In Far Cry 4, you’ll take a trip to the beautiful country of Kyrat as Ajay Ghale, the son of a woman who formed a rebel force known as the Golden Path. Of course, this is all unbeknownst to you until your trip is cut short thanks to Kyrat’s resident dictator, a stylish dude with an undercut known as Pagan Min. If he could be described in two words, those words would be “cray-cray.” What ensues is an overwhelming adventure full of violence, warring factions, exploration and the craziest badgers you’ll ever see.

Though I’ve never played any of the previous Far Cry games, I’ve always had a healthy respect for their engaging characters, free-roaming gameplay and crazy first-person shooting mechanics. I was pretty excited to dive into the experience and found that I was not disappointed, though I was completely overwhelmed with the wealth of activities available and the depth of the customization options.

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After a sequence in which you’re introduced to some of the major players in the game and the struggle between the Golden Path and Pagan Min’s regime, you’re given control of the young Ajay in a bid to help him and the rebels liberate the country from Min’s crazed clutches. Of course, it’s not simply a story of good versus evil, as the Golden Path itself is revealed to have a fork in the road. The rebels are split between two ideologies concerning the future of Kyrat; there are the traditionalists who want to go back to the old ways and those who want the country to adopt a more progressive stance. Guess who’s stuck in the middle?

When you’re not settling political squabbles, you’re set loose in the world to wreak havoc on Pagan Min’s forces, freeing up more of Kyrat from his grasp. One of the keys to accomplishing this task is opening up Bell Towers, which act like Far Cry 3’s radio antennas, and unlock more of the map, which in turn gives you access to more missions that advance the story. If you so choose, you could hang around and take on various activities or even just go hunting, since tackling the wildlife in the game feels like a whole separate experience. You can hunt and skin animals, whose parts can then be used as bait for predators and bigger game. This can prove to be a boon when trying to eliminate the Royal Army’s forces, as you can toss bait into a group of enemies and watch as they’re mauled by cougars, wolves and bears (oh my)!

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This tactic is especially useful when taking over outposts, as some of them contain caged beasts that can be unleashed in order to run amok and help take out opposing forces. This means that you might have to take out a few of them yourself as a result, but it’s nice to have the help. Your most valuable weapon in situations like this, and for pretty much any instance in which you need to be hyperaware of your surroundings in the game, is your camera. This tool can be used to scout out areas and mark enemies so that you’ll always know where they are, even if they disappear behind cover. From there, you can plan your attack, whether it be a stealthy approach or the guns-blazing kind.

To help facilitate your playstyle, Far Cry 4 offers two skill trees that split the focus of your gameplay: the Tiger and the Elephant. The former focuses on stealth while the latter gives boosts to your strength and endurance. The skills you choose affect everything from how much health you have, the amount of health that is restored by syringes, takedown skills that are available to you and how effective you are in battle.

As you progress, you’ll gain access to more weapons and more upgrades for those weapons. Some of these can be picked up from enemies you encounter in the field, as the merchants are oft to remind you. Of course, you can spend money to acquire these weapons quicker so you can dispatch enemies with more efficiency. Or, if you’re feeling in a rather destructive mood and don’t care what the PETA people think, you can also use your heavy munitions to hunt down Kyrat’s wildlife. You’re able to use bows and arrows to cleanly kill animals and get better materials from them, which sell for more money or are used for crafting purpose. Or you can use C4 charges to kill rhinos and go fishing, if you happen to be just as mad as Pagan Min himself and don’t care about the quality of the materials you gather. The beautiful thing is that Far Cry 4 gives you the choice and the ability to accomplish tasks however you wish.

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Should you stray from the game’s many missions, you’ll find a variety of activities on the map and even some organic events that occur randomly, like impromptu fights between the Golden Path and the Royal Army. You gain karma from helping out the rebels and it’s kind of nice to see them recklessly waste bullets by firing celebratory shots into the air when you’ve dispatched all of the enemies.

If you get tired of the single-player (you won’t), you can jump into the multiplayer suite to play through tried-and-true MP modes that have you defending objectives, participating in deathmatches and a kind of capture-the-flag mode featuring a demon mask that empowers its bearer. These modes are pretty standard fare and are nothing too mindblowing, but do provide a good enough distraction if you need a break from the campaign. There’s also co-op available if you’d like to buddy up. One perk of the PlayStation 4 version is that you’re able to invite your friends to play for a limited time even if they don’t own a copy of the game, so… you know, sharing is caring.

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You’ll find a lot to love in Far Cry 4 if you’re willing to sink a lot of time into exploring every corner of Kyrat and take advantage of all the systems built into the experience. The story is gripping, as are the characters that populate the struggle. If you’re not a fan of violence, then you’ll probably have to turn this game away, because saying it’s violent is an understatement. The easily-squeamish should probably avoid it since there is a lot of brutality to both man and beast in Far Cry 4. Still, you could do far worse than to plan an extended stay in Kyrat.

This review is based on a purchased retail copy of Far Cry 4 for the PlayStation 4.

9.0 out of 10 arcade sushi rating