Coming from Far Cry 3, the gameplay feels very much the same, but with a couple of new additions. However, the environment, the weapon selection, and the incredible feeling of lighting forests on fire and stomping on enemy soldiers while riding an elephant does a lot to detract from the negatives and deliver an overall bad-ass experience.
+ You are a living murder machine
+ Beautifully rendered environment
+ Easy to grasp gameplay
+ You can ride an elephant, what more do you want
- Gameplay can be very samey from Far Cry 3 to 4
- Hunting can be made almost too easy with the inclusion of Bait
- Outposts and Bell Towers are a little bit repetitive
A lot of games are doing moral/amoral story-lines now. I totally get the appeal as well. Titles like the Fallout series really made you feel the full weight of a bad decision, be it through popping a cap in one dude and having a bunch of normally-friendly NPC's come gunning for you or by blowing up a small town and making your daddy express his disappointment in you. Today, I'm going to celebrate Far Cry 4 which allows you to be a total dick to the oppressed people of Kyrat, and totally get away with it.
You start off the game bringing your poor, dead mother's ashes to her homeland of Kyrat (which is supposed to be located in the Himalayas, I guess) and being hastily indoctrinated into the friendly local revolutionist movement known as the Golden Path. Their goal is to overthrow the freedom-choking regime of Pagan Min, who is some sort of terrible person. I totally get what the game writers were going for and I'm sure it's really a great story. I totally feel for the indigenous peoples and stuff. Seriously though, I came into this game for one purpose and only one purpose: I was going to fuck some things up, and I didn't really care whose things.
Let's forward the game a little bit to the first village I liberated from an attack by the (evil?) Red Army. Innocent people - fathers, mothers, and children - died, and as their loved ones stood weeping over the lives lost in a cruel, brutal attack. I rifled through the corpses and stole their trinkets. I turned around and immediately sold them at the nearest store for quick cash (Cash that I didn't even need). As I left, they thanked me for helping them. Some of them even offered me rewards. I went on my way, hang-gliding down the side of the mountain, and returned to lighting rhinos on fire and blasting them with shotguns.
As with Far Cry 3, some of the most fun I had in this game was far and beyond the hunting. There was a point where I needed six rhino skins to craft a couple of upgrades. I was getting massively frustrated with being unable to kill them by conventional needs, so out of necessity, spite, and a lot of bottled rage I just started chucking Molotov cocktails and raining shotgun shells on the asshole. As he ran around, much of the surrounding forest caught fire, until nothing but his corpse and about a square mile of charred, blackened earth remained. I collected my skin, moved on, and repeated the process five more times. The homeland I was sent to liberate, I decided to blaze and destroy to suit my own means. And still, I was celebrated. Also my wallet could hold more money. Everyone's a winner!
One mechanic that they wanted to include in the game is exactly how you hunt these animals; if you use a bow, for instance, it counts as a "clean kill" and you can collect double the skins. Using a gun will net you one skin, and straight-up blowing them up with a grenade or explosive arrow will get you nothing. But really, is the loss of one extra skin really worth not doing things the fun way?
The level of pure dickery that the game lets you experience almost makes the rest of it pale by comparison. The throwable bait mechanic is encouraged to be used against enemy soldiers. Rather, I mostly used it to sit in the middle of a friendly outpost in the middle of the night to pure predators and immediately kill them for skins. After picking up the Ride Elephant skill, I was able to destroy outpost alarms, jump on Mr. Elephant and just go crashing through, stepping on all who opposed me. Later, I kicked a tiger off a cliff, just because I could.
This is also the first game that I crashed through not minding at all the complete lack of weapon upgrades. Titles like Army of Two have kind of spoiled me in that regard, but Far Cry 4 gives you such a varied arsenal to choose from that it ends up not even mattering in the end. There are a few, don't get me wrong, but it seems pointless to upgrade a beginner's-level shotgun when you can unlock a way better one by doing a little extra footwork.
Returning to the Far Cry series (and is indeed now an Ubisoft staple) is the towers. This time, instead of radio towers, you get bell towers (which broadcast a radio signal, so I guess same thing) and while it isn't hard at all to capture them, I still find it a quick and easy way to sweep-unlock the rest of the map. They've also included enemy strongholds in the form of fortresses that you clear, made all the more fun by the inclusion of true multiplayer.
Multiplayer in Far Cry 4 is not super expansive, but it does add a lot of fun to the game. Along with the ability to clear outposts, you can storm the fortresses and even do side missions. The person who joined the host game is a unfortunately can't buy items or weapons, or save any of the XP or progress for themselves, but the only thing better than being one bad-ass riding an elephant wielding a flamethrower is having your buddy to share the experience. You can bring your friend into the game by first meeting an NPC called Hurk, who they paint as some sort of North American gun-happy ass who doesn't actually know which team he's batting for. He can score you a harpoon gun though, so in my books he's pretty cool.
This time around they've scaled down the skill trees to two: Tiger and Elephant. In the Tiger tree, you level up things like killing combos, sneak attacks, and being able to shoot people while you drag other people. The Elephant tree gives you skills like syringe crafting, health boosts, and the all-important "Ride an Elephant Like a Bad-ass" skill. They've definitely simplified things immensely.
On top of regular experience, you also earn Karma experience, which gives you access to different weapons. You earn Karma through Karma Events, which spawn randomly throughout the world. They seem to be pretty much written down to either bad guy vs good guy fights that you can step into, or hostage situations. I was also able to rack up a lot of Karma simply through, again, throwing bait to attract predators and then killing them.
Playing on the Playstation 4, I have to say the graphical environment really pleased me. The landscapes are absolutely gorgeous, and the closest thing I saw rivaling the world that they built was running Skyrim on my PC with about four different texture and lighting packs. They really swallow you into the breathtaking and spiritual world of the Himalayan mountain country, and it is absolutely not any less satisfying to set fire to it all for funsies.
One point I really wanted to talk about was the glitches, or in this case, lack thereof; coming from the same studio that at the same time released the absolutely busted Assassin's Creed games this year, I was pleasantly surprised and massively relieved that this title seems to be this year's exception to the broken holiday release rule. Aside from some minimal texture glitches and one Red Army soldier who was coming at me from about six feet in the air, I've not experience anything really detracting, or even one thing game-breaking. You can tell where Ubisoft really spent their time this year, and I'm glad that this one was the game that didn't suffer for the tight release schedule. Aside from the not-unexpected day-one patch, it's been a solidly built experience and absolutely worth the day-one purchase.
For fans of the series, I cannot recommend this game enough. Are you going to experience a massively different game from Far Cry 3? No, not really. A lot of the features are pretty staple, and very little will probably surprise you.
Is it totally worth the experience anyway? Well, if you play through the game like I do, then yes. Every step of the way.