The story does have one redeeming quality - it’s soon forgotten, as you scale and hijack radio masts to expose the locations and side missions immediately around them, and roll over Pagan Min’s bases to unlock fast travel points and trading posts. Base assaults are an excuse to cram all of the game’s tactical gambits, AI quirks, critters and terrain considerations into a tiny area. Structured but very receptive to experimentation, they’re as interesting as you want them to be.
A cavalier sort might charge an elephant through the front gate (war paint is optional, but encouraged), then lay waste to the defenders with a light machinegun. A hands-off player might prefer to toss a hunk of pigmeat over the wall, luring nearby predators. Or you could sneak past the guards, disable the alarms and drop C4 everywhere, like a guerrilla poltergeist.
Sadly, the PvP multiplayer doesn’t exhibit the same sense of organised
chaos as solo and co-op, meaning it’s likely to sink without trace.
That’s despite a flurry of neat touches, such as wingsuits for all
participants, radio masts that can be disabled to wipe out the enemy’s
radar coverage, and a new playable faction, the Rakshasa, who get
summonable bears and eagles in place of heavy weaponry. Not quite Call
of Duty classique, then, but the modes boil down to ‘capture this, blow
up that’, and the running and gunning itself doesn’t stick in the memory
(those squeal-worthy, ‘DIY’ healing animations aside). Still, perhaps fans will rectify this once the generously featured map editor is updated to support PvP - it contains the lion’s share of all the soldiers, animals, buildings and vehicles from the campaign.
Dodgy though the plot may be, Ajay’s struggle to make sense of his inheritance suits a game that’s battling for a place in a world handed down to it by Far Cry 3 and other open-world action franchises. The result is hard to score because, that whiff of over-familiarity aside, the failings are easy enough to side-step - all you need do is head off the Golden Path. But the best open-worlders are those that balance their emergent odds and ends against a strong narrative thrust. Without a story as breathtaking as those forested vales and icy crags, Far Cry 4 rings a little hollow, and doesn't fully achieve the spiritual heights this series is capable of.