‘Far Cry 4′: Five Hours In Kyrat

I have been playing Far Cry 4 for a little over five hours now, but I feel like I have hardly scratched the surface. There are so many activities to do throughout the world of Kyrat, main story missions and side activities included. From the get go, after a short prologue to set the scene and introduce some of the main characters, you are thrown into the open world of Kyrat. Those familiar with Far Cry 3 should feel right at home. There are radio towers to hijack – they are bell towers instead now, to keep with the Asian setting – and outposts to liberate, all of these revealing more and more activities. And that’s not to mention the temptation to explore the open world and create my own fun. Far Cry 4 is a sandbox shooter, everyone’s experience will be different and that is what makes it great, so far.

The game starts with the player, Ajay Ghale travelling on a bus into Kyrat, with the goal of fulfilling his mother’s last wish of scattering her ashes at a place called lakshmana. As it would appear, everyone except Ajay knows who he is, and why he is so famous. Including the self-proclaimed dictator Pagan Min (voiced by Troy Baker). The writers of Far Cry 4 have a lot to live up to, following on from Far Cry 3’s Vaas. While Pagan Min might not be as unpredictable as Vaas, he certainly has his own type of crazy. When I first met Min, I could tell he was crazy not because he was messed up in the head, but because he felt like he had a privilege. One of the first things Min does is ask a guard why he shot at the bus I was travelling in. Min then goes on to question whether he thought “shoot the bus” and “stop the bus” sound similar, before stabbing the guard to death. Pagan Min is definitely an interesting character, but his appearance in my first five hours has been disappointing. After the 10 to 15 minute opening scene with Min, I have yet to come into contact with him again. Instead, he has turned into a kind of Handsome Jack figure from Borderlands 2, talking to me briefly a few times on the radio.

The prologue also introduced the rival faction in Kyrat, the Golden Path. The Golden Path is opposing Pagan Min, attempting to end his tyranny and save Kyrat. It is not too unlike the factions in Far Cry 3, with you helping out the rebels against an evil warlord-type figure.

However, what has impressed me the most about Far Cry 4 is the impact I feel I am having on the world. As well as the main story missions, Kyrat is littered with many activities, or side quests. Mostly every activity I have participated in has felt connected to the overarching goal of bringing down Pagan Min and saving the people of Kyrat from oppression.  From liberating outposts, getting revenge on Royal Army commanders who have hurt citizens, to destroying Pagan Min’s propaganda centres, every activity has been fun and enjoyable in my first five hours, while also providing me with the feeling that I am making a difference on the lives of the Kyrati natives.

There also feels like a greater emphasis has been placed on exploration and getting around the mountainous environment. There are more types of transport available earlier in the game this time round, including cars, boats, hang gliders and makeshift helicopters. There is also a new grappling hook mechanic that can be used in pre-determined locations that allows you to scale up or down walls. Kyrat is definitely more vertical than the tropical island of Far Cry 3. The expanded set of vehicles and grappling hook make exploration fun and keep enticing me to head off the beaten path in search of animals to hunt to upgrade my equipment to carry more ammo, weapons, etc. There are also a tonne of collectibles to find for those treasure hunters out there.

All of this is done while admiring the amazing photorealistic visual style. The new Dunia Engine which was used for Far Cry 2 and Far Cry 3 is back, but with some improvements for a new generation of hardware. While the whole product looks spectacular, with sweeping vistas and amazing draw distances, it is the attention to detail that hooked me. Plants look especially gorgeous. Rather than being one object, the individual stems of plants and bushes move independent from the rest of the plant. Walking through a bush or plant flattens the particular part of the plant you walked on, keeping the rest standing upright. Moreover, you can see the layers on the fur of animals like wild dogs and elephants. Oh, the elephants are also really fun to ride and terrorise the Royal Army with. This attention to detail is a minor thing, but it adds greatly to the immersion.

I am playing on the Xbox One and considering Far Cry 3 looked amazing on my PC in 2012, Far Cry 4 has managed to trump that, while staying at a mostly constant frame rate. I did notice a tiny amount of  slow down once when there were quite a few fire effects on the screen and enemies shooting, but it did not hinder the experience.

I am only five hours into Far Cry 4, but I am already blown away. The graphics look amazing, there is plenty to do and the sandbox nature allows for plenty of variety in combat – it is especially fun when what you plan in your head turns out drastically different in-game. The story has been engaging, partly due to the unique supporting cast, but hopefully Pagan Min will make a greater appearance soon.

Well, I have better get back to Kyrat, there’s some hunting to do and dictatorships to topple.