There’s more than one way to skin a rhino in Far Cry 4. But why use a knife when you can use high-explosives?
“If someone wants to play the game without killing animals you can do that. It’s about defending yourself. Leopards are cute, but if you’re facing one in the jungle it might want to bite your face off.”
Karma and chaos define Far Cry. You might think you’re a smart ass for torching an enemy encampment, but when the wind changes and blows the flames back at you, you’ve only got yourself to blame.
But now Far Cry also comes with a dose of common sense.
The early parts of Far Cry 3 had you hunting and killing animals, then using the skins to create ammo pouches and rucksacks to carry more and more gear. That’s not changed in Far Cry 4, but the way in which you kill will make a big difference.
The hand grenade isn’t a very subtle weapon. If you’re feeling gung-ho and decide to toss one at a charging rhino, it will blow the beast into tiny pieces making the kill worthless from a crafting perspective.
“A new subtlety we’ve added to Far Cry 4 is the way you kill animals gives you different amounts of skin,” Vincent Ouellette, senior level designer at Ubisoft Montreal, tells VG247.
“A clean kill with an arrow will keep the pelt intact. If you blow it up with a rocket launcher there won’t be much to scavenge.”
It’s one of the changes that the development team hopes will help distinguish Far Cry 4 from the last entry in the game. Because if there’s a criticism of Far Cry 4 pre-release, it’s that it looks like and plays like Far Cry 3.
I’ve only played the same open mission that Ubisoft has been demoing since E3. If you’ve paid any attention to the game you’ll be familiar with it – an outpost needs capturing and there are three distinctive approaches; All guns-blazing, stealth, or via mini copter.
It’s a great advert for the game but it does feel like a shinier, more detailed version of Far Cry 3. I don’t see that being a massive problem for those excited about exploring the fictional Himalayan region of Kyrat. What I find interesting this time around is that Far Cry 4 seems like a genuine continuation of what Far Cry 3 was, whereas the very first title and Far Cry 2 felt like completely different games in all but name.
“There are some pillars that have been there since the original Far Cry,” insists Ouellette. “The freedom and the exotic feeling. But we didn’t want to do another Far Cry with the same characters.
“A big part of it is the feeling that you’re in a remote place and you don’t know anything about it. You have to discover it and survive. For that it made sense to go to a different location and start with new characters. That’s how we keep it fresh. The gameplay mechanics, the feeling and the core of the game is still built on the foundation of Far Cry 3 and everything that worked well.”
Some of those mechanics are being expanded and refined, such as the crafting system, but it can also be seen in other familiar features. In Far Cry 3 it was possible to wound an animal or shoot its cage from a distance to send it into a frenzy, killing nearby soldiers. The natural extension of that in Far Cry 4 is to use a baiting system. But again, chaos and karma are never far away.
“The gameplay mechanics, the feeling and the core of the game is still built on the foundation of Far Cry 3 and everything that worked well.”
“We have new, bigger animals including the elephant, the rhino and the honeybadger, “offers Ouellette. “There are new ways to control them, you can throw bait, a piece of meat, and that will attract predators from nearby. In Far Cry 3 we had animals in cages, where you shot the lock or shot them and they would go wild. Now you can pretty much do that anywhere in the world – throw the bait and the nearest predator in the area is going to be attracted to it.”
The chaos that unfolds from throwing bait, or shooting locks, or torching long grass when the wind is behind you, is part of the gamble. You don’t really know if it’s going to work to your advantage. Sometimes a raging beast will tear apart an outpost and maul all the soldiers on patrol. Sometimes, you just end up with a big ol’ bear all up in your grill.
“It’s all about creating systems that interact with each other,” says Ouellette of these dynamic situations. “We try not to control and try not to force what happens, but embrace the fact that anything can happen and make sure all the systems can interact and escalate.”
“We have that chaos where you’re quietly hunting and then enemies turn up and the fire starts. Then the animals charge through it catching on fire, ruining the pelt, spreading flames…”
Ouellette refers to the chaos as an “anecdote factory” and it’s something that should come into its own as you play the game in co-op. Where Far Cry 3 had a mini four-player campaign separate from the rest of the game, Far Cry 4 allows for two players to explore the entire region of Kyrat together.
“The anecdote factory – the background chaos of the open world – is just multiplied when you have a friend you can buzz in,” he says.
“We tried it with more players but when you go over two it’s hard to do stealth and let the player choose their own path. It can become too chaotic and you lose something. We did testing and we felt two players was the good spot. We’re not like an MMORPG where you have a boss fight who’s a bullet sponge. It’s more about being with a buddy and experiencing the exploration together.”
Far Cry 4’s co-op is generous. The second player doesn’t even need to own the game to be called in to help out, but it doesn’t allow for two-players to run through the story campaign together, according to Ouellette.
“With Far Cry 4 we have a really strong cast of characters. A very tightly knit story that’s quite intense. So we didn’t want your friends in the background when we’re playing a cinematic. We want players to be able to experience that by themselves,” he says.
“There’s retaliations where you will need to go back and defend your outposts. So you’re not just taking over outposts you’re also defending them.”
Another criticism of Far Cry 3 – and Ubisoft’s games that include Watch Dogs and Assassin’s Creed – is that they feature similar mechanics that become over-familiar. In particular in open-world games, the rote mechanic of capturing a base, which then opens up the map, including side and story missions. Rinse and repeat until the whole world is wide open.
That’s going to be the case in Far Cry 4 too, so don’t expect big changes. But Ouellette insists that as well as capturing you’ll be forced to defend any outposts you capture as enemies retaliate over time. And you’ll also be thrown into random events happening outside of your control.
“We have fortresses now. Pagan Min, the villain, has his assistants with him. Each of them has one of the four big fortresses,” details Ouellette. “It will be super-hard to takeover a very well defended location with high walls. If you progress through the mission and weaken the outposts around the fortress it should become weaker. But while you haven’t captured it, other outposts in the area can get retaken by other enemies. There’s retaliations where you will need to go back and defend your outposts. So you’re not just taking over outposts you’re also defending them.”
“And we also have karma events,” he adds. “Randomly spawned events that happen for you to intervene. You can fight alongside rebels, rescue hostages that are about to be executed – this is all happening as you’re moving around the open world.
“We have an encounter system that keeps the world busy, spawning events, these are not static, they occur anywhere in the world. Everyone who plays through the maps will have a different experience.”
So Far Cry 4 doesn’t just seem to be the game where you explore and conquer the map. It’s going to put up a fight and retaliate where possible. Kyrat isn’t just a passive mountain range, it’s going to push back. Ubisoft Montreal hopes to make this game feel alive more so than Far Cry 3, and give the player more freedom and choice, whether that’s in character loadout, approach to problems or dealing with the chaos that unfolds alongside you.
“These are all choices,” concludes Ouellette. “If someone wants to play the game without killing animals or crafting stuff you can do that. It’ll be a bit harder but it’s possible. But it’s about defending yourself as well.
“Leopards are cute, but if you’re facing one in the jungle it might want to bite your face off.”
Far Cry 4 is released on PS4, PS3, PC, Xbox One and Xbox 360 on November 18.