By Ben L.
(Note: This is not a game review, hence the lack of crucial details about the game itself.)
I’m a total noob when it comes to playing first-person shooters on a console. Aiming with the right thumbstick just seems so much slower and unnatural compared to the reflex movements that I’m able to pull off with a mouse. And it’s nearly impossible to make fine adjustments when aiming down the iron sights of a gun – it’s like performing heart surgery while wearing baseball mittens.
So when I took the plunge and bought Far Cry 4 for the Xbox One (only because my PC could no longer support the new generation of video games), I was half-expecting to put up an ad for it on Carousell soon after because I would not be able to get used to playing with a controller.
I gave myself a week.
I ended up pouring close to 70 hours over three weeks before I completed the main story campaign, often detouring to take on side quests with still half of them yet to be attempted. By contrast, my Halo: Master Chief Collection hasn’t been touched after I completed the second campaign mission of the original Halo game.
The fundamental reason why I lasted so long was because of the way Far Cry 4 was designed in the first place. Its open-world sandbox environment allowed me to play at a slower pace than one would normally associate with a first-person shooter. While most gamers familiar with Halo and Call of Duty on the console would dive straight into the game’s fictional version of Nepal guns blazing, and I’m sure it would be great fun too, I instead took a more cautious and methodological approach like I would with the Splinter Cell games.
Because my aiming would just go horribly berserk when caught in a straight firefight, Far Cry 4 was most fun as a stealth shooter where I could silently pick off targets with a sniper rifle while hidden on a hill, run into the tall grass when their buddies heard my missed shots, and then infiltrate the enemy camp and take down the stragglers with a knife or give them a nasty surprise with a C4 explosive. There are so many ways to attack and those proficient with the controller would reap the most rewards by frequently changing their load-out and tactics accordingly to find new ways of terrorising the enemy. Yet for someone inept like me who opted to play safe and stick to the same load-out of a sniper rifle, assault rifle and grenade launcher, even though the missions tended to feel repetitive due to me using the same tactics over and over again, they were still hugely enjoyable to play through. I also felt very comfortable with the control scheme on the Xbox controller and was genuinely surprised at how quickly I adapted from the keyboard and mouse, minus the terrible hip-firing accuracy (due to my inadequacy with the thumbstick).
Less satisfying however is the game’s plot. For a game that was designed to be bigger, prettier and all-round better than its predecessor, Far Cry 4 surprisingly fails to intrigue. Unlike FC3 where I had a clear objective of rescuing my captured friends and watched my character undergo a transformation through pain and suffering, in FC4 I felt more like a hired gun for two rebel leaders who both yearned to rule the country with different yet equally oppressive measures, and felt absolutely nothing about my actions – something which should have been hard to handle for an untrained young man who just wanted to scatter his mother’s ashes.
In that respect, the writing feels lazy and geared more towards dialogue than character development, and it is a shame because beneath the uninspiring story is a riveting message about how there are no absolute heroes or villains in a conflict like Kyrat’s. In particular the game’s main antagonist Pagan Min has a more curious role as he just doesn’t seem to be the murderous bastard that your comrades always make him out to be, and truth be told I ploughed through the campaign missions in the hope of seeing more of Troy Baker’s superb acting as Kyrat’s king. But it is a shame that he appears in only four cutscenes and taunts you via radio for the rest of the game – the opening cinematic was one of the best I’ve seen in a video game.
In all other aspects, Far Cry 4 surpasses its predecessor while feeling very familiar, which greatly aided my transition from PC to console. Certain gameplay features have been streamlined to make the gameplay less disruptive, for example automatically crafting syringes and having a repair tool by default without taking up a weapon slot. You can now shoot while driving at the same time, a feature which I thought was sorely lacking when playing FC3, and verticality in the form of mountains adds complexity to traversing the Himalayan environment.
But being largely similar to the previous game means that there are missed opportunities to make Far Cry 4 more ambitious and refreshing. It feels like an upgrade in the same way Assassin’s Creed IV improved upon ACIII – refining gameplay mechanics and building a more expansive world – and that’s not a bad thing. But the next Far Cry game should be bolder, more sophisticated and just all out crazier – like how FC3‘s expansion pack Blood Dragon took the world by storm.
All in all, I was truly amazed at how much I enjoyed playing a FPS on the Xbox, but that doesn’t mean that I would be pre-ordering the console versions of Star Wars: Battlefront or Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 anytime soon. Shooters these days are multiplayer-driven and I would be decimated without a doubt in such tests of quick reflexes against hardened human players. Far Cry on the other hand is one of those rare breeds where you pay good money for a solid single-player experience. And for me, it was $60 well spent.
The craziest thing in Far Cry 4 actually happens even before you attempt the first mission. [SPOILERS AHEAD] When Pagan Min tells you to stay put and eat the crab rangoon, listen to him and STAY. Walk around the dining room, take in the spectacular view of the mountains for about 15 minutes and Pagan will return with a surprise ending to the game.
“Should I stay or should I go?” by The Clash has got to be the most apt song choice as far as video game soundtracks go.
Damn Amita she’s hot, even though she’s a [SPOILER] ruthless self-serving b*tch.
I’m willing to let go of my Halo: Master Chief Collection for a decent price, drop a comment below if you’re interested.
Because this is not an official review, I did not give a score for Far Cry 4. But if you must insist, 4/5 stars.