Imagine you’re playing Far Cry 3, but prettier, and with more mountains and cliffs. Now add the blood dragons from Far Cry: Blood Dragon, but they’re elephants instead of dragons. Oh, and they are allies to you and you can ride them. Then add a friend for some co-op, elephant riding, fortress storming action! Far Cry 4 has learned a lot of things from its predecessors, but enough things set it apart that make it a game to watch for when it releases later this year.
The trailer that was shown at Ubisoft’s E3 conference introduces us to Pagan Min, the fair-yet-sinister baddie in this iteration of the Far Cry franchise. Far Cry 3 had an excellent antagonist in Vaas, but I might dare to say that Pagan Min is a contender for topping my list of favorite villains to hate. If you haven’t seen this trailer, I recommend that you check it out. It’s not so much a trailer as it is just the opening segment of the game, but it perfectly sets the stage for the conflict that is to come and sets the stage in the beautiful environment in Kyrat. From the trailer/intro alone we can tell that this is definitely a Far Cry game, but that it is also distinctly its own.
At the Ubisoft booth, I was taken up to a private media room with one of the developers and given an opportunity to get my hands on the game. I was given the choice of three different methods of storming a fortress. I could have gone with stealth, but I’m terribly impatient and guns make loud noises, so I vetoed that option. I could have gone in from above using the gyrocopter, but Sony already showed that gameplay footage at their own conference and I didn’t want a rehash of what I had already seen, so naturally, as any good gamer should, I immediately went with the option to ride an elephant, and calling on my fellow PSLS editor, Dan, for back up, we opted to play it in co-op.
We hopped on a couple of elephants grazing near a small pond outside of the fortress and made our way towards the imposing fortress ahead. Controlling the elephant was surprisingly easier and more fluid than I thought it would be, and it feels like particular attention has been paid to making sure that it didn’t control as if you were trying to drive a living aircraft carrier. There’s a good balance of making the elephants feel like powerful creatures, yet still having the agility that is needed in a first-person shooter style of game. Charging through the wooden gates that closed off the enemy camp gave us our first impression of the power within these creatures and the key role they will play as allies in the traversal and combat in the game.
Roaming through the enemy base, I used a shotgun from the back of the elephant to take out enemies in front of me. The developer watching our play session informed us that the elephant AI would automatically take out enemies if we got close, so I tested it out. A terrified man was immediately wrapped in the elephant’s trunk and slammed into the ground, which was extremely satisfying to watch, especially because he had been shooting at me only moments earlier. Vehicles carrying reinforcements were effortlessly flipped if charged into, which again showcased the power of the pachyderm. I turned around and saw Dan using his mount to take down enemies in the same fashion on the other side of the fenced in area, and here I got a true sense of what co-op could do for Far Cry 4.
Tactics now change drastically as you can make a two pronged approach to any situation. One person can go in loud, riding an elephant, being the decoy. Player two can then sneak in to disable alarms and take out enemies from behind. One player can sneak in to disable alarms while the second rains terror from the skies in a gyrocopter. Or, much like our approach in the demo, you can both go in loud and proud, leaving enemies nowhere to run as the grey beasts destroy any hope they had of actually surviving the skirmish. There is so much potential and I can’t wait to see more of what the co-op offers to Far Cry 4’s gameplay.
Eventually our mighty mounts were felled, and after a moment of sadly looking at the lifeless body of my newest long nosed friend, we were forced to take out the remaining enemies on foot. Foot combat and traversal feels very familiar to anyone that has played Far Cry 3 and/or Blood Dragon, which is fine by me because both of those games played great. After narrowly, but successfully, liberating the encampment, our all too brief hands-on time ended and we had a chance to talk with the our supervising developer about the game.
We learned that the team had taken many of the things that they had learned during Far Cry 3 and Far Cry: Blood Dragon and implemented the best aspects from each into this game. Elephants will have bait that can be used similarly to the bait used to attract the blood dragons, but conversely to the evil creatures from Far Cry’s ’80s action love letter, elephants will be considered allies and players will be penalized for harming or killing them.
We haven’t yet seen a whole lot, but our conversation at E3 indicated that there are a few more surprises that Far Cry 4 has to offer in the months leading to its release later this year. From everything that I have witnessed so far though, and the fact that your co-op buddy won’t even need to own the game in order to hop in and help you with a level, I am extremely confident that Far Cry 4 is already set to be the greatest game in the franchise, and any further surprises about the game will just be icing on that sweet, sweet, exotic cake.