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Far Cry 4 (Xbox One)
MSRP: $59.99
Number of Players: 1 (also includes co-op and multiplayer options)
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Publisher: Ubisoft

Rating:
****1/2
out of
*****

The Far Cry series is one of the most venerable in videogaming history. Starting with the original game, released in 2004, it was initially one of the benchmarks used by PC owners to test the prowess of their video cards. Featuring then-state-of-the-art environmental graphics combined with first-person shooter and action/adventure elements, the game was a huge success. Later sequels have expanded the series from its PC-focused roots into the realm of console gaming. The most recent entry, 2014's Far Cry 4, is the first to be released on the next generation systems alongside the PC and last gen consoles. My introduction to the series was on the Xbox One.

Taking place in the fictional Himalayan country of Kryat, the plot centers around Ajay Ghale, who was born in Kryat but raised in the United States. The game opens as Ajay returns to his country of birth carrying the ashes of his mother with the intention of spreading them in her homeland as she'd requested. However, Ajay immediately finds himself thrust into Kyrat's struggle to free itself from the rule of maniacal (and quite eloquent) dictator/king Pagan Min.

The Golden Path, an insurgent group with possible ties to Ajay's family, fights against Min's Royal Army for control of outposts, temples, and strategic points throughout Kryat. Ajay meets Sabal and Amita, two siblings who are vying for leadership and direction of the rebellion and you, as the player, must choose which of their visions for the country align with your own by completing missions for each of them.

If that were all Far Cry 4 had to offer, it would be a relatively straightforward and uninteresting first-person shooter. Thankfully, Ubisoft Montreal has populated Kyrat with a myriad of side-quests, animals, and diversions to keep the player from finishing the main campaign too quickly. Other characters, who provide quests that are non-essential to completing the campaign can take you in completely unexpected directions, including those rooted in the supernatural. It is also quite easy to be side-tracked by random requests from locals to help with hunting tasks, freeing family members held hostage, bomb defusing, assassination attempts, and more. There are many weapons to buy and upgrade, including sidearms, assault rifles, and shotguns. Inventory items can be crafted from the skins of animals. Syringes, which provide short-term boosts to focus and health, can be made from plants that grow throughout the countryside.

I enjoyed the open world nature of Far Cry 4. It's quite non-linear once the game's introductory sequences are completed. If you want to spend your time hunting down Min's Royal Army and looting their bodies for items to sell at trading posts to receive money to upgrade your weapons, feel free to do so. If you've decided you want to liberate the towers that broadcast Pagan Min's message throughout Kryat, you can attempt that with no penalty. Using the many different types of vehicles, it's up to you to decide how you want to travel from point A to point B. You can walk if you'd like but you run the risk of being attacked by bears, eagles, and other wildlife. Once you liberate various places on the map, a fast travel option becomes available, making it possible to hop around Kyrat at will. However, taking the time to drive, walk, or fight your way through the the varied terrain provides much more opportunity to stumble across the (sometimes literal) hidden gems the game has to offer. In my playthrough, I spent approximately 35 hours with the game and only completed 40% of what was available to do. Additional co-op and multiplayer modes, as well as additional DLC, are available if the game's original content is not enough to keep you satisfied. I did not partake in any of them, however.

Far Cry 4 looks phenomenal on the Xbox One. The graphics, provided by the Dunia Engine 2, feature lush environments, stellar fire and explosion effects, and detailed textures. I am not a graphical expert but this is one of the better looking games I've played recently.

The voice acting is one of Far Cry 4's highlights. All of the characters are superbly voiced, especially Pagan Min and DJ Rabi Ray Rana. Music is also effectively used throughout the game and the sparing use of licensed songs actually heightens their effect on the atmosphere.

Control of the game is pretty standard for a console- based shooter. I had no problem making the transition from the Call of Duty or Battlefield games that I play with regularity to the unfamiliar (to me) Far Cry series. I never modified the control mapping at all. The only odd control scheme was the creation and use of the syringes. This requires an awkward simultaneous use of the bumpers and triggers. It's not a gamebreaker but just made the use of the syringes in tense combat situations more cumbersome than necessary.

Overall, Far Cry 4 makes me want to go back and play other entries in the series as well as the upcoming Far Cry Primal, which will be released in 2016. I can't think of a better compliment to my first encounter. Far Cry 4 is highly recommended.

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