Far Cry is one of the best known first person shooter open world franchises around. Far Cry 4 is its fourth major instalment. As with all previous Far Cry games, it is set in an exotic location – in this case the fictional Kyrat mountain kingdom of the Himalayas. The lead character, Ajay, arrives to spread his mother’s ashes and finds himself dragged into the civil war between the dictator king Pagan Min and the rebels, Golden Path. As the game unfolds I learned more about Ajay’s back story and his family history. I had a choice of missions throughout the game and depending on these choices the storyline unfolded in different ways to help the Golden Path to develop and make a difference against Pagan Min.
I have spent 20 hours playing Far Cry 4 and getting a good way into the game I can draw some initial conclusions on game play and talk about its accessibility. The short version: It’s great and about as accessible as a first person shooter could possibly be.
Far Cry 4 has a good level of visual accessibility. There is a certain amount of flicker when using high explosives but that is relatively rare. The majority of the game is set outside which sidesteps some lighting issues and when you are in a dark inside area, such as a cave, you have a torch that you automatically switch on (this can be turned off if you desire). When you take severe damage the contrast of the screen changes and darkens and reddens from the edges. The UI, including the health level and the direction that damage is being taken from, does not dim and remains at full brightness.
The in-game HUD UI is simple and somewhat customisable with information such as ammunition levels appearing when you are making use of the weapon (or when manually triggered) but disappearing otherwise. The mini-map and health indicator is constant. There are a number of possible notifications such ‘You now have the materials to craft a new recipe” which can be switched on or off.
The menu system is somewhat confusing. It uses white or light text on a coloured and often moving backgrounds which looks very stylish but can take a while to adjust to. Accessing the menu system pauses the game on single player, so this is an inconvenience rather than a major problem as players can take their time to find their way in the menu.
Audio and accessibility
Far Cry 4 can be played with no sound but it will be more difficult. A large proportion of the game is spent sneaking around and getting yourself lined up for the perfect take down or shot. Unfortunately when you are doing this there’s a chance you are being snuck up on yourself. If this is by a human NPC there is a metre that shows how aware of you they are which can substitute to a large degree but the same does not apply for being stalked by animals. Perhaps the best example of this is being attacked by an eagle. There is almost no chance that you will see it lining up on you in the sky to attack but you can hear its distinctive call and their is no visual cue for that.
There are subtitles throughout the game and they can be switched on (off by default) before the initial cinematographic. The subtitles include all direct character interactions and some situations where NPCs are talking amongst themselves or calling to you but they do not include everything every NPC says – there appears to be a distance above which subtitles are not triggered. In cut scenes the subtitles move forward themselves without waiting to match the spoken dialogue.
In game sound is on a single master volume with music switchable on and off separately. The music is instrumental and changes volume and tempo depending on the situation in-game, but not required.
Input and touch
Far Cry 4 keyboard and mouse controls are completely remappable on the PC. If you choose to use a controller you can select from Xbox, Play Station or ‘generic’ layouts but cannot remap keys. It is possible to remap these using GlovePIE.
The player can select their own play style based on their personal strengths. If you prefer slow and stealthy, you can do that. If you prefer long range sniping, that’s possible or if you want to charge in that can be done as well. There are missions that call for subtlety and some that call for full attacks, but so far I have been able to avoid those I was not interested in. A reasonable amount of precision is needed for some weapons but there are skills which you can put points into to reduce this requirement and you can choose to avoid these weapons.
Most situations can be taken relatively slowly and carefully. There are several ‘karma events’ which need the player to react quickly, for example to stop a car driving past, but these can be avoided and karma gained in other ways. So far the only situation where speed has been necessary was a story mission where I needed to guard three separate points from attack. NPCs were trying to attach explosives to statues and the player had to run between and defend each statue in turn. If you were unable to quickly and accurately move between these points it would have been very difficult to succeed.
The least accessible part of Far Cry 3 was the driving. Keeping a car or quad on the road at speed was difficult enough but trying to use an off hand pistol to shoot at the same time had the result of wasting ammo and driving off the road. In Far Cry 4 the is a new feature called autodrive. Start driving and activate it and it will continue driving at about the same speed towards whatever check points you have set. This leaves you free to pick off enemies of just get a free ride to where you want to go. The feature works in missions as well as the normal open world and is excellent when you need to get somewhere quickly. The AI is not perfect – it’s crashed the car a couple of times for me and handles roadblocks by hitting them but it is does make one of the games high points – the ability to just get into a car and go much more accessible. This feature does not work with boats or ridden animals like elephants.
There are no QTEs so far in the game although there is some button mashing involved at some points – when you are grabbed by an animal or an NPC you have to mash a specific movement key to get out. This key is different every time and I usually find myself trying to figure out which key to hit for a fraction too long.
Game play and ease of use
Lets get it in here to start off with. Far Cry 4 is quite hard. The game gives you a few options and tools and lets you experiment and see what you can do with them, but it is up to you to make your own tactical decisions. Quite often what you can do with them is kill yourself in interesting ways – who knew honey badgers were so dangerous if you stepped on them! In this it feels very similar to Far Cry 3 but an improved updated Far Cry. It is as if someone who had played hundred and hundreds of hours of Far Cry 3 tried to fix every little pet peeve whilst keeping the spirit of the game the same.
The game is broken down into a few elements. Explore and climb bell towers to expand your map. Take on and take over enemy outposts (and later forts) to control the new territory. Hunt and craft equipment upgrades with the skins that result and finally accept missions from a wide range of characters to develop the storyline and learn about Kyrat and your own past. Which elements you choose to focus on and in which order are up to you.
My impression of Far Cry 4 is of a very well-rounded game which lets the player set their own pace and to some degree choose how challenging they want it to be. A first person shooter game is inherently inaccessible to some because it is a genre that requires quick reactions, precision and some thinking on your feet, but Far Cry 4’s open world attributes and design make it as usable and user friendly as a game in the genre could be. Far Cry 4 is set in a vast open-world that left it up to me to make my own decisions and live by their consequences and its flexibility is one of the things that makes it accessible and fun.
The Far Cry series is a personal favourite and 20 hours in, I feel as if I have barely scratched the surface of its potential. I have only played part of this deeply intricate game and will continue playing my way through and provide more details as I do, but from accessibility point of view, I can definitely recommend it as a generally accessible game across the board.
*Note on the PC version: When I started playing I had some issues with crashing – in one notable instance the game crashed during the cut scene at the end of a mission and the mission had to be redone, but this does seem to have improved significantly since the most recent patch.
The Far Cry 4 accessibility review was based on the PC version of the game.
Product: Far Cry 4 | Developer: Ubisoft | Platform: Windows, PS4, PS3, Xbox One, Xbox 360 | Genre: First-Person Shooter/Open world | Players: 1-4 and many | Version: Europe | Release Date 18 November 2014