Updated: February 4, 2015
Today, I am going to write this fine, negative review of the latest Far Cry release, because I have paid USD59.99 for the title, just a day before the big Christmas sale and thus missed the 20% off promo, and because it's not worth its price tag, as you shall soon discover.
Anyhow, I did pretty much the same mistake as with Call of Duty, another super overrated shooter. Just like back then, after purchasing my latest high-end laptop, I kind of got enthusiastic about playing several fresh games, and against my better judgment and experience, I actually read some of those rave reviews praising Far Cry 4 and its open-ended nature and elephants and such, and decided to give it a try. End result, this article.
Hardware & first steps
My test unit, so to speak, is a Lenovo Y50-70 laptop, with a four-core eight-thread i7 processor, 16GB RAM and a mighty powerful Nvidia GTX 860M graphics card, in addition to the integrated Intel HD graphics. Good enough to play ArmA at the highest settings at a very reasonable 35-40 FPS, and more than sufficient to enjoy Far Cry 4.
The game is a whooping 21GB download, which expands to 35GB of disk space. Again, much like Call of Duty, it starts with a hefty bandwidth bleed. Then, you must register on Uplay, which is the Ubisoft game center platform, similar to Steam and Origin. Well, okay. Finally, you can start playing.
Far Cry 4 is a dazzling visual experience, there's no doubt about it. The landscape, the detail, it's all breathtaking. Even the animation of human characters and various beasts you'd expect to find in the foothills of the Himalayas are done with great, realistic precision, down to tiny gestures, the blinking of eyes, and other fine points.
You play a guy named Ajay, who's back in India, or rather, Kyrat, for some sentimental reason related to his mother's ashes or something, and then, all of a sudden, you are embroiled in a fight against a quirky warload with blond-dyed hair, helping the oppressed local rebels wage their war. It's a story that's been told over 9,000 times in various media formats.
The first few missions are intended to help you familiarize with the game's dynamics. Namely, you learn how to use your secondary weapons, how to skin animals and use their flesh as bait, how to climb a rope, and several other pseudo Robinson Crusoe crafts. At this point, my suspicion started to rise, as I sat and watched long, protracted cut scenes sort of designed to help me immerse myself into the story line, when in fact they were making me annoyed that I couldn't play for more than three or four minutes straight without interruptions.
The klaxon went off when I saw the wheel-like thing, activated by pressing Q on the keyboard, where you select your different weapons. This reminded me of Crysis, which is another silly, pointless shooter without purpose, drenched in tightly scripted actions and triggers and too much ambient noise made to impress 13-year-old would-be gamers.
After liberating the first bell tower, I stopped for the day, feeling angry. So yes, I had my chance to play with several weapons, I was able to collect a bunch of plants, which I could later use to craft syringes, and I solved the riddle of how to get to the top of the tower and disable the propaganda transmitter. I spent about one and a half hour playing, of which maybe ten minutes were actual action. And by action I mean shooting at some soldiers from about 10-20 meters away in a fashion as random and accurate as pissing patterns in snow when drunk.
I had a nasty flashback of what I experienced while playing Call of Duty. The enemy would run around in a very cute and awesome and film-like fashion, making noises, ducking, dodging, cursing, taunting, baiting, shooting, and such, but nothing really interesting or even remotely challenging was happening. You spray around with your gun, and if you get hurt, you heal yourself within seconds. Rinse and repeat, pretty much pointless.
A new hope
The next day, for a moment, I thought the game would improve. Indeed, one of the missions was to help some farmer lady with wild beasts, and to bring her back some Tibetan wolf skins. You fight with bow and arrow, and then you skin these noble animals, and then you burn down their den with a Molotov. After you complete this task, you gain some skills plus money, so you can visit one of the trade posts and buy yourself new weapons, armor and other gadgets. Except most of them are locked, and only become available as you progress in your campaign. This kind of thing used to excite me when I was twelve, but I haven't been twelve for 25 years now.
After that, it really got bad. I had to rush back to Banapur, as it was under attack by Pagan's soldiers. Along the way, I was waylain by such challenges as a wild rhino, which surprisingly, won't die if you pump its head full of Dragunov bullets, and several enemy soldiers. You can simply sprint past them, it's that stupid. And if you look back once you step out of the trigger zone, the soldiers are gone. Vanished. Completely. This is such a childish concept of thrill and drama that I had to pause the game, go out and beat my neighbor.
In Banapur, you face a bunch of Molotov-wielding idiots. If you shoot them, they explode, catch fire and then run at you, trying to set you on fire, too. Again, you heal yourself easily, and Bob's your uncle. So yes, the sight of men ablaze, stumbling about in an eerie reminiscence of the WWII footage of the Pacific napalm combat against the Imperial Japanese soldiers might evoke a bunch of emotions among the younger audience and those with the attention span of a newt for whole three minutes of actual action without a boring cut scene might be too much to handle, but for someone with vast intelligence and skill, RE: me, and a liking to serious shooters like ArmA, this is an insult to fun.
What really made me give up was the next sequence in this would-be mission, and I use the term mission loosely, the same way you can call your daily kindergarten trip a mission. One of the two emo girls in the rebel camp, Bhat or something, is trapped inside one of the buildings and you need to save her. You also need to figure out a way into the burning building. A riddle, right.
I spent maybe ten minutes outside this building, and every five seconds, there would be a scripted female scream shattering my speakers, executed in a perfect while loop. Aaaargh, random noise, random noise, aaaargh, random noise, random noise. I kid you not. I spent ten minutes doing nothing at all, listening to this shit, and eventually gained entry into the building and saved her. In the next scene, she was perfectly alright, without any burns or lung damage.
This is exactly like Call of Duty. Exactly like Red Orchestra 2. Games with a brilliantly styled storyline that feel like a typical Hollywood blockbuster, and you're supposedly a hero partaking in the adventure. But it's all tailored in such a cheesy way that it leaves no margin for imagination and actual excitement. You see, in ArmA, maps are huge, hours upon hours of terrain. These arcades, Far Cry 4 included, limit you to tiny squares at a time. You sort of get a perception of vast expanses of nature and such, but the actual gameplay happens with a stone's throw distance.
In ArmA, missions can take hours, literally hours. Enemy AI may decide to flank you for twenty minutes before finally showing up behind you, capping your ass with a single bullet. Here, it's all limited to showing you that next impressive cut scene, so the ending is well known in advance. You KNOW what is going to happen, because that's what the script dictates. And if you don't move, the script does not get to execute its next block of code, and it's all just pointless ambient sounds and effects. Try it for yourself. Start outside that burning building for as long as you like. Don't move. After two or three hours, the outcome will be exactly the same.
So you see, I like the idea of a would-be open-ended combat. But wait. Open-ended as in you can do whatever the scripts tell you, and if you stand just outside the trigger zone, nothing will happen, forever? I also like that you get a million weapons and that you can fly a kite or ride an elephant. Okay. And I also like the unusual setting and choreography. But. I hate the meaningless way the game takes you towards its end.
I really wonder how all those other reviews got to praise the game so much. Maybe it has to do with the political correctness crap and writing mellow reviews in order not to offend anyone and guarantee themselves more free games in the future. Or something. Reminds me of my super sharp Windows 8 articles versus all those ultra-polite "change is good, you need to embrace it" diarrhea essays some time back.
Moreover, I guess it has to do with age and attitude. For people who want just silly entertainment, pretty graphics and a chance to explore a hundred different weapons and technologies, Far Cry 4 might be a good fit. But I am not in the mood to learn a dozen peasant crafts, weave my own socks and gloves, play at botanics, and learn how to fire a hundred guns with the exact same artificial ballistics. I don't feel like playing a game where the ratio between cut scenes and action is 1:1. I don't feel like being treated like a child.
I am totally disappointed. Disclaimer, I have owned a wee bunch of Ubisoft stocks for a long time now. Despite that, I will uninstall this thing and then give my key to someone as a present, if Steam transfers prove to be possible, and if not, tough my luck. Several years back, I still had enough patience to see myself finish the Call of Duty campaign. Not anymore. I stopped playing Crysis after a few hours, I gave up on Red Orchestra after a bunch of missions, and likewise here, I am officially giving up on Far Cry 4. If the purpose of this game is to make me angry, then mission accomplished.
There we go. Far Cry 4 is beautiful. Far Cry 4 is impressive in its size and scope. Only it's a mediocre arcade for children, and the linear, scripted, utterly restricted progress and zero-intelligence AI are a total fun killer. If you are looking for serious shooters, and you consider yourself an adult, skip this game and save yourself the frustration and pain. Game story 3/10, graphics 10/10, realism 1/10, fun 4/10, overall impression 3/10.