Here we find ourselves on the fourth part of the Far Cry series. I have intentionally ignored Blood Dragon as I have already done a review on it, although I will comment that it represented a return to many of the sillier and self-conscious tropes of the original Far Cry whilst maintaining that parts of Far Cry 3 that actually made it fun to play. Far Cry 4 on the other hand is the subject of this particular review, and that’s a whole different kettle of fish. Far Cry 4 is the logical continuation of many of the processes that began with its predecessor, and it suffers from much the same issues as a result.
The location this time is the Himalayas, introducing new scenery to a series that had perhaps over-used the tropical island. This new scenery does introduce some new dynamics but as a general theme it’s pretty much Ctrl-A, Ctrl-V from Far Cry 3. The enemy: a failed/criminal state headed by a psychopath bares little to no significant cultural or even social difference to its predecessor, with the Golden Path rebels fighting them being equally faceless. Well and truly lost is the reasonably aware nature of Far Cry 2, with its intentionally confused and fuzzy moral boundaries; there are now good guys and bad guys with no room for manoeuvre. I perhaps underplayed the importance of Vaas in the Far Cry 3 review, his brilliantly played psychopathic character was among the redeeming features of the game however I’m not sure the same can be said for Pagan Minh, who’s more Handsome Jack than Vaas. I suppose that there is a degree of fuzziness in the manner in which the “state” is portrayed, as the only state entity that really exists in the game is a corrupt criminal state however that merely functions to further cement the righteousness of the rebels rather than introduce any real moral disagreement. The key gameplay/story element constructed to draw decisions as moral conundrums from the player is the bipolar rebel leadership which is divided between a hard-line victory at all costs position versus a position that recognises the potential moral pitfalls of this approach. This manner of having the player decide the course of the rebel cause is interesting to some degree and adds more variety to Far Cry 4’s story than its predecessor, however it still appears frightfully transparent and scripted in comparison to the genuine mess that is presented by Far Cry 2.
The player character is once again an adult American male, out of his depth in the big scary world yet seemingly able to function in combat like a high tier special operations soldier. This was a problem that the game’s predecessor suffered from too, however rather than attempting to tie of this loose end with an “ironic” story, Far Cry 4 resorts to tongue-in-cheek quips and small snippets of situational irony. The question here is why not just accept that one must either write a civilian as a civilian, building the game-play around the initial traumatic combat acclimatisation period or write a soldier as a soldier. I believe that this insistence on throwing a regular American Joe into the big dangerous outside world and then having him adapt to this big dangerous world by proving how big and dangerous but good he is relates to constructing the narrative to a particular perceived audience. The average corporate perspective on their target audience appears to be a white American male aged between 15-25, and as such they build games to match. There could also be a more fundamental issue related to the deeper cultural fissures that lead to this insistence on producing this righteous American male character thrown into the chaos of the world, the same cultural fissures that mean that young Americans still join the US military despite the now obviously dubious nature of every mission that it’s undertaken in the 21st century. Although with all that said, I’m tempted to say that whilst this issue does appear to exist, it’s actually far less prevalent in the average gamer than corporate types think because the average gamer is now far older than their assumptions that we’re all 15 year old Mountain Dew swigging, Doritos munching XBox gamers.
The gameplay of Far Cry 4 is much the same as its predecessor but with a different terrain set. The player continues to travel the map eliminating side-quest icons, decimating the local wildlife with automatic weapon fire and generally faffing about. There are story missions which are somewhat reasonable, but once again only really function to gate off half the map. This, like Far Cry 3, is a pale imitation of Far Cry 2; it is a stripped down and sanitised variant of that game with all the even remotely controversial aspects gone. This follows the trend that Far Cry 3 started, a Far Cry designed for accessibility with any aspect of ‘difficulty’ or ‘difference’ promptly removed at the behest of focus group bullshit and sales targets. I understand that the game must be profitable, but that doesn’t mean that one must follow the nasty corporate bullshit that is so clouded by a perceived fickle target audience. As it is though the game is essentially a giant colourful gun-filled theme park, like its predecessor somewhat but with the last vestiges of an interesting narrative experience gone. The co-op supports this vision and whilst it is undoubtedly a huge amount of fun to run around blowing things up with a friend, that may be just about the only time it is. This theme park gameplay is what draws me back, and I will admit that without the co-op it doesn’t really draw me back. I should discuss the co-op in more detail really: It allows the completion of just about everything, bar story missions, with a co-op buddy. This is essentially the best bits of the game, played in the best way possible and there is no doubt that if you have someone to play with, co-op is the way to play. Worth mentioning though are the multiplayer bugs which can include but are not limited to a fairly serious desync between clients regarding things like mission and vehicle spawning, more than once was I killed by an invisible truck that was entirely non-existent on my client. For the most part the bugs are actually quite fun and I’ll happily live with some silly bugs for the ability to have an open world sandbox. That being said, the game client downloaded 1.3GB of data the other day which was apparently the data for a paid DLC that I did not own and fixed none of the bugs experienced in multiplayer, it would be nice for them to fix the base game before trying to milk extra revenue from DLC…
As it stands Far Cry 4 is still a new game and therefore is going for full priced triple-A game pricing. My copy is an included-with game for a graphics card and it was received as a gift from a friend with whom to play co-op with and he got his copy as part of Ubisoft’s cleanup after the latest AssCreed debacle. Neither of us had actually bought the game yet because frankly, it was difficult to justify forking out that much money for the game. My recommendation regarding Far Cry 4 is that unless you get a (legal) free copy then wait until it goes on sale or the price has dropped adequately that it isn’t silly expensive, until then buy Rimworld or something which will likely give more hours of enjoyment for less and support an indie developer. Or alternatively if you’ve never played any Far Cry games, go and buy the rest of them for about the same as Far Cry 4.
This entire review series occurred because I couldn’t quite bring myself to review Far Cry 4 in isolation, as it doesn’t exist in isolation. The history of the Far Cry series changes how one looks at Far Cry 4, as the likes of Far Cry 2 put it to shame in many if not all aspects. Now perhaps it will be seen as unfair, the manner in which I attacked Far Cry 4 when at times I’ve had a good time with it. Perhaps it is unfair, the manner in which I’m laying the responsibility for the direction that the series is being taken at the feet of Far Cry 4, but that doesn’t change the way Ubisoft are watering down Far Cry in order to appease a phantom audience and wasting the potential that was offered by the first in one sense and the second in another. Taken in isolation Far Cry 4 is fun to play, the story has been moved out the way enough to be inconsequential and with it the narratives, themes and issues that could be explored are ignored. As a dumb modern first person shooter theme park the game is entertaining enough and in co-op is a laugh (especially with the bugs), it just suffers in context.
Far Cry 4 on Steam:
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