Far Cry 4, Your Days, Numbered

This article began life as a meditation on the fragility of choice within narrative constraints, but then we realised we’d spent 400 words not telling you a damn thing about elephants. If Far Cry 4 is proof of anything, it’s that there’s no earthly predicament that can’t be resolved with a triumphant shout of “elephants!” Courier trying to escape on a quad bike? Ride an elephant into the road and let 3,800 kilograms of bone and bristle do the rest. Enemy fortress proving obstinate? Cover a friend’s elephant with C4, send she and it through the gate and hit that big red button (your friend may wish to jump clear first). If you like, you can follow aboard an elephant of your own. With two pachyderms on the warpath, anything that isn’t a building will soon be a hairy sack of soup.

Tibet noire
But what if you want to keep a low profile ? Well, then you should elicit the services of an entirely different and even more terrifying animal. We refer, of course, to the dreadful honey badger. It may look like a tetchy sockpuppet, but there’s no equal for ferocity or toughness. Not convinced? Listen out for that distinctive yapping, then toss a hunk of goat meat into an outpost and enjoy the results. If you’re tackling one of the assassination missions that crop up at ally-controlled bases, now might be a good time to sneak down the flank and cap the target (don’t forget to take a photo to claim your reward). Or, you could commandeer a mortar emplacement and immolate honey badger and human alike. Just be careful not to attract the attention of another honey badger in the process.

As the above hopefully illustrates, Far Cry 4 is the kind of game that twirls out of control very quickly. Everything from roaming wildlife through patrolling soldiers to the self propagating fire system is designed to spill over into everything else. That was true of the third game, of course, and structurally, not much has changed. The world map is still a smoggy wilderness that must be gradually laid bare by scaling radio towers, a mechanic pilfered shamelessly from Assassin’s Creed.

There are still outposts to conquer, and you'll still (disappointingly) have to break off at intervals to harvest animal pelts for a bigger backpack. Many of the 2012 title's smaller flourishes return, too, such as caged tigers that can be freed to create a distraction, and melee takedowns that end with
your flicking the victim’s knife into the next guy along. All welcome returns.

But if it builds on the same foundation, Far Cry 4 builds higher. Kyrat is essentially Skyrim with a thick seam of Buddhist architecture follow the winding dirt tracks to the top of the map and, providing you aren’t eaten by leopards, you’ll get to admire the view from a snow-capped peak. It’s also more elaborate than its predecessor. Secondary missions feel more tailored, with stronger supporting narratives at one point during our hands-on, a terrified man camped out in our safehouse, babbling about raiders and there’s a greater variety of side activities, including hostage rescue scenarios that grant ‘Karma’ you can spend to summon allies to the fight. Because that’s what karma is for, apparently. Somebody should probably notify the Dalai Lama.

Weapon customisation is more or less as-was, but ability progression has been boiled down. There are now two skill trees: the Tiger, which corresponds to offensive abilities such as aiming while lugging a corpse, and the Elephant, which covers vitality upgrades and recipes for meds.

Your health is still chopped up into individually self-replenishing bars if you’re short on syringes, you can patch up a bar at a time care of a squeal inducing ‘heal’ animation. Expect to see plenty of those if you’re tackling one of the game’s new fortresses. Essentially outposts writ large, these fearsome concrete barnacles are best investigated with a friend in tow. Even if you kill off all the locals, trouble makers may arrive by helicopter.

Plots tend to go neglected in an open-world game, which is why we’ve saved this paragraph till last, but Far Cry 4’s journey of self-discovery may prove more engaging than the previous game’s whiny fish-out-of-water story. New lead Ajay Ghale is the son of local resistance leaders, charged with carrying on the fight after returning to Kyrat to bury his mother’s ashes. The region’s immaculately tailored tyrant Pagan Min seems to know rather a lot about him. There’s a nasty personal revelation waiting at the bottom of that particular well, as sure as Luke Skywalker’s dad is Darth Vader.

Your days, numbered
According to our preview build, Far Cry 4 contains 34 campaign missions and 13 big story-driven side missions plus a wealth of secondary activities. The game is also home to 48 different unlockable traits or skills, 61 weapons and 18 vehicles. We’re told that the story should last you around 15 hours by itself, but why would you limit your attention simply to the story? One last thing there’s no head to head multiplayer, just raucous co-op play.

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