Pre-Cult: Far Cry 4

Just a warning: this review will almost certainly contain something that offends you. We’re going to talk about some serious topics, and the screenshots contain nudity and gratuitous violence. Viewer discretion is advised.

Ubisoft has certainly capitalized on AAA franchises at this point. We have several game series here that are basically variations on the same formula - Assassin’s Creed, Far Cry, Splinter Cell, etc. They’re all basically “Shooter Games about Rebellion or Subterfuge with Stealth Elements and Gory Takedowns, in an Open World with Parkour Mechanics and weapons inspired by [INSERT TIME PERIOD OR WAR SCENARIO HERE]”

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Several of these series have yearly installments, and honestly I think they’ve all given me a bit of franchise fatigue at this point. The differences between installments tend to be incremental, at best.

Far Cry 4 follows up on Far Cry 3, with a few key changes. One, you’re in a lush, mountainous, cold environment rather than FC3’s lush, mountainous, warm environment. Two, there’s a grappling hook. Three, there’s an autodrive feature that makes getting where you’re going in a car slightly easier. Fourth, there’s uh... helicopters, I guess? I’m reaching at this point.

The thing is, Far Cry 3 was fundamentally a good game. Thus, Far Cry 4 manages to nail a lot of the most fun parts of open world games, and it improves in a couple of areas - notably, the driving has never been a strong point for Far Cry so autodrive is welcome, and the grappling hook and helicopter are actually really useful when navigating uneven terrain.

The world itself is still fun to explore, and there’s a wide variety of activities to take part in. The shooting is good, although the stealth is still just OK. A lot of the missions boil down to the same few activities, although there are some fun moments to be had in many different setpiece situations.

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However, Far Cry 4 seems to have some serious story and character issues. Ubisoft has not had a great track record with female characters in their AAA games in the past, but here in Far Cry 4 it seemed like they had managed to create a powerful female leader in the form of one of the two Golden Path leaders, Amita.

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After a few story missions, Amita confronts Ajay (the protagonist) and says that she is in a difficult position and needs Ajay’s support. Traditional values in Kyrati culture mean that women are often marginalized and not allowed to lead. Amita has made a name for herself, but there is still a lot of distrust within the organization. She chastises Ajay and calls him sexist if he doesn’t treat her with respect.

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All of this I can understand, and it could have been a powerful message about the role of women in leading a country, the struggles Anita faced during her rise to authority, and the need to maintain what was good about Kyrat while still modernizing certain outmoded traditional values.

The problem is this - Anita is an obvious bad guy. I wouldn’t mind this, I really don’t care if she’s good or bad, but the juxtaposition of the positive female message and her quests grates for me. She goes right from “this is a repressive society that needs reform” to “let’s sell drugs, let our soldiers die, and send the children to war, and if you don’t agree, you’re anti-women’s rights.

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There’s a right way to approach this issue, if a game wants to approach it at all. This is not it.

There’s also the matter of some gratuitous nudity - at the arena, the “bouncers” are all “bounce” if you get my drift. If you don’t get it, this image should help:

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Yeah. She’ll uncross her arms after a couple of seconds and you can just stand there and stare. She even remarks on it if you stand there long enough. It’s not as bad as Far Cry 3’s “bad ending” (jump to around 4:45) which is basically some POV porn, but FC4’s topless girls still feel immature and skeezy. If I want to stare at boobs, there are better and easier ways to do so. I don’t know why it’s really in this game, to be honest.

Then we come to violence. I think it ought to be obvious that Far Cry 4 is a shooter and therefore there is a crazy amount of violence in the game. At least in Far Cry 4 you can turn off the gory animal skinning animations, which were completely unskippable in Far Cry 3.

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I guess by now I’m just desensitised to the ultraviolent takedown animations, where I jam my massive machete through some goon’s lower jaw and watch his body quickly go limp. It’s kind of a staple of the AAA shooter at this point, although it ends up feeling more like the pornographic version of violence rather than anything that contributes to the game.

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I guess if I had to summarize my feelings about Far Cry 4, I’d have to say that it’s immature. Sometimes immature is fun, and not all games have to be mature. I enjoyed Far Cry 4’s immature moments. However, for a game that seeks to be full of mature content, both in topic and in imagery, the dissonance is a bit too difficult to ignore.

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(Cult of the Fiver is my monthly series on great games that can be had for cheap. Want to stay on top of all our recommendations? We have a Steam Curation Page! In Pre-Cult articles, I collect my thoughts about a game I plan to feature in this month’s entry.)

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