kyrat truly is expansive. Though not geographically larger than the previous game, Ubisoft has done a nice job amping up the density of people, animals, and things worth interacting with per square unit of land. Even where they haven’t, the boost in fidelity is a real treat; the lush vegetation, snowy peaks, dusty villages and more that make up the game’s traversable world are an absolute pleasure on PS4 (and presumably Xbox One). What’s on display here is a big improvement from what I saw at PAX Prime — though slightly underwhelmed then, I couldn’t be more satisfied now. As somebody who is pleased with but not mind-melted by GTA V’s recent overhaul, I feel perfectly comfortable stating that Far Cry 4 is the current generation’s prettiest game.

For now, the familiarity vs. freshness meter is only slightly out of whack. Let’s hope that, at the very least, it stays that way.

Where things begin to crumble are with missions, pacing, and the variety of tasks you’ll need to carry out to progress. Simply wandering the world causing a ruckus is a blast, and as mentioned earlier, it’s something Ubisoft has always nailed with Far Cry that hasn’t changed. That said, with Far Cry 4, treading the path toward story completion felt a bit more familiar than I’d hoped it would. As in, Far Cry 3 familiar. Obviously this is a new plot, with new characters, but even so; there’s a faint paint-by-numbers sensation I felt chewing at the back of my mind on far more occasions than one. It’s the same creeping feeling I experienced with Assassin’s Creed releases post-Assassins Creed 2. I don’t like it, and I don’t want it in my Far Cry. For now it’s kept in check, and experiences like storming a village on elephant-back or simply piloting the Buzzer gyrocopter and taking in Kyrat’s gorgeous views go a long way in keeping the experience fresh. For now, the familiarity vs. freshness meter is only slightly out of whack. Let’s hope that, at the very least, it stays that way.


Writer’s Block

Unfortunately there is one area in which I’d call Far Cry 4 a certifiable flop, and that’s its story. Pagan Min is entertaining, and this is established early — from there, narrative and especially characterization are a big fat mess. When Ajay joins the rebel force standing up to Min, he’s made aware of its two leaders, Sabal and Amita. It’s a nice idea at first (the division between the two sets up a fair number of seemingly-important player choices), but their quabble becomes ridiculous and even absurd far too quickly, largely in part due to borderline-laughable dialogue. By the game’s last third I was actively seeking a way to join Pagan Min, the only likable character in the game, instead of having to deal with the bickering stooges supposedly in charge of doing what’s right for the people of Kyrat.

Pagan Min is the real deal, but other characters come up short.

The goofiness extends to much of the dialogue in the game as well, which, though not by default crippling, really lowers the stakes in terms of compelling the player to continue on. Unlike a Grand Theft Auto, where missions enhance immersion and induce audible “oohs” and “ahs,” I felt the most immersed in Far Cry 4 when I was making my own fun and ignoring the supposedly engrossing narrative events. I consider this a huge negative, so for me, it definitely detracts from the overall experience (and my opinion of it).



It pains me to say, but when I finally wrapped up Far Cry 4, I shut off my console and felt perfectly fine doing so. Usually when I finish a game of this scale, one whose world I get lost in, with characters that aim to grab and not let go, I feel empty when it’s over — largely because I don’t want it to be. I had a blast in extremely concentrated spurts playing Far Cry 4, but between those spurts I often felt as though I was wading through mud.

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Meanwhile, Pagan Min is certainly an arresting guy, but once you’ve finished your slap fight with buffoons like Amita and Sabal, he’s happy to let you walk away from your PS4 when it’s all over. Far Cry 4 is a fun time, and if you’re a series die-hard it’s definitely worth playing. This degree of improvement (particularly concerning creativity toward plot and characters) won’t fly year-over-year, though, and I’m hopeful Ubisoft is aware of that.

 Griffin Vacheron is an Associate Gaming Editor for CraveOnline. You can follow him on Twitter @novacav.

Copy provided by publisher. Far Cry 4 is available for Xbox One, Xbox 360, PS4, PS3, and PC.