Unfortunately one of Far Cry 4’s developers was due to come to Australia and run us through the game’s co-op component but couldn’t make it. Presumably because he was stuck somewhere in Nepal gathering the last little bits of research for the game before it releases. Or he’s stuck somewhere on Mt Everest. Either way, it meant I was free to just play an open-world build of the game (read: not tradeshow demo specific levels) and do my own thing.
At this stage, the first thing I do need to point out is formula, in that it’s currently the same as Far Cry 3. My hands-on time was only a little over two hours, so this experience can’t speak for the entire game, but as far as structure goes, this is Ubisoft through and through -- towers that need unlocking to clear areas of patrolling enemies. Enemy encampments with varying entry points, but still featuring an alarm, usually a caged animal or two and the normal fare of enemy types. You have central villages and safe-houses from which to emerge after dying or to conduct business from and gather quests. Your map is riddled with markers for challenges such as vehicle races, protecting medical deliveries and so on. It also features animal locations for hunting challenges, and diamond icons indicate the location of treasure, which is usually money.
Today’s revelation of playtime
is nothing to balk at though, and speaks volumes about the level of content the game has, I’d just like to see Ubi veer off from the tower unlocks and enemy encampments design directive they’ve been overusing across a few of their brands for a while now. But I digress.
It’s obviously too early to call and, to be honest, it’s still fun regardless. An important takeaway from my time with the game is just how much diverse landscape there is to explore. And it’s all pretty open to you. New to the series is the idea of climbing rockfaces with your climbing gear (only at dedicated points though), which adds a greater level of verticality to the game. It also opens up exploration, all while helping sell the new environment the player finds themselves in.
I avoided any storyline missions for fear of spoilers ahead of review, but the side-missions were all pretty fun. There’s still a real danger of animals in the game, only unlike Far Cry 3, there are much bigger land animals to worry about with the likes of rhinos and elephants capable of flipping over any vehicle you’re in. I managed to find myself a filmmaker lamenting the loss of the local scene and how she wanted to bring it back. It was hard to work out if she was making low-budget porn or low-budget martial arts movies, but she asked that I strap a camera onto my vehicle and film some risky driving, so either way it didn’t matter.
While the resulting stunt drive was barely different to an escape sequence in Far Cry 3, or just fanging it in an open-world environment, it’s looking like there’ll be a decent amount of character and personality injected into the fictional location of Kyrat, the team created for the game. The place itself is littered with hidden temples and places of worship, as well as villages, rice paddies and the aforementioned enemy strongholds. Environmentally the game has been given an options to shift up weather conditions beyond those in the previous outing. At the foot of the towering Himalayas is grassland and hilly terrain. Scattered treelines and ponds, lakes and rivers all fill out the location in a fairly realistic way, while higher up, the colder things get. There’s ice and snow, and even the frozen remains of hikers unable to complete their treks. You’ll come across travelling shirkers who can sell you wares and different animals inhabit different zones. Watch out for giant eagles though, those things can take a human with their talons.
The build I played was on PS4 and it was looking a little rough around the edges in parts, and glorious in others. It’s par for the course in the preview-build realm, but worth mentioning. The game’s draw-distance is spectacular though, and if the team has managed to strike gold with the “if you see it, you can go there” philosophy of open-world game-design, I can see how that purported 60-hours of gameplay is achievable.
The frustrating thing with the lack of being able to play co-op though, is how much of it looks to be baked into the world, and it’s sounding like certain missions will require it based on challenge alone, which is a wonderful thing. At any time you can call on the character Herk to open up co-op missions, which can be done locally or online, but we’ll have to wait for review copies to be able to fully explore the feature. There’s also the promise of bolstered interiors, which seemed legit based on the map I was looking at and a few landmarks I didn’t have time to fully explore. If there’s a decent sub-terrain component coupled with verticality, alongside an expanded use of the wingsuit, the familiarity in design idea I started with could very much go out the window. But with just over two hours under my belt and the promise of plenty to explore outside the main story, I can already see Far Cry 4 eating up a lot of my time. Bring on November.