Far Cry 4 is a funhouse mirror. I love pointing it in in different directions and seeing the way its kiến thiết reflects the videogames around it. Angle it one way & the first thing you"ll see in its reflection the only slightly distorted visage of its predecessor, as Far Cry 3"s every idea turns formula: there"s an exotic setting; an extravagant and verbose villain; crafting by way of animal hunting; a mixture of linear chiến dịch and dynamic missions. This sequel could be considered a lavishly made standalone expansion pack and, if you enjoyed the previous trò chơi as I did, its slavish devotion to lớn existing structures is no bad thing.
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Angle it over here however, to lớn the far corner, & you"ll see in its curved surface a twisted take on everything the Elder Scrolls series has ever achieved, only with its Dungeons và Dragons influence shrunk bizarrely small. Far Cry 4 takes place in the fictional Himalayan country of Kyrat, và it"s a beautiful xuất hiện world, hemmed-in by snowy mountains, in which you venture through forests, stumble upon secret caves, become wrapped-up in sidequests at the risk of ever doing the awful primary missions, and earn points to be spent towards skill progression with every little kích hoạt you perform.
Despite its beauty and the density of activities, Kyrat feels nothing at all lượt thích an actual world, và its mechanics are more rooted in Doom than in any RPG. There are no conversation trees, và characters with names & personalities exist almost solely in closed rooms & cutscenes separate from the broader world. You might have two-dozen methods of dealing with any given situation, & your unlocked abilities might offer you new syringes khổng lồ craft or a greater reserve of hitpoints, but your main mode of interaction is always from behind the barrel of a gun.
The most interesting place lớn point Far Cry 4"s twisted mirror however is towards that old RPS favourite - the immersive sim. Perhaps by accident Far Cry 4 is mainstream videogames" take on the same design principles that underpin a Looking Glass game.
That"s best expressed by the game"s forts, which were also the best part of the last game. As you drive, sail, fly or wingsuit across the terrain, smoke stacks rise up above the horizon, each one marking a camp containing half a dozen buildings, at least half a dozen guards, và an alarm or two. The challenge is khổng lồ clear all the people away và to claim the camp for the rebel army you"re fighting for, the Golden Path. You can approach these bubbles any way you want, and each of them is an unscripted puzzle.
Hurtling between destinations yesterday, I saw some smoke và decided on a whim khổng lồ stop và take a look. There was a hill khổng lồ the west on which I could see climbing points - prescribed areas where you can attach your grappling hook, one of the game"s new toys. While the attach points are prescribed, the rope itself is physically simulated and you can use it to lớn swing, lớn kick off from the wall, and to attach to lớn points while falling, wingsuiting, or leaping between surfaces.
From atop the hill I get an overview of the situation. As in the previous game, your camera can be used to lớn tag enemies on the map and confirm what type of threat they pose. I shuffle through the bushes, trying to cover every angle. I tag two snipers on different roofs, an armoured heavy carrying a flamethrower, a charger who"ll sprint towards your location while lobbing molotovs, two normal soldiers, và a caged bear. Next I switch lớn locating the alarms - enemies will use them to hotline in reinforcements should you be spotted, introducing new enemies and vehicles into the mix.
Each of these targets introduces some hard rule to lớn the situation which I"ll have khổng lồ bear in mind as I plan my attack. For example, I"ll want to lớn disable the alarms first, which I can bởi vì by getting close lớn them or by shooting them. If I shoot them, an enemy might hear the shot or the bullet, or a guard on patrol might later notice that it"s broken. I can shoot a guard, but another will see the death or the body and start looking for me. If I can get close enough I can silently take down the guards with my knife & then hide the bodies, but being close puts me at greater risk of being spotted.
It"s a case of creating & closing problems for yourself, and attempting to vị so in a manner which makes life easier - or more interesting.
I"ve come khổng lồ this particular tiệc ngọt with a silenced xạ thủ rifle và so I decide khổng lồ keep my distance. I take out the alarm and, as predicted, a nearby heavy hears the bullet strike và moves to lớn investigate. Heavies require a headshot lớn take down in a single hit và if I miss I"ll only make things worse. I don"t miss.
Normally I"d now move in closer and use my bow & knife to lớn take down the rest, aiming khổng lồ remain undetected while capturing the whole camp. I"m feeling jaunty though, so I take aim at the bear cage & shoot xuất hiện its door with my rifle. The bear should be able lớn take down two of the nearest soldiers before being killed, allowing me lớn easily mop up the panicked few remaining.
The bear bursts from the cage. The soldiers turn và ready their aim at it… và the bear ignores them. Instead, it’s sprinting in my direction. I"m up a hill, in some bushes, & none of the guards know I"m here. But this bear does.
I missed someone when tagging the guards earlier: a Hunter. Hunters are a new guard type who only remain tagged for a few seconds when seen, & when alive, they affect animals in a way that causes them lớn never attack guards & always attack you. They"re a neat new rule that changes the way you approach camps, not so much to make any old tactic useless, but enough that you need to always make sure there aren"t any in your vicinity before you let loose or lure in an animal.
The bear is closing the distance between us fast. My xạ thủ rifle is already useless at this range, and the bow and arrow is too weak to lớn take it out before it reaches me. I switch lớn my sidearm, which isn"t a pistol but a grenade launcher. Three shots and the bear falls just as it reaches me, but the downside is that everyone in the camp now knows I"m here. The upside? I"m already holding a grenade launcher. I finish the camp with a flurry of explosions.
I lượt thích to complete each camp stealthily, so being spotted in Far Cry normally prompted me lớn reload from a checkpoint. Here, I don"t need lớn - run to lớn the extinguished campfire at the center of any captured camp and you can re-populate & re-play a fort over and over again, attempting to either better your performance or to lớn complete the objective in some new way.
This is where Far Cry excels. These camps are systemic puzzles in an open world full of toys. Maybe you want khổng lồ climb a higher mountain and wingsuit directly into the middle of the camp. Maybe you want khổng lồ approach from a river on a boat, or swim down lớn find an underwater cave that loops up & inside. Maybe you want lớn hover above the camp in one of the new gyrocopters, dropping explosives down on the helpless guards below. Maybe you prefer your weapon loadout to be a flamethrower, a harpoon gun, an AK-47. Maybe you want lớn charge in on the back of an elephant. Maybe you want khổng lồ chain these things together in a single, choreographed action movie assault. Maybe you want to vày any one of these things, but then a passing armored truck disrupts your plans, or wild boars decide khổng lồ butt you in the butt while you"re crouched in your hidey-hole.
Far Cry offers consistent rules and predictable systems, và then challenges you khổng lồ maintain control in a world desperate lớn tip into chaos. Whether you succeed or fail, it"s always fun & satisfying because you know the outcome is your fault, because you still have a lot of options, và because you can always run away or painlessly retry. These camps - và other similar activities like assassination, revenge and hostage missions - don"t take place in a believable world, and are obscured by both the game"s story và marketing, but together they size one of the most rewarding stealth games ever made.
Which is what I was thinking when I started playing the game in co-op. Far Cry 3 had an entirely separate co-op chiến dịch which no one played, so Far Cry 4 instead lets two friends jump into the full xuất hiện world together. All the singleplayer campaign missions - the awful ones I haven"t talked about yet - are blocked off, leaving only the camps & other dynamic activities. Eg., the best bits. It"s a right faff lớn get it working through uPlay: which of the two friends menus vị I need khổng lồ use? Why can"t I receive buổi tiệc nhỏ invites when I"m already in game? Why can"t I invite specific friends khổng lồ play with, instead of simply clicking a generic "Invite Friends" button?
But when you do stumble through the menus & get co-op functioning, it"s sublime. I like piloting the gyrocopter while my friend stands on its frame, using his camera lớn tag enemies on the ground. I like even more that I can pilot the gyrocopter while my friend dangles from its undercarriage on a rope. I like perching atop my usual hill with a xạ thủ rifle in hand, calling out enemy positions và clearing a path for him to go in low and quiet with his knife. I like coordinating takedowns, counting down our shots over voice comms.
I like that these are the pleasures of playing co-op in Splinter Cell or Rainbow Six: Vegas, except in that same xuất hiện world toybox that makes the Far Cry 4 singleplayer so great.
Again, this gets lost among the cynicism over the Ubi-formula, the quick sequel, the trite cutscenes, but Far Cry 4 is a co-operative open world stealth game with consistent rules and predictable systems from which tense, chaotic, heroic and hilarious situations naturally arise. Let"s not be blasé; these things are amazing, still too rare, and on their own make Far Cry 4 a delight.
Which is why I"m talking about the trò chơi without explaining much of what would normally be considered its most basic details: who you are, why you"ve come khổng lồ this place, who the baddies are, và what the plot is. Those things don"t matter. For the first time, there are hints that the game agrees they don"t matter.
Blissfully, Far Cry 4"s mirror never turns towards itself. Far Cry 3 was maligned for its colonialist storyline of a "white saviour" being the anh hùng for a native people, but also for its heavy-handed meta-commentary on the admittedly bizarre videogame nguồn curve. While those efforts went some distance towards closing videogames" essential strangeness - by, for example, having your castaway friends stand witness lớn the changes in you - it also felt like the trò chơi was attempting to have its cake và eat it, using stupid or offensive tropes without the real wit or clarity to lớn skewer them, upend them, rise above them.
Far Cry 4 doesn"t so much aim to vị better as to lớn not vày at all. The plot is paper thin. You are no longer a trắng saviour, as main character Ajay Ghale is native to lớn Kyrat - albeit raised in America and returning as an adult for the first time with the aim of delivering his mother"s ashes. Gone is Jason"s self-entitled dialogue; gone are his douchebaggy friends; gone are at least some of the link between plot progression & skill progression. After a too-long, unskippable, unpausable cutscene that introduces the world, your character & flamboyant moustache-twirler Pagan Min, it"s only a short hop and a skip lớn the big wide world.
From there, the trò chơi moves at double speed. Here is the obstacle: the site khổng lồ which your mother requested her ashes be taken is behind enemy lines, as the country is in a decades-long civil war between Min"s forces and the Golden Path, a rebel army founded by your long-dead father. Here is Ajay"s immediately jumped-to solution: by joining the rebel army, murdering thousands, scaling radio towers, doing oddjobs và singlehandedly turning the tide of a war, you can make your dead Mum"s wish come true. Ajay never states this as his intent. He never really states any particular long-term goal. He simply volunteers to vày things on a whim, and no one around him flinches. Within 45 minutes of beginning the trò chơi I was doing a favour for an old lady, as a favour to a young lady, which involved crawling through a cave và firing arrows at explosive barrels in order lớn kill wolves which were disrupting a pig farm. It"s fitting that Far Cry 2 director Clint Hocking is responsible for coining the phrase "ludonarrative dissonance" to describe situations where game mechanics và story seem khổng lồ pull in opposite directions, because Far Cry 4 is basically Ludonarrative Dissonance: The Game.
Importantly though, who cares. I am glad that there are games that strive for cohesion và offer richly detailed worlds, but it"s unlikely that I"m ever going to lớn care about the plot of a Far Cry game. What the series loses by jettisoning that impulse khổng lồ justify, it makes up for by being inoffensively forgettable. I don"t hate Ajay like I hated Jason, because he"s just an empty shell. My slight curiosity over why he doesn"t simply say, "Sod this, I"ll scatter my ma in a nice park" is overwhelmed by my desire not to be bothered.
That"s a desire made all the stronger by the activities in the chiến dịch missions being by far the weakest parts of the game. These sometimes take part in siloed areas of the open world and sometimes in separate, high mountain locations và in either case they tend to shove you in a wide corridor and constrain your abilities in some way by triggering failstates if you"re spotted, or removing some of your weapons. In doing so, these missions curtail some of the tactics you"ll have learned và come khổng lồ prefer in the rest of the game. That"s frustrating in itself, but my real problem is that I don"t think Far Cry"s systems work well when confined.
If you"re spotted under normal circumstances in Far Cry 4, you have a range of options to giảm giá khuyến mãi with the chaos. Number one is running away entirely, number two is relocating & approaching from a completely different position, number three is finding a vehicle that tips the balance of the fight. Those options aren"t just nice to lớn have, they"re essential because enemies have been designed with the player"s powerful toolset in mind. In the chiến dịch meanwhile, you"ll be railroaded into a narrow mountain pass. There"ll be a high road và a low road, but no vehicles, no option to run away, no ability to lớn wingsuit off the mountain. Death means restarting from a too-distant checkpoint và there is no mid-mission save, while being spotted means you"re immediately exposed khổng lồ every guard in the entire region, some of whom have mounted machineguns, some of whom are snipers, some of whom have rocket launchers.
The result is a trò chơi in which you stealth your way by six enemies, get spotted - sometimes because the enemies have been made artificially more powerful in ways not communicated - & then find yourself almost immediately blown up, knocked to lớn the ground, và shot khổng lồ death.
On other missions, like an airfield defense, your reward for stealthily completing a section is a subsequent section where you"re forced to engage in all-out combat. Did you come kitted out in your favourite stealth gear? Then you better loot a toàn thân for a rattly machinegun fast, because now you need to lớn play gọi of Duty for a bit, dealing simultaneously with mortar fire, heavy-turret trucks, a dozen enemies or, worst of all, lame set-pieces where your wingsuit needs lớn be used khổng lồ fly a fixed canyon route or a snowmobile must be used khổng lồ jump a bridge. These moments feel pathetic and miserable next khổng lồ an xuất hiện world that habitually and authentically presents the same situations in ways you can control.
Do these alternately frustrating & boring missions harm Far Cry 4"s greater strengths? Unfortunately, yes. Your geographic progression is linked to these story missions, và if you want to unlock the northern half of Kyrat - with its second batch of dynamic, emergent fun - then you need to lớn play through more than two-thirds of the dreadful missions and dull plot. It"s nice that skills, like all those knife takedowns, are now only tied lớn side missions, but it"s time for the series khổng lồ finally put the pretense of linearity away and embrace an open world where you can ignore the main plotline entirely. Make me an anonymous prisoner in a foreign & strange land; I won"t complain that it"s derivative.
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In almost every other way, Far Cry 4 is almost too eager to lớn make sure you"re having fun. You"ll find that gyrocopter within a couple of hours of play, và the trò chơi is perfectly happy for you khổng lồ use it as I did, as an easy shortcut for reaching the đứng top of radio towers, taking down camps and fortresses, & for speeding between every mission. I found the wingsuit - locked until after the halfway point in Far Cry 3 - on a bench about three hours in to lớn Far Cry 4. It"s up lớn you how much you want khổng lồ use these powers, & I still prefer the feeling of off-road driving across the world than flying or fast travelling, but crafting at least is made almost worthless by the urgency with which it makes you powerful. While in Far Cry 3 I went hunting animals specifically in order to craft that bigger bag & be able to carry more things, here I never felt the need. I often run out of money, but I don"t need money anymore except for ammo. I often run out of space for loot, but I don"t need space for loot except lớn have items to sell - which I don"t need to bởi because I don"t need money, & so on.
Far Cry is a series still struggling with that balance, between offering you the freedom to bởi vì what you want while enforcing the limitations lớn make what you want meaningful. I think it"s also only a game away from needing a gritty, Bond-style reboot back khổng lồ its Far Cry 2 roots.
But the faults aren"t what matters lớn me. Look beyond the campaign and Far Cry 4 is a razzle dazzle mainstream take on trò chơi design defined by being systemic, player-driven, always first-person, & with no fail states bar death. Looking Glass would be proud, & now that I"ve unlocked all its pleasures, the final thing reflected in Far Cry 4"s funhouse mirror is my dumb, grinning face.