Imagine yourself playing a first-person shooter. You’re locked, loaded and ready to take on the enemy in one of its held territories, but notice that the odds are in their favour. You could, of course, take it slowly and try to lure them away one-by-one or two-by-two and take care of it that way. Or, you could simply jump on top of the elephant standing 10 yards away. It’d make the perfect mount for you and your grenade launcher, don’t you think?
What I’ve described isn’t part of any personal acid dream, or anything of that sort. In actuality, it’s just another day at the office for Far Cry 4 protagonist Ajay Ghale. In a game filled to the brim with animals, enemies and explosions, elephants aren’t just part of the exotic scenery. In fact, for the first time ever, the giant beasts are actually allies of sorts, and can be used in battle whenever they’re nearby. If they’re shot, they’ll charge, but if you ride them into conflict you can expect to get a first-hand glimpse at some incredible-looking trunk kills.
Elephants aren’t the only way you’ll be able to use mother nature to take care of business, but they’re by far the best and most memorable. That’s not to say that the other method — throwing bait into the fray and waiting for a hungry tiger to take a bite out of nearby foes — is a slouch by any means, but there’s simply nothing cooler than mixing an elephant and a grenade launcher.
Far Cry 4 is, of course, the sequel to Far Cry 3, which ended up being one of 2012’s best games. It doesn’t take place on a tropical island, though, or in the vast expanse of Africa’s wilderness. Instead, Ubisoft created a brand new setting for the series’ first outing on ‘next-gen’ consoles, that being Kyrat. It’s a fancy way of saying, “That large and beautiful place nestled within the Himalayan Mountains.”
After the untimely death of his beloved mother, young Ajay Ghale attempts to make good on her final wish. However, said wish wasn’t something predictable, like having her ashes spread into an ocean of choice, but rather the chance to have her remains spread on her home land’s soil. So, being the good son that he is, Ajay packs his things and leaves the comfort of the United States in order to enter the unknown.
What Ajay doesn’t know is that Kyrat is far from a safe place. In the middle of its own violent and unlawful civil war, it’s the polar opposite of somewhere a caring mother would send her son. As such, it isn’t long before our protagonist finds himself in the middle of chaos, after being kidnapped at gunpoint by the country’s army and its fabulous leader, Pagan Min. Thus begins Ajay Ghale’s homecoming, which can be summarized as being a trip to Hell.
As expected, it doesn’t take long before our hero is saved from the clutches of evil and enlisted into the opposition, which calls itself the Golden Path. It’s your typical rebel faction, except for one thing: it was actually started by Ajay’s father, who was brutally murdered under mysterious circumstances. When that information is divulged to the player, the deceased mother’s plan becomes obvious.
Far Cry 4 is, at its heart, very much like the games that predated it. It’s a fast-paced, open-world shooter, where anything can happen. One minute, you’ll be fighting enemies with lead and shrapnel; then, rhinos will come charging in to aid your cause. That’s if you’re lucky, of course, because Mother Nature’s help isn’t something that you can count on during each and every skirmish. You’ll welcome it when it appears, but the truth is that it’s not all that common. In fact, the tides will turn and put you on the receiving end just as often, thanks to vicious snakes, tigers and birds that can appear mid-mission.
Presented as an action-packed sandbox that is chock full of chances to blow shit up, Kyrat is just as much of a character in this game as the cast themselves. It’s both a friend and an enemy, and is far from predictable. As such, you’ll never know what will be around the next corner, or up the closest hill, but that’s part of the fun.