This week, Zero Punctuation reviews Far Cry 4.
Welcome back to the second act of Ubisoft's ongoing production of The Gaming of the Shrew, but the question still remains as to whether we are watching a comedy or a tragedy. We've had our first act cliffhanger from Assassin's Creed Unity stabbing itself in the heart after a protracted monologue over whether 'twas nobler to log into Uplay first. So now we get to see if Far Cry 4 will kiss the poisoned spunk from Unity's lips or disguise itself as a big-titted bar wench and get molested by a sailor.
Well first of all, it too introduces co-op gameplay, but the crucial difference is that at the title menu, you can choose the "play offline" option and never have to think about it again. See, that's all I wanted! "Oh, and maybe you'd like to consider maybe logging into Uplay-" Skip! "Okay, I'll go away again, then." If you ask me, drop-in co-op in the single-player only makes sense when the game is incredibly difficult and we want to teach the world about the power of friendship. But who needs online co-op in Far Cry 4, when offline had all the co-op I needed - the four-player tag team of me, Colonel Tusky, Stripy McBigteeth and Florence, the fully upgraded sniper rifle.
Now, while Assassin's Creed at least makes some token effort to innovate each game for better or worse, Far Cry has found a comfort zone to snuggle into and we won't be unsnuggling them with anything short of a JCB. Inexperienced American doofus gets dropped into an exotic war zone and finds he has to liberate it from a charismatic villain with a weird personal interest in him. Yes, it's Far Cry 3++, although Far Cry 4 has learned that it's smarter to not kill off the charismatic villain half-way through and have us fight a substitute teacher for the rest of the game.
In this case, our exotic setting is a kingdom in the Himalayas and the villain is the result of Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-il kidnapping Benedict Cumberbatch together and taking turns spunking into his hairdo: a kooky, loveable rogue, who's all smiles and level tones until sudden, frenzied stabbing motions. Coh, what antics will he get up to next? Well, since you ask, disappearing for most of the game and leaving us with a six-foot polystyrene cuboid alleging to be a protagonist. See, I know Vaas got all the attention out of Far Cry 3, but I could take or leave his chubby cheeks. It was the player character Jason Brody that interested me, 'cause he had an arc. We witnessed his whole transformation from harmless trust-fund twerp to mercenary legend, hopped up on as much drugs as he could stuff into his homemade gorilla-scrotum fannypack. He was trapped where he was by the need to rescue his douche friends, but his devotion to them was gradually eclipsed by his devotion to murder and scrotum-tailoring.
Meanwhile, Far Cry 4's Ajay Ghale's motive going in is the need to scatter his mum's ashes. There's a war on, Ghale; just dump the bitch in the nearest ash tray and catch the next yak home. Oh no, sorry, he's totally invested now in fighting to liberate a country he's never been to from a guy he doesn't know. As far as we can tell from his occasional line of dialogue, mumbled in the same embarrassed tone I use to address overly-enthusiastic wait staff. Where Brody became a killing machine out of desperate survival need and enough drugs to occupy Amy Winehouse for one lazy Sunday afternoon, Ghale only does it essentially because somebody told him to and he didn't want to make a fuss. He's just a dope who does nothing but agree with the last thing he heard and everyone around him seems to realize it. You can tell from the way characters give him mission briefings. Every single time they make some token instructing noises, give him a little encouraging smack on the bum, then close the door in his face and go back to the TV. Ajay's story eventually leads to his parent's dark secret that explains why the villain has an interest in him. But since Ajay reacts to the revelation like a St. Bernard being told he can't have another biscuit, my first thought was, "Any chance we could play as your parents instead? They sound more interesting than you."
But let's talk gameplay, and the quickest approach would probably be to list everything that wasn't copy-pasted from Far Cry 3. You still have to liberate the sandbox, one stronghold at a time, and again, the instant you find a sniper rifle that can fit a silencer, the strongholds might as well line up, bend over, and timidly ask for it gentle. Until you start to memorize the locations of the free gyrocopters and acquire a grenade launcher that can be fired from a vehicle, at which point they don't even have to line up, you can bring tactical carpet bombings conveniently to their doorstep. And after a while I grew bored, like a was going down a to-do-list. Next mission! "Okay, we need you to tail a smuggler to his hideout. Get on this quad bike and make sure you maintain a safe distance...oh, well I suppose you could use a gyrocopter if you wanted." Tailed him! Next mission please! "Oh no! Don't go to next mission yet, one of your strongholds is under attack!" Oh no, what will happen if I don't help out? "Oh no, fuck all!" Oh no, probably leave it then.
And it wouldn't be Far Cry without some dangerous wildlife with very roomy scrotums. But while tigers attacked enemy strongholds in the last game as the accidental result of the enemy having the enormous poor judgment to be sharing the same planet as Mister Angry Whiskers, you can now encourage the process by flinging bait around. But this is a double-edged tiger, and animals seem like more of a hassle than before. The number of times I was scoping out a stronghold from a vantage point and be just about ready to start silently picking of targets when I'd hear a growl and look down to see my leg disappearing into a wolf. Then I panicked and pulled an LMG out and the soldiers heard the shots and it all went to wolf buggery. And furthermore, eagles. Maybe Ghale looks as much to them like an unwitting sparrow as he does to me, because those fucking birds don't give one predatory shit. You never see them coming, and so they are essentially the game's way of saying, "Hey, we rolled a dice, and now we're just gonna take some of your health away. Which of your eyeballs would you say was least necessary?" But it's not just BDSM mother nature's into. Riding elephants is one of those things I didn't realize I wanted until I had it. It's just fun to stampede into a ring of soldiers (or indeed wolves) and go "What's up motherfuckers? The elephant in the room is that you're all fucking dead."
Looking back over Far Cry 4, I remember it thusly: it starts with one half of a cutscene, it ends with the second half of the same cutscene, and in between is a whole bunch of flapping about where nothing much happens and no one grows or changes or learns anything. Secondary villains are talked up, introduced and dropped from the plot after about fourteen seconds of screen time each. The main plot thread concerns the resistance being torn between two leaders, one old-fashioned and moralistic, and the other extreme but pragmatic, and you have to decide which one to support. They both have good points, it was a somewhat interesting dilemma and I put quite a bit of thought into my decisions. But what I wanted was some sodding payoff. And at the end of it all, you install you preferred dictator and they go, "Cheers, for that", smack on the bum, close door in face. This must be what it's like to be the American Secretary of State. And then you trudge up to the main villain's house and they're all like, "Don't look at me, my ending's completely anticlimactic as well."
So in summary, Far Cry 4 was like sitting on a flaccid cock: in the end, kinda pointless.
- Never stops crying
- Smack on the bum and close door in the face is a proven method for keeping Jehovah's Witnesses away
- Petition to rename 'honey badger' to 'wasabi mongoose'.