With today’s busy release schedule, it’s rare I find the time to go back and play a game I skipped out on. Recently however, I had to opportunity to delve back into Far Cry 4. The upcoming release of Far Cry 5 had me itching to capture outposts, explore an exotic landscape and chase down evil warlords. I didn’t think there was any better way to satisfy that itch – and prepare myself for the release of the new game – but by playing the previous title.
In completing Far Cry 4, a feat I was unable to achieve back at its release just over three years ago, a few things came as a surprise. I was surprised by how good it still looked on current gen consoles for a title released back in 2014. I was surprised by the quality of the voice acting performances. I was surprised by how solid the game felt, and how well all of its many mechanics handled. But most of all, I was surprised by the outstanding quality of the game.
Of course, this is not some groundbreaking discovery; the triple-A release garnered an average critic score of 85 on Metacritic. Regardless, I was amazed to see how well Far Cry 4 holds up. Whilst the open world pales in comparison to more recent releases like Horizon: Zero Dawn, Zelda: Breath of the Wild or Assassin’s Creed Origins, it still feels alive and well populated. This is in no small part due to the breadth of Himalayan wildlife which constantly surrounds you, simultaneously creating both opportunity – the chance to hunt animals and upgrade equipment – and danger. Honey Badgers are not to be messed with.
The moment-to-moment gameplay in 4 is rock solid. Taking down outposts, rescuing hostages, destroying convoys and assassinating targets create sufficiently varied gameplay, a lot of which can be sprung on you at a moments notice. I played through the game, an approximately fifteen hours endeavour, in just three sittings. Admittedly, that is pretty tame to what some other hardcore gamers are capable of, but this is a rare occurrence for me. I constantly felt compelled to complete the next mission, tick the next box, until ever outpost and fortress was conquered.
It was Far Cry 4’s compelling narrative that really grabbed me though. The resistance group you inevitably end up joining is ran by two leaders with often conflicting viewpoints. Frequently you must decide whose course of action to take, which leads to you siding with one leader and alienating the other. That is to say, the game gives you choices with actual weight. Eventually you usurp the malevolent Pagan Min – voiced brilliantly (of course) by Troy Baker – only to put an equally unsuitable dictator into power.
Far Cry 4 creates exceptional moral conflict. As you complete missions, you wonder if you really are achieving anything at all. Either side you support in the Golden Circle resistance shows signs of having potentially harmful consequences for the people of Kyrat. It makes more powerful the words of Pagan Min, who challenges you on the matter upon the conclusion of the story. Perhaps he was right in that you should have just remained seated at his dinner in the game’s opening moments, something you as a player can actually choose to do, triggering an alternative ending to the game in less than fifteen minutes. It is a wonderful, conflicting, moral dilemma that the developers, Ubisoft Montreal, have so deftly wound into the game’s narrative.
My hope is that Montreal can achieve the same with Far Cry 5. In today’s political climate, there’s a lot of scope to force equally difficult decisions upon the player, especially considering Far Cry 5 determination to focus on radical religious groups in middle America. On top of having the same solid gameplay, a similarly developed storyline to that of 4 could help shape a truly special game. Anyhow, playing 4 has certainly made me more excited to play Far Cry 5.