An explosion shutters the stillness of the Himalayas. This time it was me firing my grenade launcher into a group of enemies while I was hovering above in a gyrocopter. Last time it was when I used a mortar to completely demolish an enemy outpost, and before that I sniped the driver of a supply truck, which in turn drove off the road and into a ravine, where it exploded. There are more ways to cause complete and utter chaos amongst the ranks of the Royal Army, headed by the tyrannical and surprisingly stylish Pagan Min. Far Cry 4 will make you want to find as many of them as possible, just to see what crazy stunt you can pull off next and walk away from, though the walking part is optional. Why walk when you can ride an elephant or glide through the air in your very own wingsuit?
Actually, there’s a lot more to do than make things go boom in the vast world of Far Cry 4. The Himalayan setting is a great stage for the franchise’s special brand of organized chaos: you can use a tuk tuk or an A.T.V to pick up weapon deliveries, race elephants or test your skills in the arena against man and beast alike. Of course, you can also do all the stuff you remember from Far Cry 3, like take over outposts and radio towers, and go hunt the extremely dangerous wildlife or the far less intimidating armed soldiers. And that’s not even scratching the surface – you’ll also get many side missions from the… colorful people you meet along the way. These will give you a taste of what the open world has to offer and provide a perfect distraction from the main story of Ajay Ghale, the Golden Path, the nefarious Pagan Min and the fate of Kyrat, a fictional country in the Himalayas.
Ajay Ghale is a young man from the United States, returning to the country of his birth to fulfill his mother’s dying wish and scatter her ashes in Kyrat. Fresh off the bus (literally), Ajay is greeted by the blood-spattered face of Pagan Min and his trigger-happy royal guards. As gracious a host as he is, Min doesn’t leave the best impression, and Ajay soon finds himself joining forces with the Golden Path, a group of rebels led by two visionaries – Sabal and Amita – who can’t seem to agree on anything.
The clashes between the two help enrich the story, and the subsequent missions, beyond the usual affair of “do this because I said so”. Amita and Sabal both have their own agenda and vision for Kyrat: Sabal is a traditionalist, hoping to return his beloved country to its old ways and former glory. Amita, on the other hand, wants to take Kyrat into the 21th century and away from old and chauvinistic traditions. It is up to you as Ajay to decide which vision to follow and which leader to support. Both of them are so convincing with their arguments, you’ll find yourself torn between them on more than one occasion. And just when you think you’ve sided with the right person, and are secure in the path you’ve chosen for the Golden Path, the other leader will turn everything on its head and frame your choice in a way you never thought of, generally making you feel real bad you haven’t sided with him or her.
But the leaders of the Golden Path aren’t the only people who are interested in Ajay. The cast of Far Cry 4 consist of many unique and interesting individuals, on both sides of the conflict. You’ll meet a born-again weapons dealer who believes that the Lord’s work is best done with an AK-47; a duo of drug-enthusiasts who consider themselves to be some sort of spiritual gurus; A sadistic soldier of fortune with a fondness for electrocuting people and giving long monologues, and many others. And then, of course, there’s Pagan Min, the tyrant and main antagonist of the game. He is a classic sort of villain – never actively trying to take you down, instead relying on his minions to do the dirty work, though he isn’t afraid of getting his hands bloody. His presence is mostly felt through the occasional phone calls he makes to taunt, threaten or just check up on you. It helps to keep you grounded in the main campaign, and not drift off to hunt another honey badger or search for a hidden collectable just because it’s “on the way to the next mission”. The characters, more than the story, are what makes the open world feel alive and more realistic, even if they are themselves a little too fantastic.
But as I mentioned before, it’s hard to stay on course. Far Cry 4 has so much for the player to do, see and shoot at. Admittedly, most of it will seem familiar to you if you played Far Cry 3 – you have the same activities, the same skills, even the same animations, but it also presents new stuff that help the game transcend its predecessors. You can now rock-climb using a grappling hook, or pilot the aforementioned gyrocopter – two new tools that emphasize the vertical exploration (we are in the Himalayas after all). The animals populating the world have also gone vertical, and now attack you from land, sea and air: just when you’ve picked the perfect sniping position and have your target in your sights, a hawk will decide to swoop down from the sky and ruin everything, usually giving away your position or at least forcing you to look for another spot. If you’d like to share this frustration with your enemy, you can always throw a piece of bait near a group of soldiers and let nature take them out for you.
Or you can call on a friend and have him or her help you out, because for the first time in the series Far Cry can be played in co-op. Up until now, you could only tell your friends about all the cool stuff that happened to you while playing – that one time a pack of wolves attacked an outpost just as you were sneaking your way in to disable the alarm, or when you managed to shoot down a helicopter while driving off a cliff, seconds before you deployed your wingsuit. But it always sounds less exciting than it actually was, and you were probably telling it wrong anyway. Now you and your pal can cause all the explosive chaos you want and share in the mayhem. Though you can’t do any story missions together, it’s still way more fun exploring the open world together and a helping hand is more than welcomed when trying to take over the more heavily-guarded fortresses.
Far Cry 4 also has a small competitive multiplayer component, where a group of Golden Path rebels battle against a team of deadly Rakshasa warriors. The Golden Path use modern weapons, such as machine guns and mortars, while the Rakshasa utilize stealth and magic to compensate for the lack of firepower. It’s fun to try out the different gameplay styles, and the maps are big and open enough to allow different approaches, but ultimately it is just another distraction from the single-player campaign.
However, one of the best distractions in the game is Shangri-La. By finding ancient paintings called thangkas you are transported in time and space to relive the life of Kalinag, a warrior sent by his king to find the mythical valley deep within the Himalayas. The unique visuals alone are worth your time, and having a white tiger as an ally doesn’t hurt one bit.
There’s an unlimited supply of both action and adventure in Far Cry 4. Whether you stick to the main campaign, or fall prey to the many, many distractions along the way, you’ll never have a dull moment. The game may feel a little too familiar in the beginning, but once you discover all the new features it adds to the successful formula from Far Cry 3, you won’t even mind. From atop its throne up in the Himalayas, Far Cry 4 continues to rule the open-world shooter genre with an iron fist and it won’t be easily dethroned.Some of our posts include links to online retail stores. We get a small cut if you buy something through one of our links. Don't worry, it doesn't cost you anything extra.