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Far Cry 4 PS4 Review: The Hills Are Alive with the Sound of Side Quests

Ubi's exotic open-world adventure returns with another take on the last installment's antics, but once again, the series opts for quantity over quality.

Review by Bob Mackey, .

Note to readers: Unfortunately, this review does not cover the multiplayer mode of Far Cry 4, as it was too unstable to fully test at the time of this writing.

Boot up Far Cry 4, and you'll notice a small collection of digits under its logo. In any other context, this handful of numbers would be completely harmless, but in this case, they're given a task geared towards intimidation: measuring your progress down to the nearest hundredth of a percent.

Yep, this is an Ubisoft game, all right.

As expected, rhinos are large and in charge.

Of course, Ubi isn't alone in using this tactic, but sticking a progress marker in such a prominent position feels almost boastful: This is a developer, after all, whose "house style" typically involves throwing the player into an open world dotted with a dizzying amount of objectives—Assassin's Creed and the recent Watch Dogs follow the exact same tack. This approach has served them well, which is why Ubi hasn't abandoned it for this latest installment of the Far Cry series. Load up the legend to decipher all of those little icons on your map, and you'll notice this information spills over to more than one screen. If you're looking for a nearly impossible amount of things to do, you've found the right game.

Thankfully, Far Cry 4 knows exactly what it is. Where the last game wrung its hands for the first few hours about the main character's transition from frat boy to full-fledged mass murderer, 4 disposes of this idea completely. Protagonist Ajay Ghale arrives in the fictional Himalayan land of Kyrat to spread his mother's ashes, and finds himself captured by the enigmatic villain, Pagan Min; after he's rescued and recruited by a resistance group, Ajay becomes a one-man army capable of hunting exotic animals, piloting any number of vehicles, and committing a wealth of war crimes without batting an eye. And, outside of the few seconds of reluctance Ajay shows when asked to do the Next Crazy Thing, he's mostly an empty shell—but that's fine. The small amount of narrative Far Cry 4 burdens you with is more than enough.

If you've played Far Cry 3, this sequel doesn't offer many surprises. As with the previous game, you slowly spread your group's influence across an entire map's worth of enemy territory by scaling radio towers—platforming puzzles that gradually increase in complexity—and conquering enemy outposts, which once again act as the highlight of the game. While you can roll up to a stronghold with guns blazing, Far Cry 4 rewards a more meticulous touch by doling out greater rewards to those who can successfully take out every enemy without being detected or tripping an alarm. If you're a fan of the Metal Gear Solid series, there's a lot to love about these segments, which apply their focus on limiting your abilities to various other types of missions found within the game. Just because you're encouraged to stay hidden doesn't mean you can't fight dirty, though: Throw a piece of bait into a group of unsuspecting enemies, and a vicious animal may soften them up or even take a few out before you have the chance to fire a single arrow. In case you missed the infamous Internet video, those honey badgers can seriously wreck someone's shit.

Far Cry 4 tries its best to guide you through the narrative with plot-relevant missions, but they mostly get lost amid all the other activities available in the game—and I mean this literally. When I felt the need to move on to the next node of the critical path for the sake of getting this review done in a timely manner, I had to scour my map for minutes to find the icon designating the correct mission type. And that's just fine, because, at its heart, Far Cry 4 is really a "make your own fun" kind of game. My most entertaining moments could be found when I wandered around Kyrat with no agenda, moving towards whatever icon on my mini-map promised the next minutes-long chunk of madcap antics. On that note, my worst moments of the game came in the pre-mission (unskippable) cut scenes, where the gleeful sociopaths determining Ajay's next actions blathered on and on while I impatiently refreshed my iPhone's Twitter feed. I'm sure plenty of people worked hard to write, voice act, and mo-cap these scenes, which makes their superfluous nature all the more tragic.

Sniping: It's not just for Golgos anymore!

Rest assured, there's a ton of things to do in Far Cry 4, so much so that listing each individual mission type here would border on tedious. It's strange, though, that with so much to do, the game feels the need to throw so many distractions in your path. As you explore Kyrat, various objectives will pop up without warning, which range from rescuing hostages to defending a conquered outpost from attacking enemies. Some of the time, you can ignore these surprise missions, but they have a nasty habit of popping up smack-dab in the middle of your current path, which can slow your progress significantly. Kyrat's wildlife also has the tendency to attack without warning, leaving you with no choice but to shift your priorities once again. I wouldn't mind these animal encounters if they happened less often, but I found myself constantly annoyed by the many, many times I had to stop what I was doing to spray bullets into the faces of the wild wolves, tigers, and rhinos who decided to win one for Mother Nature. Sure, I get the irony of the hunter becoming the hunted, but that doesn't make it fun to experience first-hand.

Far Cry 4 certainly presents a wild ride, but it's an experience in desperate need of some pruning. Godspeed to you if you're capable of such a feat, but I imagine only a tiny fraction of its audience will make that title screen progress meter roll over to 100%. And I wish Ubi had the confidence to focus completely on stealth, because the straight-up action set pieces the game often relies upon feel artless and not nearly as satisfying as the few times I managed to scrape by without a single enemy spotting my actions. Ubi's focus on continually reiterating the same kinds of game play had me satisfied by the halfway point, which left me hoping the clearly skilled developer would focus on a smaller, more thoughtfully designed series of missions rather than a Thanksgiving feast with half of its contents destined to moulder away in the refrigerator of this particular metaphor. Far Cry 4 provides plenty of fun, of course, but don't be surprised if you're done with it before it's done with you.

The Nitty Gritty

  • Visuals: Kyrat offers an absolutely gorgeous backdrop for Far Cry 4's antics, with plenty of jaw dropping vistas and well-rendered settlements throughout.
  • Sound: Far Cry 4 boasts some pretty impressive sound design—don't be surprised if you end up using audio alone to determine the position of enemies.
  • Interface: Nothing in particular stands out, though the map can be particularly hard to read if you're looking for a specific type of mission.
  • Lasting appeal: If you can work your way to the end of each and every mission Far Cry 4 has to offer, congratulations: you have an admirable brand of madness.

Far Cry 4 certainly features a lot to love, but Ubi's continued buffet-style approach to content has the game wearing out its welcome far earlier than it should. Still, if you're willing to adopt a pick-and-choose approach to its unbelievable amount of stuff to do, you should have a good time—just don't expect to digest everything it has to offer.

3.5 /5

Far Cry 4 PS4 Review: The Hills Are Alive with the Sound of Side Quests Bob Mackey Ubi's exotic open-world adventure returns with another take on the last installment's antics, but once again, the series opts for quantity over quality. 2014-11-26T04:30:00-05:00 3.5 5

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Comments 12

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  • Avatar for Scimarad #1 Scimarad 3 years ago
    Okay, next Far Cry game I want to play an exotic animal and butcher Humans to upgrade my stuff.
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  • Avatar for Breadbitten #2 Breadbitten 3 years ago
    Yo guys, game is also available on PC last I checked.
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  • Avatar for hiptanaka #3 hiptanaka 3 years ago
    From what I've seen, it doesn't offer any surprises even if you haven't played FC3.

    To elaborate, everything you can do, find and craft in the game is neatly arranged in tables and lists right there in the pause menu, from the start. How did this trend stick, to remove all mystery and world connection from games?

    Instead of an NPC craftsman hinting that shark skin is a great material, and offering to create something when you bring some to him/her, everything you can craft, along with costs, is listed in the menu, where you also create it. Instead of rewarding your exploration by hiding a really cool weapon in some unique location, the game informs that "weapon X is now available everywhere" as soon as you meet the conditions. There's a complete clash between the core game of exploration and its tidy, predictable sub systems, in my opinion.

    That said, the gameplay is fun.Edited 3 times. Last edited November 2014 by hiptanaka
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  • Avatar for apoc_reg #4 apoc_reg 3 years ago
    Quantity over quality.... madness, the game screams quality!
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  • Avatar for cldmstrsn #5 cldmstrsn 3 years ago
    I have already put 40 hours into this game and its a blast. even though it might be a reskinned FC 3 the gameplay is fun enough that I don't really care.
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  • Avatar for Frosty840 #6 Frosty840 3 years ago
    @hiptanaka Y'know what? I don't have either the time or the energy to go crafting X + Y for every combination of objects in the game.
    I used an external calculator tool to manage my crafting in Skyrim, I used the wikis for Minecraft and Starbound, I used the ingame recipe-dude in Terraria, and I'd have happily done the same here if the developers had gone down that route.
    That kind of stuff is a shitty gameplay experience.
    Don't get me wrong, it'd be nice if someone could work out a non-shitty crafting gameplay experience, but I've never seen one.
    A flat, goal-oriented global unlock mechanism is the least shitty of all the possibilities that spring to mind.
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  • Avatar for hiptanaka #7 hiptanaka 3 years ago
    @Frosty840 I generally don't like crafting systems in games, anyway, as they tend to become repeated work. My point was FC4 reveals itself from the get go, demystifying its contents, plus the contents are barely tied to the world, which I think works against the exploration aspect. I just used crafting and weapon unlocking as two examples.

    As another example, when I find one of those masks in FC4, a counter increases by 1 and I can immediately see it's a collectible, how many there are in total, and even what kind of rewards I will get for finding them and when. Those rewards are also usually basic things like XP, that you can get in a dozen other ways as well. Not much to tickle your imagination there.

    For comparison, A Link Between Worlds has formulaic collectibles, too, but the search is more of a creative process since you have to find them by sound, and the rewards are more substantial, granting new functionality to your sub weapons. You're in for a surprise, and then you have a new toy to play with.

    Best of all, though, in exploration games, is finding things that you didn't see coming, that are not part of a predictable system like modern collectibles, and that unlocks something you didn't know existed before.Edited November 2014 by hiptanaka
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  • Avatar for bobservo #8 bobservo 3 years ago
    @Breadbitten My mistake--it's fixed now.
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  • Avatar for bobservo #9 bobservo 3 years ago
    @hiptanaka I have to agree, it's incredibly disappointing that FC4 gives you a checklist from the beginning that details every possible thing you can do in the game. At least obscure the mission types until I find them myself!
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  • Bob Mackey writes the best reviews, appreciate the intelligent insight
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  • Avatar for GUPPYCRUSHER #11 GUPPYCRUSHER 2 years ago
    Deleted February 2016 by GUPPYCRUSHER
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  • Avatar for GUPPYCRUSHER #12 GUPPYCRUSHER 2 years ago
    I'm 46 yrs old. Lifelong gamer (All ya's will be there someday). Had 72 games on the Atari 2600. Owned every system you can think of, even the Panasonic 3DO. I know what I'm talking about for an old guy..:). Huge Assassin Creed fan. Huge Legend of Zelda fan. Huge Far Cry fan. I'll start off by saying FC4 is an excellent game. Best in the series. These are things I'd like to see changed in the next FC series #5:
    1) Less animal attacks - Holy crap, You cant walk or drive a mile without some sort of animal attack taking place somewhere. There are more Eagle attacks to the point it's both annoying and comical. Too many animals with human blood lust. Not realistic. Tone that down.
    2) Way too much money available in this game. Way too easy to come by. Searching 30,000 chests and bodies becomes a waste of time. Looting chests or dead bodies in front of their owners or family members with no repercussions is odd as well. You never go without or in need in this game nor do you ever feel the need to spend wisely. Just spend it or your wallet becomes stuffed to the point the stitches break.
    3) Weapons are too easy to come by through purchase. Would rather see them need to be earned more. It should be extremely difficult to attain the Buzzsaw. To me, once you have the Buzzsaw, Canon, RPG7 and Bow, you are invincible. You can get this load out too quickly in my opinion. You should have to suffer with the mark IV and a knife for more than a minute. EARN IT!
    4) Too easy to draw enemies with a simple stone throw. I can clear out entirely or the majority of enemy strong holds without ever stepping foot inside, making the need to disable the alarm system obsolete. Drawing a couple away from their posts is cool, but not every enemy should be foolish enough to fall for that trick.
    5) You should die when you fly off the 4 wheeler at 80 MPH after hitting a tree, plain and simple.
    6) Bell Towers should be harder to Liberate. More heavily guarded and never be Liberated with the use of the Buzzer. You can Liberate all Bell Towers with the Buzzer in about 1/2 hour game play. Each BT should become harder and harder to Liberate as each one falls to the Golden Path.
    Other than that, this game is a blast to play, even for us old guys!

    Rock on!
    Big AL
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