OK, it’s time to face facts: Christmas is coming. It’s too late to stop it now, the streets are already freezing over, the people of London are stockpiling mince pies, old folks are hiding inside the carcasses of the young, to escape the winter chill. Christmas is coming. Don’t fight it, embrace it.
Because the holiday season is not just about drinking hot wine alone in an empty flat because you’re a terrible person who shuns society, it’s also a chance for different cultures, people of radically differing viewpoints, to come together and worship at the feet of Coca-Cola. After all, this is the only time of the year when Jesus and Father Christmas put down their weapons and join forces to bring good tidings and joy to little children everywhere.
And the good news is, if you are alone this Christmas, as all Gorilla writers are legally required to be, you certainly won’t be bored. For one thing, if you’re British, you’ll be busy barricading your home, to protect yourself from the annual migration of carnivorous elves, but for another thing you’ll be neck-deep in Far Cry 4, the new blockbuster videogame from Ubisoft.Far Cry 4 is a surprisingly short game. You play an American man called Ajay, who is visiting a fictional Himalayan region in South Asia, the homeland of his parents (both of whom are dead). Once there, your plan to find a good place to leave your mother’s ashes is complicated by the arrival of the charismatic dictator Pagan Min. It turns out Pagan knew your mother, and is excited to take on the role of surrogate uncle and spend some quality time with you. As you prepare to tuck into lunch, Pagan is called away on business, and you’re left to wait for his return. About ten minutes later, Pagan does indeed return, and you both set off to find an ideal resting spot for your mother. Once you’ve got that out of your system, Pagan invites you to go shoot some guns with him and the credits roll. The end.
However, there’s actually an alternate ending, which is slightly longer. If you decide not to wait patiently for Pagan’s return (counter-intuitive for a British, person I know) you can actually choose to leave his abode. This escape mission acts as a kind of tutorial, as you tippy toe your way over rocks, down gullies, through bushes, along a river, throwing stones to distract guards and throwing meat to attract animals, who then devour the guards. Yes, all very serene.
After this gentle introduction to the massive open world of ‘Kyrat’, you will be abducted by rebels and invited to honour your parent’s memories by helping them take down Pagan Min’s brutal regime. Few games have swept me off my feet like Far Cry 4. I mean, sure, it’s basically Far Cry 3 with a different setting and considerably more “stuff”, but it’s fun damn it, consistently fun, like, all the way through. From traversing the beautiful landscape, by car, boat, elephant, gyrocopter or grappling hook, to fighting bad guys with or without stealth, to hunting animals, searching for treasure, climbing rickety radio towers and taking over outposts, everything feels weighty, grounded, like you’re really there (except not really of course). This is “gritty” in the truest sense of the word, not because it has a “dark” story and grey colour palate (quite the opposite), but because it has dirt under it’s nails, it feels realistic, even when it quite clearly isn’t. A lot of that is down to the the animation, from opening doors to driving off hills to grappling up mountainsides, there’s no cheating, it’s all there in front of you, in first-person.
Far Cry 4 is about the journey; you’re encouraged to explore, to create your own adventures. And it’s not difficult to get distracted, there’s loads to do and plenty of different ways to do it. The map is covered in intriguing destinations and crawling with a variety of different animals, all of which want to kill you, even the fucking birds. And because almost everything is available to you straight away, fluidity is very important. So you can flee from your enemies, jump in a truck, drive down a twisting dirt track, pulling shrapnel out of your arm and launching a grenade at the enemy vehicle that just pulled out in front of you, so that it explodes into the air while you drive under it without breaking once, without losing that fluidity. Everything is simple and relatively easy to do, from driving the vehicles (pretty much just point and go) to scoping out enemy outposts (mark enemies by looking at them!) but it all looks and feels amazing.
Oh, and there’s also multiplayer, and if you fancy playing the game with some naked stranger covered in jam and crisps (for all you know) be my guest, personally it’s not my cup of tea. Luckily nothing is sacrificed either way, the single player experience is fully developed and the multiplayer doesn’t hold back. Indeed, when approaching enemy strongholds the game even says “hey, this one’s a toughy, maybe you should get a friend to help?” to which my response was
“Where were my friends last Christmas when it got so cold I had to chop up a homeless person for fuel? WHERE WERE THEY THEN?”
So no, you don’t need friends to beat the strongholds. Or at all, really.
Far Cry 4 isn’t breaking any new ground, but it does offer a blissful escape from the bustling streets and monotonous monoliths of London. It’s a game that’s packed to bursting point with bright colours, vibrancy and charm, and it’ll win you over fairly quickly. Unlike most other games, this is one to go back to, to play around in from time to time. It’s the perfect distraction from the cold, grey clouds that are wrapping around England, as winter tightens it’s grip. And, most likely, you won’t make it to Spring, but you will get to ride an elephant.