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Gorgeous landscapes, great gameplay additions make 'Far Cry 4' a blast

In addition to capturing outposts and large fortresses, you can take quick assignments to deliver cargo, free hostages, hunt animals and fight against waves of attackers in an arena.

COURTESY OF UBISOFT

By BRIAN BOWERS | STARS AND STRIPES Published: November 26, 2014

“Far Cry 4” definitely delivers high adventure.

The open-world shooter is set in the towering Himalayas and is packed with intense action. If that’s not enough for you, a pair of ne’er-do-wells is ready to inject your character with mystery chemicals and send him on a psychedelic shooting spree among the bad guys.

In the game from Ubisoft, you play as Ajay Ghale, a young American whose deceased mother had fled the war-torn nation of Kyrat. As the action starts, you’re riding a Kyrati bus on the way to scatter mom’s ashes in her homeland.

But almost immediately, trouble strikes in the form of soldiers sent by the bloodthirsty dictator Pagan Min. Within minutes, most of the bus passengers are dead and you are the houseguest of the sadistic despot, who seems to be uncomfortably familiar with both you and your mother. Fortunately, Min isn’t the only one who knows you’re in town. Rebels known as the Golden Path appear to help you escape. Then, your adventure begins in earnest.

Anyone who has played the game’s excellent predecessor — 2012’s tale of a South Pacific island occupied by evil mercenaries — will find the game’s basic outline very familiar. You ally yourself with indigenous freedom-fighters to drive out the bad guys. This involves capturing their bases, hacking their communication towers and generally undermining their efforts across a sprawling map. And along the way, you’ll meet unusual characters, hunt vicious animals and help the natives with all sorts of problems.

However, there’s also quite a bit that’s new and improved.

Of course the Himalayan setting is the most obvious departure from previous games in the series. You’ll see different people, animals and architecture. You’ll also see a different landscape — one that’s absolutely breathtaking, especially if you’re playing on a new-generation console. From the lush river valleys to the snow-capped peaks, the texture and detail lavished on the settings is impressive. At times, I found myself taking a break from my freedom-fighting just so I could drink in the view.

Developers also offer plenty of gameplay innovations.

My favorite addition is elephants. You can ride them. You can stomp your enemies with them. They’re awesome.

Other new features include mountaineering gear that allows you can climb to lofty spots and a nifty little copter that can eliminate quite a few long treks through the forest. You also can invite friends to enter your game to fight as hired guns.

Ubisoft also has boosted two of the elements that gamers enjoyed in the South Pacific adventure: outpost attacks and wing suits.

You can now fight to recapture bases that you’ve already captured. That might sound repetitive and downright pointless to the uninitiated.  However, one of the most challenging and fun activities in the game is assaulting enemy outposts. It’s always a bit disappointing when you’ve expelled your enemies from their final base. Now you don’t have to worry about that because you can initiate a base-attack challenge whenever you like.

As for the wing suit, you can now buy it early on instead of waiting until late in the game, which means that you can spend a lot more time gliding like a bird over Kyrat’s impressive landscape.

The game also gives you a few more options that affect how the story unfolds. For example, the two leaders of the Golden Path occasionally offer opposing missions — such as burning an opium plantation or capturing it so proceeds can be used to fund the rebellion. You will need to choose which leader’s mission to support, which gives that person an edge in their internal power struggle. Such choices play a role throughout the storyline and the game’s ultimate outcome hinges on your decisions.

The game offers a wide range of missions. The most complex are woven into the storyline and involve the struggle against Min and his cronies, the tensions within the Golden Path and Ajay’s efforts to learn about his parents. They lead to interactions with Min’s top lieutenants, a crusty CIA agent and a pair of disreputable British stoners — the guys who are eager to test their mystery chemicals on you. There are also some mystical trips to Shangri-La, where you’ll fight demons with the help of a tiger. These missions are generally well constructed and quite entertaining, though a few get a bit tedious and others are a bit weird.

The game also offers an incredible number of side quests. In addition to capturing outposts and large fortresses, you can take quick assignments to deliver cargo, free hostages, hunt animals and fight against waves of attackers in an arena. Although there are many different kinds of activities, they can feel a bit repetitive if you don’t mix them up and throw in some missions from the storyline.

Throughout all of this, the core of the game remains fighting bad guys. Min’s thugs range from regular soldiers to armor-clad commandos to Molotov-wielding crazies to super stealthy hunters. In combination, they represent a challenging force. You quickly learn that a sneak attack is usually the best option. Openly assaulting anything more than a small patrol can prove deadly.

Min’s goons aren’t Kyrat’s only dangerous creatures. Wolves, bears, tigers and honey badgers pop up to present problems — and opportunities. While you will have to tangle with a few wild critters, you can also turn them into temporary allies. If you see a human enemy and happen to have some meat in you backpack, you can toss the bait toward your foe and attract a predator to his location. Some of the wild animals can easily take out two or three of Min’s minions and improve your odds in a firefight.

This fall has brought an abundance of good open-world games. While the Himalayan adventure in “Far Cry 4” might not be perched on the peak, it’s definitely worth a visit.

Bottom line: “Far Cry 4” delivers exciting action in an incredibly beautiful location.

bowers.brian@stripes.com

Platforms: Xbox One (reviewed), Xbox 360, PlayStation 4, PS3, PC
Rating: The game earns its mature rating for violence, blood, drug use, profanity and a few topless women.
Online: http://far-cry.ubi.com

Anyone who has played the game’s excellent predecessor — 2012’s tale of a South Pacific island occupied by evil mercenaries — will find the game’s basic outline very familiar.
COURTESY OF UBISOFT

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