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More of the same, but it’s still great

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    Far Cry 4

    Rating: 4.0 – Great

    More of the same, but it’s still great

    Far Cry 3 really surprised me when it came out a couple of years ago. Despite some of its storytelling flaws, the game was incredible, and had me hooked from start to finish. I went out of my way to explore every nook and cranny of the game world, and had an absolute blast doing so. Understandably, I was pretty excited leading up to the release of Far Cry 4, which is better than the previous games in some ways, but not quite as good as Far Cry 3 in other ways.

    Gameplay wise, Far Cry 4 is basically a major retread of the previous game in the series. The game throws players into an open world where there are various activities to complete, outposts to liberate, towers to climb, and wildlife to contend with. The animals here are more varied and interact with each other more, but all in all it feels a little too familiar at times.

    That familiarity robs Far Cry 4 of a lot of the punch that Far Cry 3 had. Even still, this core gameplay formula is incredibly fun and has legs. We haven’t been inundated with games in the series quite yet, so it still feels fresh, even though someone like me that played the previous game to death will sometimes get a feeling of deja vu with Far Cry 4.

    One of my biggest gripes with Far Cry 3 was the weak story and the absolutely terrible main character, who I still consider one of the worst protagonists in the history of gaming. The new protagonist, who goes by the name of Ajay Ghale, has much less of an abrasive, annoying personality, but he’s also just sort of plain. The plot itself is weak and uninteresting, full of characters that are just incredibly extreme and lack a grey area to them, which makes them all kind of boring. The main villain is just an attempt to recapture the success that Ubisoft had with Vaas in the previous game, but that’s just blatantly obvious here so it’s hard to take the new antagonist, a dictator by the name of Pagan Min, very seriously.

    So yes, the storytelling problems persist in this sequel. There are new problems as well, mainly with exploring the environment. Far Cry 3’s tropical island setting made exploration a breeze, but Far Cry 4 is set in the fictional mountainous country of Kyrat, and the abundance of mountain peaks makes exploration more of a headache than it is fun. The new grappling hook relieves some of this stress, but it still gets pretty annoying at times, and due to all of the mountains, the world feels a lot less "open" and welcoming. The result is that it’s just not as fun to free roam in Kyrat as it was in the tropical islands from the previous game.

    Far Cry 4 goes to great lengths to try to recapture the success of Far Cry 3 in virtually every area, but that’s fine. It’s been two years since we saw Far Cry 3, and the gameplay mechanics still feel fresh and fun. The destruction that players can cause by manipulating the wildlife and by using the varied and exciting arsenal made available to them keeps the combat fresh. The stealth mechanics are pretty much the same, but still done very well. New vehicles such as the buzzer make certain aspects of the core gameplay a bit better, like getting around quickly to places. So even though Far Cry 4 sometimes feels like just a redo of Far Cry 3, it does make some improvements in a couple important areas.

    The biggest improvement in the game definitely comes from the online multiplayer component. The online multiplayer in Far Cry 3 was crap, but Far Cry 4 is an incredible improvement. It runs perfectly fine, and the game modes provided are all three a ton of fun. There are certain quirks thrown in, such as the ability to summon animals like bears and utilize elephants, that make the multiplayer feel chaotic and retain the crazy tone from the campaign. It’s sometimes difficult to find a match in the game for the Xbox One version and I did find it stupid how Ubisoft forces you to sign up for a Uplay account to access the online multiplayer, especially when one considers that the Uplay servers have been absolute crap ever since Assassin’s Creed: Unity launched.

    The earlier Far Cry games featured a map editor that was lost with the release of Far Cry 3. The map editor returns in Far Cry 4, allowing players to create maps and upload them to share with the community. The map editing system would’ve been even better if players could screw around with their maps offline, but Far Cry 4 doesn’t support any split-screen options. This is disappointing as even the previous game allowed split-screen for the co-op, but FC4 drops it entirely. The power of the Xbox One definitely wasn’t used to bolster the graphics of the game (Far Cry 4 is definitely a case of a last-gen game that just so happens to also be on eighth generation consoles), so I wish Ubisoft used that extra horsepower to implement split-screen online for the multiplayer component and split-screen in general. It’s no wonder that most shooters completely fail to compete with the Halos and Call of Dutys of the world when they seem completely incapable of including even a fraction of the content that those games bring to the table with each entry.

    Online co-op has also been added to the mix. Admittedly, the co-op mode in Far Cry 3 was fairly weak (even though I appreciate that it included split-screen), so co-op is definitely improved here, as it allows players to explore Kyrat together. There aren’t any co-op missions and the story can’t be progressed in co-op, but that’s fine as it is enough fun to just screw around and raise hell with a buddy online.

    The gameplay in Far Cry 4 is still so much fun because of all the crazy possibilities. I found myself saying "Xbox, Record That" more than I have for probably any other game that I’ve played since I got an Xbox One at launch. Some of the new animal additions make the game world even crazier to explore, such as the hilariously vicious honey badgers ("honey badger don’t care!") and the elephants, which are treated like majestic creatures in the game. Elephants are considered in-game allies, and players can ride them and use them to destroy the enemies in epic fashion.

    Between the release of Far Cry 3 and 4 was a quirky XBLA game called Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon. I personally hated Blood Dragon, but the quirkiness of it has been retained in some aspects of Far Cry 4 in the form of two unique questlines that players can explore. First of all, there’s Shangri-La, which takes players to a mystical realm in which they are able to fight demons and compete in an epic boss battle not unlike some of the battles seen in Blood Dragon. The weird color choices that dominated Blood Dragon pop up when players are high on drugs in Far Cry 4, though I feel that Far Cry 4 uses the quirkiness and weirdness much better than Blood Dragon did.

    Even though the game is on Xbox One, it does not take full advantage of the graphical capabilities of the Xbox One system. It’s still gorgeous, but those expecting a visual upgrade on Xbox One are going to be sorely disappointed. The load times are very fast and seem to be faster than the last go-around, so that’s very much appreciated.

    The voice acting is fine, though the dialogue is pretty bad. What I found particularly impressive was the music in the game. Besides the relatively boring Kyrat radio, there are a few select song choices that pop up during key moments of the campaign that I thought were just perfectly implemented and timed just right. Presentation is definitely up to par in Far Cry 4.

    Far Cry 4 is a huge open world game, but unlike many other open world games, it doesn’t bog itself down with redundancies and by tasking players with gathering up an absurd amount of collectibles. The achievements are designed to make sure players get a taste of everything, and you can feasibly get all of the achievements while still barely scratching the surface. I like this kind of design to it, as you can feel like you’re accomplishing something by getting every achievement in the game yet still have dozens of hours of gameplay left to conquer. The main story missions alone will take a while, but then there are side quests, countless activities, and a wide open world to explore. Far Cry 4 will definitely satisfy those concerned with getting bang for their buck.

    Far Cry 4 is not quite as memorable or significant as Far Cry 3. Even so, it’s still a ton of fun and I highly recommend it to anyone that enjoyed the previous game. It’s not quite the next-gen Far Cry that some had in mind, but it’s still an impressive game that will leave you smiling for hours.

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