Squatting on a high rock I can see one of Pagan’s convoys winding its way down to my patch. I’ve got this one: a few mines here for the first two cars, a loose rhino for the back car and some fiery arrows to pick off any stragglers. It’s all over within about 20 seconds and I leave the wreckage, leaping from my vantage point and letting my wingsuit take over; it’s a stylish way to leave a brawl and one of the best ways to see your surroundings.
One thing Far Cry 4 can’t be faulted on is its setting; imagine an open world version of Uncharted 2’s Tibetan chapters, both beautiful and blistering in the extreme. The landscapes are vast and filled with ruins, caves and camps to be explored and conquered. One mission may lead you to a deep underground cavern with hooks and slippery rock, the next high up in a snow-stormed mountain as you stumble around looking for oxygen. My computer is loaded up with near on 100 screenshots I took with my camera, each vista more breath taking than the last.
Cliff Martinez’s soundtrack complements the whole Himalayan experience with woodwinds and pacey drums, amped up with synths for the more aggressive tracks. There are also some excellent non-score tracks as well, including The Clash making a wonderfully cyclical appearance. A wider variety of radio and propaganda tower broadcasts would not have gone amiss, as within a few hours you’re dreading jumping into the car for fear of listening to disc jockey Rabi Ray Rana’s same spiel. I’ve definitely also heard enough from the Ministry of Public Affairs and Social Harmony.
Troy Baker, the staple of every blockbuster game, voices Pagan Min with a flamboyance and flair that few other voice actors could pull off. There’s a lot more grey area in Far Cry 4 than there was in Far Cry 3; Pagan is an insatiable blend of compelling charm and unblinking sociopath and I always looked forward to his kooky little messages to my radio filled with sass and savagery. The lack of Pagan Min though is the narrative’s greatest flaw: why waste such a character by letting him wallow in his palace for most of the game? Any character who takes a selfie after stabbing one of his own for insubordination needs to kept around.
Pagan’s three fortified friends- Yuma, Noore and De Pleur- particularly the latter two, were woefully underused too. De Pleur, the all-American sadist was someone I wish we didn’t have to dispatch so early on as I would have liked to have seen how his American and Kyrat life spun out. Same again for Yuma, with her ties to Pagan, Ajay’s mother and a reputation that preceded her it would have been great to see more of her, particularly interacting with Pagan.
My main annoyance in fact comes with Ajay himself, particularly in his dealings with Golden Path rivals Amita and Sabal. Both, inevitably, turn out to be treacherous in their own way, but there is little questioning of either of them. Ajay is a step up from Far Cry 3’s frat-boy protagonist Jason, but for a man who only came to spread his mother’s ashes, he takes a very gung-ho attitude to blowing up or shooting down anyone for his chosen leader. Shades of doubt or questioning are almost completely void; I would have rather enjoyed Ajay going it alone as the quiet assassin (getting the bow so early on in the game was a blessing indeed) and playing off whoever he needs to within the Golden Path or Royal Army to get a Kyrat that the player envisages. As it stands, sometimes Ajay felt too much like the Golden Path lap dog.
Without even touching a story mission, there are however plenty of extras and additions though which inject the game with even more distractions and materials to gather and craft. The addition of bait is fantastic, and allowed me to take out a few outposts without a single shot as I used the local carnivore population to dispatch each soldier. The much-publicised elephants are a lot of fun too, allowing you to plough down any convoy or rhino that makes its way towards you. It’s in these moments that the game hugely benefits from its open-world co-op, which allows you and a friend to become Kyrat’s very own Kray twins, wreaking havoc and blasting your way through side quests. There’s a wonderful sense of camaraderie to it, whether it be skinning your kills side by side or taking a peaceful cruise up the river.
Like its predecessor, Far Cry 4’s greatest victories are in its explorative elements that leave you happily scampering for hours on end. My only hope is maybe one day Ubisoft will give us a protagonist we can believe in, and enough time to let the villains truly shine.