Far Cry 4: We don't need no stinking badgers!

Welcome to Kyrat, a stunning fictional place to visit and the perfect spot for our hero Ajay Ghale to lay his dear departed mother’s ashes to rest. All that stands in his way is a power struggle between the charming albeit sociopathic dictator Pagan Min and the resistance movement known as The Golden Path founded by Ajay’s long deceased father. Yep, it’s time to get your freedom fighter on so mum can rest in peace. Nobody said scattering remains amidst civil war was going to be easy.

Resolving this conflict via firearms to the face is your goal in Far Cry 4. The direction the rebels take depends on the choices you make or rather, which leader you follow. Sabal finds the lives of his followers paramount and embraces the old ways. Amita, conversely, is militant and believes sacrifices must be made in war. She dreams of social equality and a modern way of life. Who you side with leads to divergent plot lines and replayability.

While these two characters are cookie-cutter stereotypes, the true star of Far Cry 4 is Pagan Min (charismatically voiced by Troy Baker) who is woefully under utilised, much as Vaas Montenegro was in Far Cry 3. The majority of your interactions with Pagan Min are via two way radio. We would have loved to have seen where Baker would have taken Min, unfettered.

Of course, these are only concerns if you are obsessed with trifles like a coherent plot in a massive open world shooter. If you just want to wreck shop, liberate outposts, hunt game and knock out a multitude of activities across the wildly varying landscape, then who cares about silly things like story? The ridiculously fun shenanigans return on a map with a cornucopia of things to collect, places to visit and stuff to kill.
It’s that “oh, a piece of candy” trail laid out that keeps you playing for hours on end
Ye olde outposts and radio beacon towers provide the base, as do loot chests and every collectible under the sun. A new kind of meter, based on Karma, unlocks bonuses such as discounts at vendors. Here’s how it works. You’ll come across ambient events in Kyrat, such as defending rebels, rescuing hostages, or just kill missions. Tackling and succeeding in these earns you Karma, as does using traditional weapons, aka bow, arrow or the Kukri, to kill wildlife.

You still have a huge arsenal of weapons at the ready, those signature specials, as well as drugged out trippy “spiritual” treks into Shangri-La which are all straight out ‘wow’ moments. A fresh and distinct enemy type, the Hunter, mixes up your gameplay too. Deadly with a bow and arrow, they don’t stay marked even if you’ve tagged them and can charm animals to fight by their side. Case in point? Early an outpost needed cleansing of Pagan Min’s troops. Freeing a caged tiger seemed like the way to start things off. A quiet arrow and the tiger was on the loose. Oooh, ahhh, that’s how it always starts. Then later there’s running and screaming. Not this time. This tiger was charmed, found our hiding spot and popped in for a quick bite. Any and all animals are even more of a potential
adversary than ever before.

There have been tweaks to the side mission structure and variety, with each given a tangible purpose, namely to unlock specific skills. You want that high-end chain or new vehicle takedown (and seriously, why wouldn’t you)? You’re going to have to dabble. It’s that “oh, a piece of candy” trail laid out that keeps you playing for hours on end with activities only ever moments away. Classic Ubisoft, in other words.

Traversing the gorgeously rendered Kyrat never really feels like a chore. Wingsuit at the ready you can jump off just about anything, or take to the skies in a one man whirlybird. Alternatively the addition of grappling hooks will have you scaling many of Kyrat’s peaks, though we do wish it was more free-flowing so we could go where we wanted to, rather than attach to specific points. You can even hit cruise control to a waypoint using the Auto Drive system, but it’s about as reliable as a drunk uncle behind the wheel, so you’re better off using your own two hands.

You know where you’re not better off handling it by yourself? Everywhere else excluding main missions. That’s right, you can bring a co-op buddy with you (skinned as that crazy bastard Hurk) and let the good times roll, preferably on elephant backs. Grab a whirlybird and your partner can grapple to it, if they trust you not to grief them. Oh the griefing. Why take an outpost when you can stealth it with a mate and then throw fresh bait on his back to attract a predator? Cue this week’s episode of Bait and Switch. Bait your mate and switch from ally to adversary. He’s got healing syringes, right? Hilarious. Though seriously, some of the fortresses you'll be infiltrating are significantly easier with a buddy, so don’t troll them too hard.

Far Cry 4 feels more like high-definition DLC than a proper sequel. The magic of bro-op increases the fun factor, allows for co-ordinated attacks, meticulous dual stealth runs and some batshit crazy trolling. Even though the story is a little lacking, the franchise is making strides forward, and much like Far Cry 3 it’s not so much about the tale Ubisoft is telling but those moments you have in its sandbox which make the journey memorable.

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