The third Far-Cry title was one of my favourite games of 2012. It offered a fun and accessible mix of open-world exploration, first-person shooter dynamics and a decent storyline with compelling characters. But now, watching a live demo of Far-Cry 4 in the Ubisoft booth at E3, the game suddenly seems so primitive and dated. Just seconds in, it is clear that the team at Ubisoft Montreal have completely outdone themselves this time around.
Far-Cry 4 has a similar setup, with an everyday character named Ajay Ghale being caught up in a anarchistic civil-war when he returns to his primitive home in Kyrat, a rural town in the Himalayas. The once peaceful town has been devastated by the regime of a despotic, power hungry self-appointed ruler by the name of Pagan Min (voiced by the brilliant Troy Baker of Bioshock Infinite and The Last of Us fame).
Before our hands-on experience with the game, we were shown a few of the features by Ubisoft’s Julian Laferriere, a producer on Far-Cry 4. Just like in the previous game, players are presented with a huge sand-box-like world to explore, except this time around a tropical island has been replaced with a picturesque Himalayan environment. Which includes jaw-dropping heights and snow encrusted mountains, but also lower altitude rice paddies and beautiful ruins to explore.
It is truly an epic location and despite the intimidating terrain - it’s incredibly inviting to explore at the same time. Players will be able to do so with a plethora of tools at their disposal too, including grappling hooks for scaling mountain sides, vehicles to traverse large distances and of course, the fan favourite glider makes a return as well, allowing you to launch yourself off mountain sides and swoop down for miles until you find a safe spot to land.
Along the way, you’ll witness captivating scenery such as villages perched alongside towering mountains, native wild-life including a random surprising encounter between an eagle and a rather unfortunate goat, and even religious and cultural pieces of art drawn directly into the rock face by the locals. Far-Cry 4 is simply breath-taking - both immersive and exciting at the same time.
The action is just as good too, as my brief hands-on time at E3 demonstrated. Players can chose a new weapon, the crossbow, for silent and stealthy take-downs. Scaling above enemies and taking them out one at a time. Or they can embark on a more ‘Michael Bay’ approach (as Ubi’s Laferriere liked to call it) and simply blow everything up. One particularly fun move was to attach a timed explosive onto a flammable barrel and send it rolling toward unsuspecting enemies.
It’s not just humans getting in on the murderous antics either. Animals will also get involved and there were certain times where we had allies in the form of elephants and yaks, who would trample and take down enemies purely because they got in their way. There is something quite remarkable about being in the middle of a gun-fight and seeing one of your enemies get picked up by an elephant and thrown across the map like he was a weightless rag-doll.
When not on foot, players can ride these wild beasts to get from place to place. But they can also drive vehicles too, which make a return from Far-Cry 3. Except the developers have ensured that the driving is more fun this time around, finally allowing players to shoot and drive at the same time. Coupled with narrow, high-altitude dirt roads and rocky terrain, the driving in Far-Cry 4 looks more exciting and treacherous than ever.
Just before the end of our time with Far-Cry 4, we also briefly witnessed two-player co-op play where a second player could enter the game and help take-down enemies in a stronghold. It began with the Ajay calling for back-up and a second, human controlled player arriving in a small flying gyrocopter to help from the air.
After hours of fun with Far-Cry 3, I’m pretty excited for this follow-up and my time with the game today has only elevated my expectations. Thankfully, considering the number of delayed titles this year, it appears that we’ll see Far-Cry 4 this November when it releases worldwide on the PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One.