Courtesy of Ubisoft
Courtesy of Ubisoft

Ubisoft has released “Far Cry 4” fresh off the heels of its rather controversial “Assassin’s Creed Unity” launch. After the nightmare of an arguably incomplete series entry and all of the ensuing critical and popular backlash, Ubisoft was in need of a redemptive title that showed they still took care during the development process. In this regard — and depending on whether you enjoyed the last installment — “Far Cry 4” manages to keep its promise of delivering a game that is at least as good as its predecessor.

The campaign is definitely the focus of “Far Cry 4,” and for what it’s worth, is exactly as satisfying as the campaign mode of the preceding title. By this, I mean that “Far Cry 4” has a story mode that essentially copies that of “Far Cry 3,” down to the highly charismatic villain who players will likely enjoy more than the protagonist himself. Players take control of Ajay Ghale (voiced by James A. Woods, of no relation to James Woods), an American returning to his birthplace of Kyrat, a country in the Himalayas, so that he can fulfill his mother’s last wish and spread her ashes. It is at this point that players are introduced to Pagan Min (Troy Baker), the impossibly charismatic and foppish dictator of Kyrat, who instantly kidnaps Ajay for a fancy dinner party before he is ultimately broken free by the rebel army, Golden Path. From this point, Ajay is tasked with rallying forces of the Golden Path against Min, all the while learning about the complex love triangle between his father Mohan — the founder of the Golden Path and hero to the people — his mother and Pagan Min.

Characters in the game are as engaging as they are sometimes absurd. As previously mentioned, Troy Baker as Pagan Min makes himself into a hard-to-hate Bond villain of sorts, who doesn’t only revel in the evil he enacts on the populace of Kyrat, but occasionally checks in on Ajay through radio just to see how the protagonist is doing and share the thoughts on his mind. Likewise, peripheral characters like Longinus, the gun-dealing priest, are stupid in the best possible way, appearing as singular jokes that hand out missions to the player, but not staying on screen for long enough to wear out their welcome. Conversely, Ajay comes across as somewhat flat, possibly in an effort to emphasize the absurdity of NPCs, but it comes at the expense of what could have been a protagonist that players loved to identify with.

As satisfying as the plot and characters are on the whole, they will come to the surprise of absolutely nobody who played “Far Cry 3.” Major aspects of the game, such as the charming villain, trippy scenes of the surreal and lackluster personality of the protagonist are all roughly the same as they were in the last entry of the franchise. While for some this may be a level of assurance that they might like the game, others may find that too little of the game innovates on old iterations of the franchise.

Gameplay in “Far Cry 4” is also somewhat derivative of the last entry in the franchise, and of the greater Ubisoft design philosophy as well. Players will be expected to climb radio towers to reveal greater segments of the map, liberate base camps from the royal army and upgrade their character by paying skill points into a chart of abilities that will enable more varied playstyles. While it is far from innovative, these game conceits feel great and rarely leave the player less-than-engaged as they attempt to stealthily dispatch all the enemies in an area, or else run in like John Rambo and blow everybody to oblivion.

Multiplayer in “Far Cry 4” is obviously a far cry from being the game’s focus. Competitive multiplayer is somewhat limited, but may appeal to some. Playing out as two factions — Pagan Min’s mystical Rakshasa who use bows, arrows and special powers, and the Golden Path — who attempt to capture each other’s bases in two different modes that place one group or the other on defense, or a derivative of capture the flag. Cooperative multiplayer is arguably more fun, where players are put in control of either Ajay or Herc — the hyper-American gun-toting blowhard — as they run around the map accomplishing base liberations at half the difficulty they would be in an independent playthrough. Also returning from the main game is a base-creation mode that allows players to design their own bases to upload to the Internet so that others can attempt to liberate them.

“Far Cry 4” delivers on exactly what trailers and Ubisoft promised: a game that changes very little from the last, but still manages to provide an enjoyability not available in other first-person-shooter campaigns of the current market. For anybody who wanted to replay “Far Cry 3” but with some added weapons, characters and a new setting, “Far Cry 4” is well worth the purchase (or they should buy “Blood Dragon” and revel in the purposeful ‘80s cheese).

Rating: 3.5 stars