What wouldn't a man do to fulfil his mother's dying wish? Would he travel to the country of his birth, bringing along his mother's ashes, to scatter them where she wanted to rest? Would he, upon finding out that the country is in a state of civil war and that his parents were somehow involved with starting the resistance movement, take up his parents' cause or would he simply do what he came to do and leave his countrymen to fend for themselves? After all, he hasn't considered himself one of them since childhood. Why should he care?
This is a dilemma that you, Ajay Ghale, must face as you set out into Kyrat, the fictitious country in Far Cry 4. In the dark basement of a Parisian nightclub, we got to play around with Far Cry 4 and take its co-op mode out for a spin. It's Far Cry 3, just more, and if they manage to polish it up, the co-op mode just might be a game changer.
Ajay Ghale was born in Kyrat but his mother brought him to the US as a child. Growing up on the wrong side of the law, Ajay is just about to turn his life around when he hears his mother is dying. During their last conversation, his mother tells him about Kyrat for the first time and when her last will and testament is read following her death, Ajay is given the task of taking her ashes home, scattering them in Lakshmana.
Ajay considers himself an American and pronounces his name as you'd expect an American to pronounce it. The people of Kyrat, however, refuse to do so as his last name is well known. This is deliberate, according to Lucien Soulban, one of the writers on the project, as it emphasises the duality of Ajay's character; the inner fight between the man he is, and the man he is destined to be. In fact, the people of Kyrat tend to treat him as something of a celebrity. As the son of Mohan Ghale, a man he barely remembers but who the people of Kyrat consider an icon of the resistance, your return rekindles the hope in the hearts of the fighters of the Golden Path.
As you help the Golden Path in their struggle against Pagan Min's oppressive reign, you'll be able to influence the story by taking sides on certain issues. The Golden Path is lead by Amita and Sabal, two very different individuals who have very different ideas for the future of Kyrat, but ultimately agree that it must be one free of Pagan Min.
Amita is a progressive woman who believes that women will have a much bigger role in shaping the future of the country than they had in its past. Being the first woman to take up arms and fight along Kyrat's men, she's won over many supporters with her ideas of equality. Knowing the importance of financial stability to a country's future, she's not above using its thriving opium industry to aid her cause. Sabal, on the other hand, firmly believes that tradition and faith will unite the country once Min is gone. As they go head to head at certain points in the story, you'll have to break the stalemate, ultimately deciding which path to give your golden touch.
Woven into this story is the quest for Shangri-La. Based on James Hilton's famous fictional mythology first described in Lost Horizon, Shangri-La is the cultural backbone of Kyrat. Throughout the game, you'll find pieces of tapestry which, once reassembled, will reveal the story of Kalinga, a legendary warrior; the white tiger protector of Shangri-La; and paradise on earth itself.
When on your spirit quest for Shangri-La, you'll encounter different enemies that operate under a different AI than those of Kyrat do, so they'll not only look different but they should feel different as well. While the skills system is Shangri-La themed, it looks very much like the setup from Far Cry 3, although the three trees have been merged into two, the tiger tree and the elephant tree, containing a total of forty-eight skills.
Throughout our time with the game, we were surprised at how similar it was to Far Cry 3. The second game in the franchise differed very much from the first, and the same can be said about the third, but Ubisoft appears to be quite happy with the formula they cooked up two years ago and have elected to add to it, rather than change it up. There are, of course, multiple aspects where the game differs from its predecessor, such as the ability to throw bait onto enemies causing wildlife to attack them, but one of the biggest changes is the setting.
Set in the Himalayas, the map features a lot of ups and downs. When fighting in snowy areas, you'll be able to use grappling hooks to climb, cause overhanging snow to fall on your enemies, and use the lack of visibility to gain a tactical advantage. While the square mileage of the map is roughly the same as Far Cry 3's, the added verticality makes the distances feel more substantial to the extent where we felt it took longer to get between points of action than was the case in the game's predecessor. Movement around the map is helped by the addition of new ways of getting around.
New modes of transport include a gyrocopter and, as you've probably already seen, elephants. The gyrocopter is a handy way to cross vast distances quickly as it eliminates all the twisting and turning you'll be doing while driving on the mountain roads. Elephants can be mounted and used to bash enemies around or charge closed gates, cars, or other destructible elements. A new feature in Far Cry 4 is the ability to use firearms while driving. This has forced the development team to change the way you drive, using only one analogue stick for steering and acceleration/reverse. This method can be reverted to the classic driving mode, but that change removes your ability to fire while driving.
If you're ever feeling out-gunned, or if you simply want to concentrate on driving while someone else takes care of the shooting, you'll be able to bring in an AI helper or a co-op partner at any time. You'll even be able to invite someone who doesn't have the game to play with you for a two hour trial period - though you can't play story missions in co-op - at the conclusion of which you'll be able to use peer pressure to coerce them into buying the full game. This scheme, dubbed "Keys to Kyrat," is only available on Sony's platforms and is sure to attract many more players, although some only temporarily. The host player will keep the progress the two of you have made in their game. Your partner (who will momentarily take on the role of Hurk, the American barge captain we first meet on Rook Island) will walk away with all his character progress, including cash and XP.
With a game as enormous as Far Cry 4 is, it is difficult to list all the interesting characters you'll meet and activities you'll perform without going into spoiler territory, or discussing something that hasn't been detailed yet. An example would be the reimagined adversarial multiplayer mode which Red Storm is working on, but we have yet to hear any details about. Taking on the world of Kyrat with a friend is sure to be a blast for both parties involved, especially if you play through the story mode again with the other hosting, rethinking every decision you made in your first playthrough.
In our opinion the plot of Far Cry 3 suffered from bad pacing as your friends and family were always just about to be sold off to slavery or worse, no matter how many days you spent sightseeing, raiding outposts, and hunting for crafting materials. This time around, by making the story more about a grand scale civil war, you're still free to roam around but assaults and story missions should fit better with your personal play-style. We had a good time with the game in Paris, although the amount of polishing and bug fixing left to be done, judging from the state of the build we played, doesn't bode well for a release only a month away: we worry about a last-minute delay or buggy launch. However, if they manage to avoid both, this is shaping up to be another explosive sandbox adventure.