Perhaps the most crowd-pleasing moment of Ubisoft’s E3 2014 press conference was the announcement of Far Cry 4, introduced through a long trailer.
You can see that trailer below, but if you’re wondering what it plays like all you need do is read on, for we've already had the privilege.
That familiar feeling
Anyone who’s played Far Cry 3 will find themselves immediately at ease in the body of Ajay Ghale, as the controls feel practically identical – solid, fluid and fairly natural. There’s the same flexibility in play style, too - you can stealth it up, go all guns blazing, or use your surroundings and the local wildlife to cause havok among your enemies.
Our demo was a run through of one of the new Elite Strongholds, which are much like the strongholds of Far Cry 3 but bigger, better fortified and more substantially manned. Ours was a rather foreboding fort with guards, gun emplacements and mortars on the walls.
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For my first attempt I went stealthy, selecting the new ‘auto-cross’ – a semi-automatic, silent crossbow. This is a seriously useful weapon with enough range and accuracy to achieve a headshot on an oblivious guard from a good two-hundred yards away. Or maybe I’m just really good.
Overwatch dispatched I was then able to use the all-new grapple to rappel up the cliff to one side of the fort, from where it was possible to use the trusty old binoculars to mark a few of the patrolling enemies and the alarm box.
Knowing that the destruction of the alarm box would prevent the enemy from calling in reinforcements I moved from roof to roof until I could get a clear shot. One bolt from the crossbow was all it took – told you it was powerful.
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A couple of the nearby guards spotted the vandalism and began sweeping the area for me, but with the alarm gone I was perfectly happy to hit them head on with my secondary weapon – a crazily inaccurate but vicious machine pistol.
By this point every soldier in the base had been alerted to my presence, so I did what every sensible sneaker would do: turned and ran, heading back onto the roofs for a vantage point.
Just as it began to sink in that there were probably more enemies closing on my position than I could handle, I spotted a mortar on the battlements. Activated with the Square button I could then hold the left trigger to get an aerial view of the battlefield with an area of effect reticule. Find the enemy and pull the right trigger and a large shell is loaded and pinged into the air before hitting the chosen spot in a spectacular, fragmented explosion. With a few well-placed shots I’d finished off the enemy and claimed the stronghold.
Going loud - with elephants and microlights
Rather than sit back and relish the victory I went straight back in to try a couple of other approaches. I first tried riding straight through the front door on the back of an elephant, which felt awesome but meant I was too slow and too conspicuous to last more than a minute or two.
Then I came back with the microlight, a new vehicle to the series. The flying controls felt fairly unintuitive to me, but the joy of flying over the base and firing grenades on the antlike soldiers below is mighty strong if you can get used to them.
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Initial verdict: more evolution than revolution
But all in all I found myself a little disappointed with Far Cry 4, because to me it just seems like a bigger and more beautiful skin on the last game. For some people that will be absolutely fine, but I was hoping for more – even the main bad guy (I'm assuming that's what he is, despite his friendliness towards Ajay in the video) seems a carbon copy of the nutcase from Far Cry 3.
We’re still a fairly long way off launch, though, and perhaps there are intricacies and deviations in the story and gameplay that simply don’t come across from a short play and CGI video. We do know there's drop-in, drop-out co-op (even with friends who don't own the game), which sounds intriguing but hasn't been thoroughly detailed yet.
Perhaps it just doesn’t matter – plenty of people will be chuffed enough with Far Cry Does The Himalayas.
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