In Far Cry 4 you play Ajay Ghale who has returned to Kyrat to scatter his late mother's ashes. While travelling to his homeland his bus is ambushed and the self-appointed King Pagan Min takes Ajay away to join his cause. It't not long however before Ajay joins the Golden Path - essentially rebel fighters - trying to free the lands from Pagan's opressive rule.
So we'll start with the bad news - and it's probably the biggest issue with this game - the storyline isn't much chop with the main characters rarely seen and the game seemingly more just a series of loosly connected missions in progressively more fortified areas. But don't dispair as that's the main campaign, and beyond that everything else here is pretty spectacular...
Upon starting the game your skillset and weapons are fairly limited but as you progess you can earn skill points which can go towards unlocking 48 new skills such as improved health bar, enemy takedowns, improved shooting accuracy or crafting injections to boost Ajay's attributes for a few moments. Speaking of crafting you will need to hunt animals in order to craft items such as Weapon Holster, Wallet, Loot Bag, Syringe Kit, Bait Bag, Ammo Bag, Throwables Bag, Explosives Bag, Heavy Ammo Bag and Quiver for arrows (which come in standard, explosive or fire varieties).
Focusing on the weapons there are a massive 64 available which include a variety of sidearms (pistols, small machine guns and our favourite a crossbow), weapons (from LMG's, Shotguns, Sniper Rifles, Bow and Arrow) and Signature Weapons (which remain locked until certain tasks are complete in the game). Of course you also have molotovs and grenades and can even collect bait to attract predators (of the wildlife variety). Other items are also available including Heath Syringe which refills all your health bars, a bullet proof vest, tokens to call in extra support.
Beyond the main missions there are plenty of side tasks to complete. Scattered throughout the map are 17 tall Bell Towers to scale and disable propaganda beacons. Twenty-four Outposts need to be captured and will create points for Fast travelling - but do you go in all guns blazing, do you throw a bait or release a captured animal from a cage to take out some enemies, or use more stealthy methods and take out the alarms to stop reinforcements flooding in. The choice is yours.
Wildlife has always featured in this franchise and Far Cry 4 introduces leopards, rhinos, black eagles and honey badgers (who are surprisingly visious) but its the elephants which look set to provide plenty of fun. These giant animals can be used to attack enemy outposts - shoot one and he will go rampaging causing massive damage while it's also possible to hop on top of an elephant and use your own weapons to take out enemies while the elephant takes out everything in his path.
As one would expect from an open-world game there is a lot of travelling to do (although when you capture the outposts these become fast travel points), but as expected the game features a series of vehicles from civilian vans and cars, to enemy utes which may include a mounted machine gun. Hangliders and wingsuits are great for travelling great disances from a mountain top while the gyrocopter allows a easy way to traverse up the mountains at pace.
Not a vehicles but another way to assist your travel in the mountains is a grappling hook which allows you to move up or down cliff faces in safety. It's a great inclusion however there are a very limited number of locations where you can use it which frustrates.
PS4 owners will also be keen to hear that it's possible to get your friends to play the game with you, even if they don't own it. Those that purchase the game will receive 10 keys which allows your PSN friends to join the co-op game for up to two hours. Players should note however that while the person receiving the invite doesn't need to own the game, they will have a pretty hefty download of all the game files before they get started.
Unfortunately we haven't spent nearly enough time with the online component of this game - that's not from a lack of want but rather from our lack of internet connectivity following storms on December 9 (with Telstra saying repairs won't be undertaken before December 22 at the earliest!). So our online experiences are limited, however the few moments we did play online were tremendous fun, lag free and certainly provided plenty of co-op thrills which we'll be keen to get back to in the coming weeks.
Powered by a heavily modified version of Ubisoft's own Dunia 2 Engine which has been optimised for current-gen consoles this really is a stunning looking game with some of the most realistic looking environments we have ever seen. Trees, scrub, rivers, wildlife, change of time of day, fires from explosions or molotovs, different people and enemies all inhabit the land and bring with it a natural look. All of this happens at a silky smooth 30fps frame rate at 1920 x 1080p resolution (which makes Ubisoft's Assassin's Creed: Unity struggles even more baffling).
As expected cut-scenes in this game are second to none - they truly are gorgeous. Sure, they're pre-rendered so from a technical level not pushing the system, but it's the way in which Ubisoft manage to bring the characters to life that shines not least of which is the key villain Pagan Min. Unfortunately while the game has quite a few cut-scenes they are spread around several characters, so you never really get enough time with any of them, not even Pagan Min who goes missing for many hours at a time.
There really aren't too many issues with the visuals - downed enemies sometimes take some amusing and unrealistic postures after collapsing to the ground, searching bodies has your character physically moving to check the bodies on most occasions, but sometimes nothing happens and you just receive the loot. We would have loved to have seen variable weather conditions - sure we suspect that would have put a massive strain on the engine but it would have been great to see some stealthy based missions in torrential downpours.
There is so much to like about Far Cry 4 - from the gorgeous visuals, to tight FPS action, the massive open world to the menacing wildlife. In fact, the only minor letdown is the story which lacks focus while Pagan Min goes missing for too long at times. Still, if you're a FPS fan there is no reason to ignore this fantastic release.
Review By: Dave Warner