Game Testament: Far Cry 4, First Impressions
I’ve seen this movie before. That’s the first thing that comes to mind as this game opens. The game fades into the view of the Himalayas from your bus. Some of the credits begin to present themselves, and an answering machine message begins to play. You are warned not to travel to Kyrat, your mother’s homeland where you intend to spread her ashes. You are warned that there is no record of your citizenship for the country and that the place is dangerous. The bus you are riding on is dirty and old. One of your fellow passengers ask you for your passport. I didn’t want to give it to him, but this is all cut scene. I watch as my character hands it over. The man take some extra money and carefully places it inside, before returning it to me. The bus has come to a halt. There are soldiers outside my window talking to who I assume is my driver. Things get out of hand and sure enough gunfire breaks out. A shot is fired through my window and I fall backwards. This really reminds me of the opening of a movie. It’s Far Cry 4, First impressions.
I’m not dead of course, what kind of beginning would that be. We tumble out of the bus, as a helicopter lands. This is where we meet our main villain, Pagan Min. To give us an impression of his insanity he kills the lead soldier that let things get out of hand, and into a firefight. While angry about the blood on his shoes he notices you and apologizes for the way things have gone down. It is not what he had planned. His face still covered with blood from murdering the soldier, he asks you to hold his knife, produces a camera, and takes a selfie of the two of you together. Then he tells you he has cleared his calendar, because the two of you are going to tear things up. The game’s title is finally presented at this point in the opening, which is good. Something about the opening sequence though feels familiar, as I said, like you have seen the opening of this movie before. Believe it or not though, you are still not in control of your character as the opening continues.
In the next scene, a bag is removed from your head. You are seated across from Pagan, who finally introduces himself, and your guide from the bus is to your right. There is another man here named Paul, and this seems to be his home. Pagan shows you his face on Kyrat’s money to indicate he is the leader, and reveals that he knew your mother and you as a child. To emphasize that he is crazy, he tastes your mother’s ashes as he speaks. At this point your guide is taken away for interrogation. Pagan excuses himself, and this is where you finally take control of your character, Ajay in the game, pronounced Ahâ€“Jay by most characters and A-Jay by a few others.
Your character Ajay is controlled in the same manner as most first-person shooters. Good old WASD. I did find the placement of some keys awkward, such as Sprint and heal, which were the shift and control keys. The interesting thing is that they are even set differently than they were in Far Cry 3. Thankfully though, the keyboard controls seem to be fully customizable and I wasted no time changing them to fit me better.
Unlike Far Cry 3, Far Cry 4 definitely has a more cinematic feel to its opening. Where the previous game dropped you in, and had you playing within minutes, this one takes its time to introduce you to the situation and some of the characters involved. For me it is a good approach. I like a good story. If it can pull me in, it’ll make me want to play. Far Cry 2 and 3, failed to pull me in. There just wasn’t anything to get me attached to the main character. Far Cry 4 on the other hand, instantly gives you an attachment to this place you’re stuck in and a better reason to be there than the previous game.
Although it feels more cinematic, it is definitely a B-movie feel. I can’t put my finger on why, but it doesn’t feel like a blockbuster. And I think that’s intentional, it seems to work.
The graphics are stunning, and definitely a step above the previous title. Even with my graphics settings on low, I could certainly see an improvement over Far Cry 3 which I played with graphics settings on ultra. Everything seems to be sharper and more detailed. When I first started to walk around I would stop and examine things, just to get a look at how well they were done.
Hang around this first area long enough, and you will actually stumble into a surprise ending. I found this funny when I read about it, because as I began to play I wondered; what if anything would happen if I didn’t try to escape. It is an interesting little extra, and reminded me of those old choose your own adventure books.
I didn’t hang around, though. Instead I found myself exploring each room, finding cash, notes, and other such things that begin to help to give you more of the back story in detail of this world you’re in.
After exploring a short time, you bump into the rebels that have come to rescue you. The next thing you know, the door to this place is flying open and you’re running for your life. It’s not too difficult, just keep that sprint button held down and run straight down the path to a waiting truck. The truck races down the road, while you are given the task to clear the path ahead with a gun hidden under the dashboard. Sometimes it is simple as shooting a couple barrels in front of you blowing everything up. Other times, your pursuers get right alongside the truck and you must shoot them, before they deliver too much damage to you. Unfortunately, no matter what you do, your driver is eventually killed and the truck goes out of control and crashes.
This is where you really take control. For the rest of the prologue, you must make your way to a bell tower to meet up with the rebels. Your driver is dead and for the most part you’re on your own. The gun is lost, but you find a knife to use as your only weapon, for now. This is also where a lot of the tutorials happen. As you make your way to your destination, the game will inform you what buttons to press to complete certain tasks and also to teach you about certain aspects of the game like hunting and baiting.
Hunting of course was used in Far Cry 3. By hunting you can collect animal skins which allow you to make certain items that can increase what you carry and other such things. It’s all part of an elaborate crafting system, which I don’t care for very much. The newer element baiting, is a bit silly but you can’t help but like it once you give it a try. Baiting allows you to toss a chunk of meat near soldiers, for example, and bears will come out of hiding in the surrounding area and attack them for you. It can be a fun way to deal with the baddies. You do have to be careful though, because if the bears and other animals spot you, prepare to defend yourself as you are in just as much danger as the soldiers you tried to kill. Bait seems to be counted separate from skins, so you don’t have to worry that you are throwing away skins when you are baiting.
There are plenty of opportunities to hone many of your skills as you make your way to the first tower. This is very nice, as you have places where you must learn to jump without the risk of falling to your death. I like how many of the jump areas are designated or clued in for you with the hint of hanging rope, just like Far Cry 3. It’s a nice little message that just says jump to hear, dummy.
You also, come across lots of soldiers to practice your stealth on. You can hide in bushes and track them with your camera, just like the previous game. You can also still throw stones to distract them. Once distracted just sneak up behind them and take care of business. I like how the bushes in this game have a bit of spring when you touch them. Yes, it was part of the previous two games as well, but they seem a bit more springy in this game. My one complaint, though is that I wish there was a way to peek through the bushes. It would be nice to somehow be able to brush them aside to peek out, because I often found myself taking several steps forward trying to see just where the guard was and in which direction. It would be nice to have a button that would allow you to split the branches and peek out.
Once you reach the tower and meet up with The Golden Path, the name of the rebel group, you quickly end up in a firefight with soldiers. Defending yourself here means the end of the prologue. In the beginning of Act One. You are taken to The Golden Path’s village, which now becomes your base of operations. Here you meet a few of the characters and they will give you missions. The first two are fairly easy. You must disable a broadcasting tower in one. It is as simple as climbing up and flipping a switch. You do feel that intensity of nervousness as you climb up, because falling means you have to start all over again. And it’s not always easy to find your way up. No doubt these will get harder as the game continues. The second is clearing out a wolf’s den and collecting a couple of skins. It’s nothing too special, just a little more stealth training and getting you more familiar with skinning animals.
At this point the map is unlocked for you. As well as main story missions you will find lots of side missions to tackle. I did not check too many of them out, but I did tackle a supply recovery mission, which wasn’t too bad. The strange part being, having to Sprint for the delivery location, but I could take my time searching for the supplies.
There is a lot of crafting available in this game. As mentioned before you collect skins to create other items to help you carry more weapons, more bullets, and so on. You also collect plants. There are different colors that help create different items. To make syringes for example, you would collect green plants. I have not determined the use of each color yet, but I think simply hovering over each one you collected actually tells you what you can do with it.
Crafting and skills have been removed from the main menu. This is a good thing, because in the previous games, going to the main menu to do these activities kind of took you out of the experience. Instead, they have been relocated to the map section. This in my opinion, is a much better fit and helps improve the experience a great deal.
At first crafting and the inventory system seemed complicated, but if you pay attention you realize that the inventory is quite simple and actually just like it was in Far Cry 3, only the look of it is much better here. I did not realize that like in the previous game, in the lower right corner, as you hover over different items is a small box that recommends the best use for the item. At first I wasn’t sure what to do with some of the things that are collected, or if they were useful at all, but while trying to figure out what I could sell to a Sherpa, the games merchants, I noticed the lower right corner. It had a little box that stated the recommended use, like sell or keep. Just to the left and that or the bottom of the screen if you prefer is a description of the item. This even tells you what you can do with the item are gives you some type of description to basically let you know it’s meaningless to you.
The skills system also part of the map interface, is divided into two categories rather than three, like the previous game. These categories are tiger and elephant. Tiger skills deal more with hunting and offense, while elephant skills deal more with health and defense, along with a little bit of crafting I think.
Another nice add is the grappling hook. The grappling hook allows you to climb straight up some mountains and hills. You acquire it towards the end of the prologue, and its use is pretty simple. As rope can indicate where you can jump, a coil of rope indicates where you can use the grappling hook. Stand near a coil of rope and look up. If you’re looking in the right direction you will get a prompt to press the interact key. Pressing it causes Ajay to throw the grappling hook. Once you do, it is as simple as pressing the left mouse button to climb, and the right mouse button to climb down. You can also jump while still holding the rope, a technique I haven’t found useful yet. And finally you can swing from one outcropping to another, which I have found useful.
Vehicles of course return, along with gliders, and even a small helicopter. There may be other types as well that I may not have come across yet. Sadly I preferred to stay on foot for most occasions, since the vehicles don’t seem to control as smoothly as I’d like. The controls feel a bit loose and I sometimes lost control. They can save you some time though if you have to traverse a long distance on the map, but even then you can often use the maps fast travel feature to cut a great deal of your trip down.
If you saw some of the promotion for the game, then you may know that elephants are writable. To do this, you must first earn the skill points. I’m not sure how early in the game you can actually get the skill, but I picked it up at the beginning of act two. At first I found myself very confused the first time I tried to ride an elephant. The problem was that I was trying to control it like a vehicle, but it is not the case with elephants. Instead they are controlled like your character. I guess you become one with the elephant. The difference is that vehicles are turned left and right using the A and D keys, elephants on the other hand turn with your mouse just like your character. Once I realize the difference, it was pretty cool.
You can ride elephants to destinations of course, but they also serve as a weapon. Holding the sprint key down allows the elephants to run, so that you can charge cars for example, and smash them off the road. It’s quite satisfying and can save you some combat time. You can also press the melee key, which allows the elephant to smash and throw things with his trunk. I didn’t see many elephants at first, but once I had the skill, I started seeing elephants more often.
Act one ends in a thrilling climax. First you must repel an army attack on your village. Once that is done you take on a stealth mission in which you must free hostages that have been captured. Stealth always feels awkward in a first person game and I didn’t feel it was done any better in Far Cry 4. Third person style games just seemed to lend themselves better to the stealth genre. In those games you can see your character and get a sense of the environment around him. In first-person shooters, it often feels hard to keep track of these things. I suppose it does add a bit of tension, while you’re trying to complete a stealth mission though.
The game also features something called karma, which I did not explore very deeply. It seems to be that by helping random rebels and such, that you come across as you travel from mission to mission, you learn karma points. By earning these points things like weapons should cost less in these areas after you help out.
Near the beginning of act two, I came across a choice called the balance of power mission. The Golden Path has two leaders, Amita and Sabal, who are both freedom fighters, but have different ideas at times about how to win that freedom.Â These missions start with each of them presenting their mission to you. In this first one for example, your choice is to go defend a camp about to be attacked, or investigate an already attacked camp for vital Intel that could help the freedom fighters. The impression is given that your choice will affect who leads until the next balance of power mission. I don’t know for sure if there’s much of an impact on the game depending on which you choose, because either way the same story mission occurs after the balance of power mission.
There is a special type of soldier called hunters. They’re much more difficult to deal with because they have a special ability. They have the ability to call out and control some of the jungles animals, such as tigers, rhinos, wolves, and maybe even birds. I’m not sure if they can control elephants. They also have the ability to apparently see you hiding in bushes, so your cover can be limited when it comes to sneaking. If they send those animals after you, good luck because it’s a tough thing to deal with. I think later on you can pick up some of these skills yourself, which hopefully counteracts some of the hunters abilities.
There is a co-op multiplayer element to the game, which I did not really explore as I’m not a fan of multiplayer. So I will leave most of that for you to discover. As I stated already multiplayer comes in the flavor of co-op and something called guns for hire. If I understand guns for hire correctly, you can use it to invite other players to help you with more difficult missions for a short period of time, hence the name. I believe you have to have some type of points to spend in order to hire guns. Sounds kind of interesting.
Freeing outposts works much like freeing pirate cams from the previous game. Liberating and outposts allows you to take control of it. This creates a new safe zone for you, where you can buy supplies and rest, as well as unlocking some more of the map. My first attempt at liberating an outpost was a complete disaster. I tried going in stealthily at first, but one of the guards had spotted my poor attempts at hiding his partner’s body. Yes, in this game you can pick up fallen soldiers and hide their bodies in bushes or rooms. Once the alarm was sounded all I could do was hide behind a dead elephant and defend myself. For a short time I felt like I was doing good, but I inevitably was overwhelmed by the guards. There were just too many of them and I knew it from the start.
How I liberated this outpost ended up being shockingly simple. I was standing on a ledge overlooking the camp and trying to figure out my best move. There were just so many guards and I kept saying,Â “this is impossible.” Then I looked to my left and there it was, an elephant locked in a pan all by itself. I thought to myself, I can’t do that can I? But I did. I threw a Molotov cocktail into the pen. Absolutely unsure of what would happen next, I watched as the elephant panicked and smashed his way out of his pen. It went on a rampage and the guards were helpless to stop it. They were shooting and shouting, but nothing was working. In no time the elephant had made quick work of all of them and I had completed the mission, to my shock. As the elephant made its way into the jungle I could only smile and think, that was cool.
The game does have some weird issues, like after walking away from an outpost you just freed you may get a call for help and have to return. This happened to me three times in a row. It gets kind of tedious. Another odd thing the game can do to you is change your destination marker in the middle of traveling. I don’t know why it does this. My only guess is that certain missions take priority. It’s possible that you might not even realize what has happened until you reach the marker, only to find something other than what you expected. Finally, is the minor annoyance that you can’t skip cut scenes. I understand if this is the first time you are playing a mission, but if I’m forced to restart a mission for whatever reason I should have some option to skip the scene because I’ve already watched it. Unfortunately you have to watch it every single time, so be sure to complete those missions.
The Far Cry series is an interesting one, because the games aren’t really related to each other in any way. The first two sequels featured a great deal of differences from one game to the next. This may be one of Far Cry 4’s weaknesses, as it is not much different from Far Cry 3. Not only does it borrow heavily from the previous game, but it borrows a lot from other Ubisoft games. You will notice bits of Splinter Cell and Assassin’s Creed for sure. In a strange way it feels a bit like the game suffers from identity crisis.
Nevertheless, Far Cry 4 is pretty cool. It may be the first open world first-person shooter I actually like. Don’t get me wrong, I love and have played lots of first-person shooters. Open worlds have always been a part of the third person genre and work out nicely, while first-person games are often more linear. Those lines are beginning to blur though, with Grand Theft Auto V getting an optional first-person perspective.
This game is just plain fun though. There’s lots to do, as you can see just from my talking about the prologue and Act One. I have a feeling there is much more to discover, and I can’t wait to find out. Once you’re done with the story campaign, you still have multiplayer to look into and even the map editor returns allowing you to create some of your own levels. From what I’ve played so far, it seems like a game worth picking up. I have read some full reviews that suggest the story ends up being a bit disappointing. So be warned about that. I am so far enjoying it, whatever movie it may remind you of. Thanks for reading, and feel free to comment. For now, I have a country to help liberate.