Sometimes, games that appear at PAX look familiar. Sometimes, you get that odd feeling that you’ve seen and even played them before. And every so often, the icy grip of deja vu winds its way around your subconscious, gripping it tightly without relent until you seize and collapse to the floor. Okay, that last part didn’t happen, but I did play Far Cry 4’s show-floor demo back at E3. Luckily, it has three different variations, and I was able to try the remaining two that I missed the first time around.
While E3 had me storming an enemy fort by way of bareback elephant ride, my PAX experience was a bit more conventional and a lot more challenging. I had decided on taking the sniper route, but at the last minute an Ubisoft rep sidled over and proposed an idea. “Hey… you looking for a challenge? Try the helicopter.” Unsure if I’d hallucinated the entire exchange, I tightened my grip on the Xbox One’s controller and did as I was told.
To call the vehicle in a question a helicopter is a bit generous; it more resembled a go-kart with a propeller and some shoddy air controls strapped to it (it’s technically known as a “Buzzer”). Equipped with a grenade launcher and a small automatic weapon, I hopped the flying donkey and rode to town. The Ubisoft representative wasn’t kidding — I truly was in for a challenge.
Flying high above Far Cry 4’s landscape gave me a chance to admire the game’s scenery, and I must admit that while I was impressed by the expanse and detail of the landscape from my flying seat in the sky, up-close encounters bored me just as often. It’s not that Far Cry 4 doesn’t look nice, but the upgrade from Far Cry 3 is, to me, modest. Graphically speaking anyway. I understand that the game needs to be kept in check for PS3 and Xbox 360, but even so — the controller in my hand was of the Xbox One variety. Additionally, I spotted a mouse cursor flickering on the screen at one point, indicating the demo actually ran on a cleverly concealed PC. The PC version sporting graphics that are merely “meh?” Not cool, man.
Enough about that though; there’s still time before November 18th, and it’s never too late for last-minute polish. What I want to talk about is how brutally tough this air infiltration actually was. Things would start out okay, with me dropping grenades quickly and quietly from the sky onto unsuspecting foot soldiers with nary an issue (well, except for them). The problem was, soon after my initial attack the snipers would come out. Lasers aimed at my airborne contraption, I was repeatedly sent spiraling to earth in a blaze of flesh and scrap metal. I’m pretty sure I nearly reached reached my goal once or twice, but I always fell short.
Gameplay during this section was largely what you’d expect. Shooting and aiming feels as it ought to, and is essentially identical to Far Cry 3. Piloting my flying vehicle was a different beast entirely, though. It was admittedly difficult, but in a clearly deliberate way. Despite the difficulty of the mission, piloting was incredibly fun, with loose but reasonable controls and a sort of fluidity that had me chuckling the entire time as I struggled. It’s only a miniscule slice of what the final game will offer, but for what it was I enjoyed myself.
Defeated, I reset the demo and tried my hand at the sniper route. Here I found far more success. Scaling a rock face near to the demo’s spawn point (via a series of no doubt ridiculous-looking hops), I was able to crouch in the shadows and pick off the camp’s inhabitants one by one. A group of birds squawked and took flight loudly as the last shot fired, and a pack of wild deer ran across my field of view just outside the camp’s walls. As always, Far Cry is about an open world filled with wildlife, and I look forward to exploring that world in a future hands-on (or when the game is actually released).
We know what we know about Far Cry 4, and only with time will further story and world details be released. For now, just know that given the choice, flying-gokart-machine is an incredibly fun but largely ineffective way of taking down a group of foes when outnumbered. You’ll definitely have a blast. But you’ll more than likely die.