Far Cry 3 seemed to catch a lot of people by surprise. It came out in a dead zone, near the end of December, and immediately found an audience due to its dynamic open world. A simple trip from one side of Rook Island to the other could and probably would involve encounters with hostile pirates, friendly tribesmen, peaceful herbivores, and/or that angry tiger that just clawed off your front half, and any one of those factions could as easily turn on each other as on you.
As such, the existence of Far Cry 4 isn't much of a surprise. This time, you take the role of Ajay Ghale, an American (to go by his accent, anyway) who's come to a region in the Himalayas called Kyrat. It's controlled by a lunatic, populated by militias, and hosts a "living, breathing ecosystem" full of animals to hunt, avoid, fight or ignore.
The actual story, at this point, hasn't quite been nailed down. Ubisoft showed the first five minutes of the game at its conference at the Orpheum Theater on Monday, where Ajay and a companion, an old man, were nearly killed by soldiers at a border checkpoint before being bailed out by the apparently crazed man who's also the star of most of the promotional images. As per the recent Far Cry standard, he's charismatic, dangerous, and appears to be completely out of his mind. Comparisons to Vaas from FC3 are both inevitable and flattering.
The gameplay's received a lot more focus. The wingsuit from FC3 returns and appears to be a lot more useful in moment-to-moment gameplay, as evidenced by a sequence where Ajay uses it to bail out of a jeep he was driving that got knocked off a cliff face. With it, the player can glide startlingly long distances through the mountainous terrain that characterizes Kyrat. You also get a grappling hook for scaling sheer surfaces or swinging across gaps, which should give you a lot more leeway with how you explore and where you can go. Since you're in the mountains, you also have to watch out for narrow roads and the risk of avalanches, particularly since you're probably throwing around a lot of lead and miscellaneous explosives.
One of the major touted features of the game has been "weaponized animals," such as the ability to ride on elephants or unleash them against your enemies. This should be familiar gameplay for those who played FC3, where you could often clear an outpost in seconds by unleashing a bear or tiger on its inhabitants, but it's been given a greater focus this time around. It's on display in the footage they've shown so far, where Ajay gets help in clearing an outpost called Ratu Gadhi by releasing a couple of penned-up elephants, which promptly charge and destroy the nearest enemies.
New options and weapons include an "auto-cross," which I assume is short for automatic crossbow, a nearly silent weapon for stealth-based gameplay, and the ability to jump onto enemies' vehicles while in motion and perform a takedown on both passengers and drivers. You can also shoot through your vehicles' windshields, which suggests there'll be a greater focus on vehicular combat than what was on offer in Far Cry 3.
While you're playing open-world missions, such as neutralizing convoys or outposts, you have the option to bring in co-op backup in the form of Huck, a goofy-looking blond guy who, in the E3 demo, showed up behind the stick of a gyrocopter. Ajay and Huck can coordinate to accomplish objectives, and if you're playing FC4 on the PS3 or PS4, whoever's playing Huck does not actually have to own a copy of Far Cry 4. This has been touted as an exclusive bonus for playing FC4 on Sony platforms.
Right now, my impression of FC4 is that it's a deliberate improvement on everything that made FC3 a hit: more weapons, more animals, more flexibility, and the inclusion of co-op in the main game, as opposed to the glitchy and little-played FC3 co-op campaign. It's hard to say much more than that, as the footage that's been showed openly at E3 has been the same carefully controlled sample of gameplay that Sony showed at its pre-E3 conference, with the same highlights and features. If the final product ends up just being an incremental improvement on FC3, however, with a new map, new cast of characters, and new scenery-chewing supervillain to oppose, that's not much to argue with there.
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