As I charge into base camp which is flooded with unwelcome militia, I’m readying my flamethrower with a fresh bottle of fuel and enjoying the sight of my noble steed, which just so happens to be a huge elephant, as it stamps on my foes, flips cars and eats the left over henchmen that stray far to close to my flame. As all this unfolds, all I can think is, what game out there offers this kind of ridiculous freedom, this no holds barred madness.
Other than Far Cry 4 of course, which is exactly that, a game that offers no holds barred freedom that’s more mental than a box of frogs, resting on Boris Johnson's head as he rides a Boris Bike down the himalayan mountains while trying to juggle what ever is in his pockets with a precession of clowns not far behind him.
If you played Far Cry 3, which was a complete revelation to the series, then you’ll feel almost instantly comfortable with the next slice of adventure holiday gone wrong, as FC4 doesn't so much change the formulae or even really tweak it but instead stacks on more features than you could previously shake a stick at.
Moving from the all american teen holiday locale of Rook Island, FC4 sends you to Kyrat, a vast open region of the Himalayas thats both beautiful and a war torn mess as the area is currently in the midst of a civil war, brought on from years of being ruled with the moisturised and gloved fist of Pagan Min, a despotic dictator who is a glorious combination of David Bowie, David Brent and Kim Jong Un.
As with all stories of this nature, the civil war has really been waiting for it’s one true hero. Me. Well, you. Actually I’ll take that back, its all about Ajay Ghale but since player 1 plays puppet master, we can all have a nod in reference of our hard work too!
So, just who is Ajay Ghale? An ex-native of Kyrat, who’s spent the last few years living in the West, who returns to Kyrat in order to spread his recently passed mothers ashes across her homeland, by her request of course, but is quickly stopped in his tracks and whisked away by Pagan Min who, for some strange reason, seems to know an awful lot about you.
As the story rolls on, you discover that your parents were more than just natives of Kyrat and in fact played a huge part in the countries current state of civil war. Sadly, this background isn't really explored to its fullest potential, with the vast majority of revelations being unearthed through the discovery of pages from Ajays fathers journal or from the tidbits offered from Pagan Min himself as he rings you throughout your journey simply to torment you or offer some hilarious rhetoric about Kyrat and the struggles of being an evil, misunderstood dictator.
Most of your time during the campaign will be spent furthering the plans of The Golden Path, a band of rebels once led by your parents, who see you as their saviour, and trying to pick a side between its two bickering leaders Sabal and Amita. Both hoping to run the country once you’ve toppled Pagan Min but each with a completely different idea of what the future should hold, Sabal treasures his traditional values, whatever that means for the country and Amita yearns for a 21st century Kyrat, again not interested in the negative consequences of her opinion.
Every mission with The Golden Path will offer you two paths and indeed two completely different experiences depending on who's side you take, but it's no simple task knowing who exactly to side with as both will hide details from you in order to make their stance all the more appealing. While this grey area decision making added a nice depth to the missions and a more unique experience, the constant guilt trip you’ll have to endure, despite who you agree with starts to become a little tiresome. Especially when you’re given details which may have swayed your decision, long after the deed is done.
In some senses this is the big stumbling block in Far Cry 4, where its predecessor played host to a wide variety of nutty characters that held your interest, despite how divisive the narrative was globally, the sequel just doesn't offer the same. Saba and Amita quickly become simply characters you accept you’ll need to endure for the rest of the game, I cant say that I wanted either one to be the overall leader by the end. Outside of The Golden Path, you’ll meet a pair of washed out druggies, who despite constantly drugging you and generally taking the Mickey, you’ll still help out. The same goes for a friendly war lord/ex priest who will do naught but shout spurious bible quotes at you and throw a few free guns your way for each mission you complete.
Quite quickly you’ll get the sense that the main campaign isn't really the be all and end all of Far Cry 4. It’s the world around you that takes centre stage. All the opportunities open to you are just so plentiful, you’ll no doubt be far too distracted to even play through the campaign, I myself spent easily 12 hours on hunting alone!
As before you’ll need to climb radio towers in order to uncover more of the vast misty map and take over enemy camps to make the surrounding areas more safe to wander as well as unlock safe houses and grow your available missions. This is no small feat in itself, but it's merely scratching the surface of tasks to choose from, in this backpackers dream of delights to relish in.
You’ve got assassination missions, hostage rescues, escort missions and bomb refusal ops to name a few, and these are just the randomly generated karma events which you’ll come across on your travels around Kyrat. You’ll meet an ageing ‘film star’ dressed suspiciously like a call girl, who’ll beg you to take on increasingly more daring and dangerous races down mountain sides in tuck tucks and quad bikes, all in the name of becoming a YouTube sensation, which is apparently a brand new thing for the citizens of Kyrat. Hunting isn't just a freedom either, Kyrat Fashion Week missions will have you hunting exotic animals with particular weapons all for Pagan Mins personal tailor, and are key if you want to upgrade your belts, bags, pouches and packs to hold more weapons, ammo, loot and money.
Once you’ve claimed every outpost on the map, while you’re free to reset them all and start again, there isn't really much need as retaliation parties will more than often try to reclaim their ill gotten territory, demanding you rush back and defend your turf. Stealth is a much more bulked out system now, with the option to drag and hide bodies making it a much more feasible option, but you could always grab a Tuk Tuk, load it up with C4 and roll it into the fray and blast everyone to kingdom come, before lobbing in some meat grenades to lure stray Rhinos and Leopards in for tea time.
There are fortresses to think of too, which are built, well, quite like fortresses really. Impenetrable houses of death that are pretty rough to handle by yourself. Theres no reason to play like Billy no mates however as Far Cry 4 offers a really robust co-op mode, allowing you to do everything and anything you can think of with a buddy in toe. I had untold fun hanging off the side of a helicopter my partner piloted, as I rained down fire and grenades onto the pesky ants beneath me.
Even if you don't have a mate ready to jump in and get blood on their hands, you’ll have unlocked guns for hire tokens from karma events, allowing you to call in reinforcements from The Golden Path. Often no more than cannon fodder really, they’ll still serve as a much needed distraction to finish your mission.
When you’re perhaps a little weary of wandering the cliffs of Kyrat, theres always the option to explore Shangri-La, the forbidden city that quite simply looks stunning. A place I never wanted to leave, filled with lush red fields, golden walls, burning skies and blood red waters. A place of pure heaven which is unfortunately plagued with an injection of evil that you’ll need to stamp out.
Beginning with a glorious swim through a tunnel of fish, aligned to guide you on your first few breast strokes, you’ll explore the glorious lands, executing demons with your bare hands before discovering a strange bow, which not only causes your evil masked foes to burst into bright flashes of primary colours, but also slows time down to distant heartbeat, leaving you to land the perfect headshot. It's not a solo journey mind, as you’ll be aided by a freaking huge white, Bengal tiger, willing to be ordered around so long as those orders contain the words Kill and Everyone.
Using yaks as moveable cover, crazy drug trips and countless explosions aside, Far Cry 4 offers multiplayer and surprisingly does a good job at delivering a fairly solid experience. Splitting you into teams of Golden Path rebels, loaded with guns and grenades, or the Rikshasha an ancient tribe who wield bows and arrows as well as the ability to summon animal spirits and turn invisible when crouching, you’ll take on the typical modes of Propaganda (domination) Battle of Kyrat (Capture the Flag) and ….
While all standard fare, the introduction of separate factions with unique abilities actually works really well, and quickly gives the matches some much needed pace. While it wont win awards for new ideas, it works and it works well which is more than can be said about a lot of multiplayer efforts.
Over all, Far Cry 4 is an amazingly enjoyable and perfect let down then. Offering more variety and fun than your tiny mind could even comprehend, yet pulled down by a story that really isn’t that interesting and down plays or straight up barely uses its most interesting characters. With so much to do as well as the addition of co-op and a fairly solid multiplayer effort, you’ll jump into Far Cry 4 just to experience Kyrat and thats exactly why you’ll stay!
Grab your guns and get going I say!