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Far Cry 4 Review

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The Kyrati Kid

★★★★

Chaos is FarCry's calling card, and rarely has widespread destruction been as satisfying. As Ajay Ghale, you're drawn to the nation of Kyrat to fulfill your mother's last wish, spreading her ashes in her homeland. What she neglected to mention was that the civil war wrecking the country is kind of her fault, and now it's on you to single-handedly sort it out.

Ten minutes in, and you'll have already survived a kidnapping, stealthily escaped a castle, and set an angry bear on enemy soldiers. That's before you even really learn what's going on, too – FarCry 4 is a game that goes for experience first, explanation second. Although you'll be narratively charged with guiding the fate of the Golden Path rebels fighting against the sadistic king Pagan Min, chances are you'll be more interested in soaring around in a gyrocopter raining hell down below, or careening around the mountainous region doing whatever else you want.

Unfortunately, FarCry 4 struggles to escape its predecessor's shadow. Take, for instance, the signature villain. Where the last game's Vaas was a barely contained mesh of rage and psychosis, Min is a cheery, faux-refined, foppish clown. While his brutal subjugation of anyone opposing him is chilling in its almost polite delivery – he'll bludgeon a cook to death over an unsatisfactory meal – it does feel like a remix of Vaas, despite Min's wildly different personality. Ajay also feels less engaging as a protagonist than FC3's Jason, though largely because he doesn't speak as much.

Structurally, it's similar too, though more in an "if it ain't broke..." sense. World progression still comes from a steady drip-feed of exploration and collection. Climb these map towers, collect those masks, craft some items. There's always something to do, even if it's just checklisting everything to discover. What FarCry 4 does really well though is let you show off. Previously, all the crazy antics were reserved for your own pleasure. Now, a co-op mode and 5-on-5 multiplayer let you go wild with witnesses.

Leaping to the new console generation, FarCry 4 looks astoundingly good. The mountainous Kyrat offers a whole range of environments, and while it's deliberately sparser than FC3's tropical island, there's beauty in that cold vastness. In deliberate contrast, the Shangri-la sections – psychedelic alternate realities that tap into the mythology of Kyrat's indigenous people – are explosions of vibrant colour, where the modern FPS-style combat is swapped for old-school fantasy shooter fun.

It's hard to fault a game that changes so little from an already beloved previous entry, except that perhaps a bit more courage to experiment could have elevated it even higher. More of the same isn't bad when what came before was so good.