Review: Far Cry 4 (PS4)

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Title: Far Cry 4
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PlayStation Network Download (24.1 GB)
Release Date: November 18, 2014
Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Original MSRP: $59.99
ESRB Rating: M
Far Cry 4 is also available on PlayStation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, and PC.
The PlayStation 4 disc version was used for this review.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Golden Minecart Award Winner 2014:
– Best Action/Adventure Game (PS3)

Audio Review:
The audio review for this game is available on Episode 398 of the podcast.

I’ve been warming-up to open world games more and more over the last few years, but the Far Cry games have always had a place in my collection. The thing is though, there was always a “fatal flaw” in each of the first three (at least in my mind there was.) The first game was a technical revelation, but the AI was ridiculously one-minded and could spot you way too easily. This issue carried-over to the second, but it did have a hint of getting better. When the third hit many of those issues went away, but there was an odd design choice to essentially throw you into a psychedelic detour when you’d fight a boss. That didn’t work for me and luckily all of those previous issues are nowhere to be found in Far Cry 4.

Gameplay:
You’re in a region called Kyrat, set in and around the Himalayas, and it is vast. The entire map isn’t available from the get-go however. Instead, you’ll need to liberate bell towers littered throughout the area each of which is being used to spread propaganda. As always I won’t discuss the story specifically but I will let you know that you’ll be challenged by a series of decisions throughout your adventure. These decisions will actually steer the story in certain directions as you go which helps pull you into the experience.

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Gameplay itself is pretty open and it’s all from a first-person perspective. Beside having a potent melee attack, you’ll be able to choose from a vast array of weapons as you progress either by picking them up from fallen enemies or by unlocking/purchasing from various vendors throughout the land. You’ll then be able to switch between different items on your weapons wheel either by holding L2, or simply moving your finger around the DualShock 4 Touchpad. You’ll be limited to only a couple of open slots at the beginning but as you hunt and skin specific animals you’ll be able to craft additional holsters, larger ammo bags, and other upgrades as well.

What’s a bit different in Far Cry 4 when compared to most other “open-world” games though is that you’re forced to play both the missions and the free-roaming challenges as well. To move forward in the story you’ll need to be able to travel farther throughout the map, but you can’t go all the way north on the map until you finish enough missions. So for someone like me who would rather power through the missions first it was a bit of a shock when I finally realized this. The funny thing is though that I ended-up spending a full day liberating bell towers and enemy controlled outposts and I didn’t even realize how much time had passed. It’s incredibly easy to lose yourself in the world that the developers have created and even after all of this work I’ve barely scratched the surface of how much is actually available to do. There’s a myriad of side-missions and activities, including an Arena where you can battle waves of enemies. There’s more than enough content to scratch pretty-much anyone’s itch.

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Usually when I play a larger game like this I like to focus only on finishing the story first, then I go around to the extraneous stuff afterward, but that’s not really a possibility in Far Cry 4. There’s a bond between the campaign and the surrounding missions so you can go only so far in the campaign before you have to break-off and liberate a couple of bell towers, which opens more of the map. But at the same time I learned in my efforts to open as many bell towers as possible that when I attempted to infiltrate the northern region of the map I was told to complete more of the campaign before I could do so. This has forced me to play this game differently than I normally would, which at first worried me. The worry quickly went away though as the game completely sucked me in. I spent a six hour session on numerous things that had nothing to do with the story and I didn’t even realize how much time was passing. To me, that says something about the fantastic design and the integration with the game’s various goals. Sure, we’ve had similar experiences in other open-world games, but the difference here is that everything feels integrated and there aren’t any headaches moving from objective to objective.

As you progress you’ll earn skill points that can be used to unlock a ton of new items and abilities. Things like additional healthbars, better resistance to bullets, and abilities like being able to reload on the run. Many of these upgrades are vital as you get farther into Kyrat. You’ll also unlock new syringes which can be used to heighten your senses among other things. Along these same lines, the crafting system is also heavily integrated into the core game. A vital activity is to hunt the various wildlife which you can then skin. The skins can be sold to earn cash or items can be crafted if you have enough of specific skins. The items that you craft, which again is vital to your success, include more holsters so you can carry more weapons at once, and larger ammo and explosives bags (among other items). No matter what though, you will need to break away and hunt specific animals at some point because you’ll need those upgraded items, and fortunately they show some of the animals on the main map.

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Being that it’s an open-world experience there are a bunch of different ways to traverse the environments. Besides simply running, essentially any vehicle that you see can be appropriated for your own use. These can include ATV’s, trucks, boats, jet ski’s, hovercraft, a wingsuit (which you procure after some gameplay), a gyrocopter(!), and of course, an elephant when you unlock that skill. Even better, if you’re on land and you’ve set a specific waypoint, you can hit L3 and autodrive will kick-in. This is a must when you get later in the game because it helps you focus on gunfights during random encounters with enemies during your travel. In the gyrocopter, you can terrorize your enemies with grenades, molotovs, and whatever you have equipped as your secondary weapon. It’s a pretty awesome experience to take a bunch of enemies out at an outpost before you even need to engage them from the ground.

That’s not even everything. Littered throughout Kyrat are many areas to explore. You’ll have masks to discover, propaganda posters to tear down, random encounters along the roads, animals to hunt, caves to inspect, journals to find and collect, prisoners to release, and well, you get the point. Even without mentioning the multiplayer elements of the game there are hours of content waiting for you and it’s still engrossing to me after 30 hours. Some places though you can’t deal with until you progress far enough into the main campaign and other locales won’t be fully accessible until you reach a point in the story that includes them which can be a bit confusing at times. For example, there’s a brick factory toward the center of the map with only a few enemies to knock out. Nothing is really present until you’ll need to infiltrate it during the campaign so there are still story-driven triggers to some of the areas.

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That’s a lot of positives huh? Well, one of my concerns before I played it were the numerous acid trips that took place in Far Cry 3 and these events are still present, although a lot less of the time. At certain points during the campaign you will be introduced to different mind-altering substances and during one of your hallucinations, what you have to get through is pretty crazy. Luckily though, it doesn’t happen often, and once I got my bearings it was nothing like what I hated in Far Cry 3. Also, make sure that you study the map legend for a minute or two since your understanding of the different icons will help you in many ways, especially avoiding locked areas (which are usually tied to campaign elements). Additionally, one of my criticisms of the series has always been that your enemies always seemed to know where you were no matter what. Thankfully, Far Cry 4 is hugely improved in that area but it does still seem like they recognize you a bit easily in a vehicle, even if you’re driving one of theirs. Luckily a grenade and/or molotov will usually make quick work of their vehicle and those occupying it.

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My last point is Far Cry 4’s stealth elements which have always been a core piece of the gameplay. I’m not much for stealth normally, it’s just not my style. Oddly enough though, I have completely adapted to using the bow & arrow and throwing knives. Being able to silently take out a good portion of the enemies when you’re attempting to liberate an outpost or even a fortress makes your life so much easier when you finally engage them head-on, and yes, there are a couple of missions that require stealth gameplay (those are the ones I needed to retry numerous times). The story is engaging and even requires you to make choices at certain instances. These choices will affect the outcome of the game too so they’re not merely useless decisions. The writing is very well done and the voice acting is excellent from the main characters all the way down to the NPC’s. He gets repetitive at times, but the Pirate Radio DJ is very entertaining too, and he helps pass the time on those long drives across the map. Sure, fast travel is available to certain locations, but actually going through the trip can benefit you in terms of hunting specific animals and finding collectables along the way.

Visuals:
Far Cry 4 is quite the stunner visually, with a full day/night cycle and realtime lighting everywhere. The draw distance goes for miles with only a tiny bit of item pop-in when you approach locales from the sky. Texture detail is fantastic as is just detail in general. It still impresses me when I come across small tidbits all throughout the land that someone took the time to place there instead of merely using procedural generation to create everything. Characters are well animated and look very good but they do still sometimes have weird interactions with the environments. I haven’t seen anyone flying yet though. I always felt that Far Cry 3 was a bit too ambitious on the PS3 and therefore it experienced performance issues frequently. As expected, that’s not the case here. There are still occasional hiccups but it seems that’s more of a loading issue than anything else. Who knows, the Day One patch may even fix that. These issues are pretty rare though so don’t fret.

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Audio:
The audio is just as good as the visuals. The voice acting is great and the use of surround is plentiful. Explosions will tax your subwoofer and almost everything has it’s own sounds associated. You’ll freak out when the blades on the gyrocopter clip a tree when you land, or when you hear an animal grunt behind you, usually right before it attacks. The heavy implementation of environmental sounds is a staple of the series and it’s appreciated. If you have gaming headphones be ready for a pretty great experience.

Online/Multiplayer:
I’ve now had the opportunity to play a good amount of the competitive and cooperative multiplayer, so let’s tackle the competitive side first. 3 different modes are available for play, all offering 5-on-5 action, and all adding a twist that sets itself apart from others out there.

Outpost: Similar to what many know as “Domination” or “Conquest”, but on a smaller scale. Teams need to hold a single point.
Demon Mask: Similar to “Capture the Flag”, except that only 1 mask appears on the map in random spots. Once you grab the mask, your vision changes to a bit more psychedelic flare. Also, you have multiple locations to return the mask to.
Propaganda: Similar to “Seek & Destroy” as one team attempts to set charges and defend them while the other team attempts to defuse those charges.

There are a couple of twists though, that set Far Cry 4 apart from other games that offer these play types. First, there are 2 factions, and each is setup in very different ways. The Rakshasa are all about stealth and silence. Your default weapons are the Bow & Arrow and “spirit” grenades that can conjure either Eagles, Tigers, or Leopards to defend the area that you’re in. Also, when you crouch you turn invisible (mostly) and unless you run, you’ll have have the ability to sneak everywhere without showing up on the radar.

The Golden Path are all about technology and modern weapons. The standard loadout includes a machine gun and grenades. They also have an edge that applies to all 3 of the modes, and that’s the bell tower. At the top of the tower is a panel that controls a local radar. If the Rakshasa can deactivate the panel, they go completely invisible on the radar, which is a huge advantage.

Other options are scattered throughout the maps as well, such as vehicles, fixed mortar launchers, and Elephants. The elephants are a pretty cool wildcard, as they’ll actually attack anyone from the Golden Path, and Rakshasa can ride them, using them as a battering ram on foes.

The maps are quite big for 5v5 teams, but with all of the stealth elements, it works. It’s not the typical frantic action that you might be used to in other multiplayer titles, and this is a good thing in the case of Far Cry 4.

But….
Where Far Cry 4 really shines and what was advertised the most pre-release is the online coop. In coop, you can do everything in the game except for the main story elements, and that means that there’s a lot to do still. At some point though, you’ll need to work on your own to progress through the story, especially when you’ll need to unlock the northern region of Kyrat.

Coop is fantastic to play though, especially if you have a good friend to play with. Work as a team to flank an outpost, or complement each other’s weapons loadout as you liberate a fortress together. It’s so easy to lose hours as you traverse the map rescuing hostages and taking convoys out as your teammate is hanging from your Gyrocopter with his grappling hook. The one caveat though is that any loot/objects/etc gained during these sessions only goes to the primary player, so if you’re connecting to a buddy, be prepared to essentially only earn cash and weapons as you play through.

The other very unique feature with Far Cry 4 on PS4 is the Keys to Kyrat. Using the PS4s Share Play feature, you can send a key to your friend to play coop with you, and he/she doesn’t need to own the game. What they don’t tell you is that they’ll still need to download the entire game before you can get started, and each key allows for a one hour session. With the game purchase, you’ll receive 10 keys, giving you ample opportunity to play with a friend, and allowing those friends to figure out if they want to own the game or not. It’s an incredibly wise decision on Ubisoft’s part, as it gives gamers a full look at the game, in hopes that they’ll purchase the game. But for gamers it’s also great to be able to see everything before making that decision to spend 60 bucks or not.

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Conclusion:
Consider me impressed. I’m usually not one to go this deep down the rabbit hole in an open-world game, but I quite literally can’t stop playing Far Cry 4. The odd thing is that the cooperative aspect seems to be a pretty big piece of the game but I haven’t even gotten to try it yet and I can’t wait for that possibility. The environment is pretty great and very immersive while the gameplay is simple enough to master while still offering a variety of options for any player type. It’s obvious that a lot of time has been spent on the creation of Far Cry 4, and the effort has not gone unnoticed. The multiplayer too, is fun and unique. The implementation of cooperative play is fantastic too, and I can’t wait to finish every mission available with someone else. This is definitely at the top of my Game of the Year list for 2014.

Score:
9.0

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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  • Scoomp

    which would you rather buy with your own money, cod, fc3, gta5? i own gta5 on ps3 and haven’t played cod since BO2. never touched far cry before. so you see my quandary

    • GTA V on PS4 is a must-buy for me, but I’m loving Far Cry 4 as well, so it really comes down to your personal preference. CoD is really good, but there’s no depth in-comparison.

    • London Rhodes

      If I had to choose one I’d go with Far Cry.

      • Jahonius

        same here.

  • Jahonius

    9.0?!

  • Scoomp

    well i went out and bought cod, worse case i will binge play it for the next few days while on vacation, then trade it in towards gta5 i would love to try far cry, but like all of those games i get maybe 25% in and done. love the Uncharted games but above example applies.

  • The Hobbgoblin

    Great pre-review Glenn. Will be a day one purchase now.

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  • John Montegudo

    Great review. I love how this game gives you the freedom to choose between stealth and going all COD on missions. FYI the video didn’t load.

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