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Every calendar year there are about three or four video games that I feel are worthy of the title of Game of the Year. It’s lucky, then, that about two dozen games per year decide to crown themselves with that very same title.
Last year, for me, one of those games as Far Cry 3. On the surface it probably didn’t look much different from your average first-person shooter – at least to someone uninitiated in the world of video games. But when you took a closer look, it became something entirely different.
I was probably among those select few gamers who genuinely loved Far Cry 2 when it came out back in 2008. Sure, the game was flawed – deeply flawed, depending on how you look at it – but it still represented a bold step forward for Ubisoft – a company that loves to take risks.
What impressed me the most about Far Cry 2 was how effortlessly it incorporated literary inspirations (Heart of Darkness, anyone?), social commentary (remember how much trouble your character hadprocuring Ebola medication in that anonymous, war-torn, Central African country?) and, of course, a hell of a lot of bullets.
The shooting mechanics unquestionably took a backseat to the game’s rich story and thick atmosphere – a flaw that Far Cry 3 addressed with style, grace, and ingenuity.
In Far Cry 3, you play a completely different character: a young party boy who’s thrown into impossible circumstances and asked to rise to the occasion. Your journey as a player brilliantly mirrors Jason Brody’s journey as a character. As you grow more confident with the game’s surprisingly deep combat and tactical systems, so too does Jason.
And it doesn’t hurt that the game’s finale is completely unforgettable. Both of them.
So where does that leave us with Far Cry 4? To be perfectly honest, I’ve been trying to stay away from the majority of the trailers and gameplay videos that have been released. Part of the joy of playing the previous games in the series was in discovering what they had to offer as you went. The less you knew about your character, their situation, and the world around them, the better off you were as a player – the more you had to discover. All I really know is that players will be exploring the Himalayan country of Kyrat and playing cat and mouse with a self-styled “king” named Pagan Min.
But Far Cry 4 has seriously impressed me so far, even with the relative lack of information I actually have on it. What I do know is that it seems to want to combine the very best attributes of both the second and third games in the series; it wants to build on Ubisoft’s trend of creating beautiful, dangerous, and fully-realized worlds. It wants to court controversy with subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) deconstructions of race relations.
And, of course, I anticipate even further refinements to the Far Cry combat engine; the third game walked a nearly perfect balance between stealth game and all-out bullet marathon, and I’m sure Far Cry 4 will take that to its logical conclusion.
But, as usually happens with an Ubisoft game, the real reason I’m excited about Far Cry 4 is, as I mentioned above, the story and the atmosphere. This is a franchise steeped in brilliant world-building and unapologetic storytelling. I can’t wait to see what Ubisoft does next with a completely blank canvas.
Far Cry 4 will be released in the US on November 18th. You can pre-order it here.
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