Far Cry 4 Review

UbiSoft Montreal's latest first-person open world shooter is crudely violent and frequently illogical, but it is beauty in motion when it's not killing things that move.

UbiSoft Montreal's latest first-person open world shooter is crudely violent and frequently illogical, but it is beauty in motion when it's not killing things that move.
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Far Cry 4, as with any artistic expression, should have no allegiance to social boundaries. There is no need for fun necessarily either. Good thing since most of Far Cary 4 isn’t.

Instead, it’s crass. Vapid. It treats animals as bloodsport, casts Hinduism as a gladiator splatter fest, and abuses good taste. Ubisoft’s framework, identified by their fascination with confounding open worlds and bloated taste for content, feels like a means to hide the frequently, needlessly barbaric action.

People die. People die in war too and often, there is context. Far Cry 4 has little. It’s despondent and cynical worldview slashes through the fictional Kyrat with protagonist Ajay Ghale head-shotting within minutes after arrival. Ghale came to mourn, to bury his mother’s ashes as per her final wish. Swept into the veins of a civil war, the apparently untrained Ghale hoists assault rifles and rocket launchers while leaping over chasms, climbing the Himalayas, and using explosive devices – all without reasonable backstory to explain his unconquerable military-born athleticism.

Ghale-force Nightmare

Ajay Ghale gallivants through a landscape encased in twisted color schemes and golden extravagance. He battles the Royal Army, led by a charismatic and perversely friendly Pagan Min, a bizarre multi-national beatnik who has enslaved Kyrat’s populace through means which are ultimately cloudy. Character building, much like with Ghale, is Far Cry 4’s immediate suffocating downfall.

If anything is interesting, it’s Kyrat. The hosting Nepal, and by default the devoted Indian cultures, are a rare interactive fiction off-shoot. Brief interstitial segments explore recesses of local religions, but are sheepishly done under influence from illicit drugs.

Pagan Min slathers propaganda around the land, glitzy posters touting his unhinged narcissism. But, even with brief poignant moments and story threads which develop the inherent (broken) logic, Far Cry 4 feels equally caught up in developer Ubisoft Montreal’s Westernized viewpoint. If this is satire, it fails. If parody, it’s unfathomably insensitive. Or, maybe it’s just the incessant lust for violence so common to AAA game development. That’s marketable, after all. Overseas folklore? Not so much.

Pagan Ritual

With Pagan Min’s outside influence, Kyrat has fallen. If Far Cry 4 is trying anything daring, there exists a sizable allegory for the impingement of outside customs invading a proud people. Roadside traders smile and wave. They’re at ease in their ways. Min represents a thrashing of their society’s norms though. He eats their food, their crops, but is only interested in their gold for value rather than spiritual significance. In an ironic twist, Ubisoft Montreal only seems interested because the locale is exotic.

Far Cry 4 never stops. That’s part of its problem. Surrounded by potential to break free from familiar genre tropes and explore rarely seen religious ethnicity, it reaches for guns. Quickly. Articulated ideas are almost extinct in this market sector. Instead of delivering perspective, Far Cry 4 pushes icons. Go here, do this, buy things, level up, go here again. Those endless parading icons and arrows and map objectives never cease, caught in a constant brawl to sell available content whether there is need for it or not.

Beautifully Troubled

Kyrat is notably third world (drivable gyrocopters are held together with duct tape), yet there is more to do – or kill really – than most travelogues would cover. There are animal hunting side quests that would make lifelong Cabela members squeamish, elephant riding the Ringling Bros. wouldn’t dare try, suicidal mountain skydiving, tower conquering, landmark visiting, and rebellion in-fighting. Far Cry 4 has no sense, nor does it seem to care, how all of these miniature off-shoot missions break apart narrative flow. Few open world games ever do. Certainly, marketing a stout, well formed story is harder to do than slapping a number on a box.

That’s still no excuse. Technically, Ubisoft’s work is fine. Frame rates are stable, shooting millions of rounds is competent, and direct five-on-five multiplayer works which is more than can be said for much of 2014’s output. Co-op functions too, althought outside of campaign missions only. However, when the undercurrent is so unusually nasty and vulgar, none of that matters. Far Cry 4 is uncommonly beautiful. Yet, the only sights it will offer are those peering down the reticules of virtual weapons.

Closing moments ask for plot-necessitated murder, creating unsettling death animations for key characters, then entering a segue with vintage dotara-driven pop music as if appealing to Quentin Tarantino’s exploitative macabre side. Far Cry 4 is thus perfect for contemporary Ubisoft: Brash and divergent with endless variety, strained by its own indecent content exhaustion.

UbiSoft Montreal's latest first-person open world shooter is crudely violent and frequently illogical, but it is beauty in motion when it's not killing things that move.
5

Far Cry 4 Review

UbiSoft Montreal's latest first-person open world shooter is crudely violent and frequently illogical, but it is beauty in motion when it's not killing things that move.

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Matt_Paprocki

Freelance critic seen on Playboy, GameSkinny, and others. Passionate vintage game collector. Fervent physical media supporter and consumerism devotee.