At a time when it seems like many first-person shooter creators have run out of ideas, the keepers of the “Far Cry” franchise have cleverly added elephants that can be employed as makeshift tanks in the latest installment of the freewheeling, out-of-control action series. It’s just one of many inventive flourishes that players will stumble across in the chaotically fun “Far Cry 4.”
The series once again starts with players in the shoes of an outsider. This time, it’s Ajay Ghale, an American who has ventured to his parents’ homeland for the first time to deliver his mother’s ashes. While there, he becomes entangled in the country’s long-simmering civil war between a rag-tag rebellion called the Golden Path and tyrannical leader Pagan Min.
“Far Cry 4” (Ubisoft, for the PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PC, $59.99) trades the breezy African and South Pacific locales of previous installments for a fictional land located amid the Himalayas called Kyrat. It’s a violent and vivid place where forests, wildlife, temples, lakes, caves, mountains and humanity swirl together like watercolors.
The developers have wisely opted to keep the liberating open-ended gameplay from “Far Cry 3” wholly unchanged. Whether players have a hankering to hijack enemy outposts, hunt treasures, disarm bombs, race cars, free hostages, fight propaganda, skin critters or embark on hallucinogenic journeys, the choice is ultimately theirs to make — and there are a lot of ’em.
Unlike the previous “Far Cry” outing, players must transverse towering peaks instead of sweeping islands. Thankfully, a few new modes of transportation have been introduced, including a sputtering gyrocopter and a handy-dandy grappling hook, which gives Ghale the ability to ascend or descend mountains at certain rocky junctures spread across Kyrat.
The nation’s landscape is unfortunately more interesting than its population. The over-the-top Min (portrayed by omnipresent video game voice actor Troy Baker) serves more as maniacal background music rather than the star headliner he was promised to be, while Ghale himself (voiced by James A. Woods) is shamefully never developed as the game’s leading man.
Luckily, the serviceable but unsatisfying plot doesn’t detract from the overall experience. A few multiplayer modes, notably the chance to play cooperatively online, keeps “Far Cry 4” fresh after the credits roll. Hopefully, plowing through Kyrat with a pal is only a tease of what might await in “Far Cry 5.” Also, fingers crossed, kangaroos. Three-and-a-half stars out of four.