Far Cry 4: A review and a rebuke

Far Cry 4Since the inception of the franchise, Far Cry has been a bit of a moving target in the realm of genre and identity. The first title broke new ground with responsive and more strategic AI along with larger and more expansive environments than other games at that time. Far Cry 2 was received with less enthusiasm but kept the theme and style alive by placing the player in another hostile environment with an elusive bad guy to track and kill. It seemed as though the franchise may die a slow “death by discontinuity” since each story was disconnected from the last. Contrary to conventional wisdom and some predictions from naysayers, Far Cry 3 launched with another completely new story and character, and was met with great success. It was nominated for countless awards and received high marks from all review sources with an impressive average score of 90 on Metacritic. Now the stage was set for Far Cry 4 to enter the scene…

What gives?

Something that has left me somewhat baffled is the lack of enthusiasm and excitement about a game that is easily one of the most polished and enjoyable next-gen titles available. The music, environments, animals, weapons, and voice acting are on par with a professionally made movie. When I play this game with headphones on, it is so engrossing and beautiful that I often get distracted by the landscapes, sounds, and overall feel of the game. I can’t help but admire the pristine water as I jet-ski under a setting sun, or stop to gaze up at the surrounding mountainous horizon that gives the game a massive, mysterious, and inviting tone. The main villain, Pagan Min, makes it feel like you are watching The Dark Knight, longing to see more and more scenes with a brutally insane yet somehow winsome bad guy. And the ever changing landscape of hills, trees, mountains, and thick jungles is a rotating mixture of animal life and dangerous encounters. So what gives? Why is everyone saying, “Yeah, looks great, but meh.” to this game?

Empty Criticism

The most common criticism that I have read about this game is that it is, “Too similar to Far Cry 3”. Whenever I read this I have to restrain from face palming myself into a coma. So the continuation of a franchise is… too similar… to the franchise? Wait what? So you played Far Cry 3 enough to notice similarities between the titles, and enjoyed it enough to buy the sequel, but don’t like the fact that it is similar to the game that convinced you to buy its predecessor? This is an empty criticism that is symptomatic of the big challenge for game makers right now. Nothing is good enough. Even a game that did not over-hype itself is still seen as “not good enough”. Let me address why this is an empty criticism…

If Far Cry 4 had been a complete and unrecognizable departure from the previous releases, it would have been justifiably ill-received and criticized. If you want to make a completely new game, devoid of almost all previous features, then you do just that: make a new game. But if you are continuing the expansion of a franchise, you keep things within the bounds of what has come before. Why? Because ultimately that is what people are expecting. It would be nonsensical for a company to say, “Well our previous title did great and was well received by the community. Let’s make the sequel completely and utterly different.” If you played Far Cry 3 and enjoyed it enough to buy its sequel, and then complained that it was too similar, you are part of the problem. I repeat: You are part of the problem. How do I mean? What I mean is that your lack of enjoyment is completely self-imposed. If you enjoy something and want more of it, you ruin your own experience by creating new expectations seemingly out of thin air. In other words, you don’t go to your favorite restaurant and order your usual dish and then complain that it is too similar to the last time you ordered it. Have reasonable expectations and you will enjoy video games, movies, and really everything in life a lot more. Think about your relationships or the last movie you saw. Is your lack of enjoyment and rampant criticism because everything sucks, or because you have expectations that are never going to be met? This got kind of deep, but seriously… Reflect on what is at the root of a consistent lack of enjoyment, and I’m willing to bet it’s closely tied to unarticulated or inflated expectations.

Conclusion

If you liked Far Cry 3, then you should, for all intents and purposes, thoroughly enjoy Far Cry 4. If you like first person shooters that are vibrant, dynamic, and exciting, then you will like Far Cry 4. If you want a game where you can hunt wild boar, jump on an elephants back, fire grenades from a moving truck, fly a helicopter, hang-glide, soar in a wing-suit, and a host of other awesome choose-your-own-adventure activities, then you will like Far Cry 4.  I have a few quibbles with the cheap AI and the checkpoint/save system seems to have a few issues. But other than a few acceptable negatives, the game is brilliantly executed and tons of fun. Oh, and co-op mode is an absolute blast, if you can find someone who isn’t yawning as they talk about how lame every movie in existence is.

Agree, disagree, or have input of your own? Comment below!

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