Far Cry 4 is one of those open-world games where consequences are few, side tasks are many, and you can mostly just blaze your way through the environment, one headshot at a time. Though the story and some of the various activities can certainly be grim in tone, the game is mostly an easy-going trek through the wilderness. You'll meet a fresh cast of weirdos along the way, kill some of them, and come out the other end with... well, probably with even more side activities left to complete, if you feel like it. The developers have made a few changes around the edges, but it's all very similar to Far Cry 3. If you liked that game and want more of it... this is more of it.
I, as it turns out, really enjoyed Far Cry 3. It sanded off the rough edges of its predecessors and might as well have been some kind of freeform stealth amusement park full of angry guards and douchebag protagonists. For me, the key piece of gameplay in a Far Cry game has always been the outpost takeover. Specifically, the moments before you strike, when you slowly circle the camp, looking for high ground so you can tag enemies and easily track their movements. From there, I either sneak into the camp to disable some alarms and cut some throats, or just sit back with a sniper rifle and take silenced shots while everyone below panics. It's stealth with no stakes--you get a relatively meaningless experience point boost if you can get everyone before they set off an alarm, but if you're spotted, it's just as easy to "go loud" and mow down everyone in your path. Or maybe you're the type to just rush in, guns blazing, right out of the gate. The options are yours. Far Cry 4 has more of these outposts. In fact, it has a level editor that lets you make your own outposts or download them from a server and just take them over, again and again. It's a good time.
Of course, there's more to Far Cry 4 than simply taking over outposts. The story opens with you, as Ajay Ghale, heading to your mother's homeland to deliver her ashes in accordance with her dying wish. What you discover is a war-torn Himalayan nation called Kyrat, ostensibly run by the charismatic and oppressive King Pagan Min but a group of rebels known as the Golden Path hopes to say otherwise. You are inserted into this mix as the son of a freedom fighter, immediately made the face of the rebellion and, despite sounding like you grew up soft in America, you're quite handy with an AK-47. And zip lines. And flying bike-sized helicopters. And hang gliding. And taking out bases full of trained soldiers without them ever seeing you. And using grappling hooks to swing and rappel around some cliffs. And digging bullets out of your left arm to heal. If you're the sort of person who gets hung up on a player character seemingly knowing everything bout the art of war despite having no visible background that would make that likely, you will find plenty to get hung up on in Far Cry 4. At some point you get the impression that the last thing this game's developers want you to do is actually think about what's happening. Because most of it is pretty ridiculous once you do.
There's a set of campaign missions, and you're mostly free to blaze through those in order, if you like. You'll see some decision points in the story that come from the two co-leaders of the Golden Path. At various points you'll have to back one of them over the other, altering the missions you're going on (you'll decide whether you want to burn down poppy fields to stop Min's heroin production or capture them for the Golden Path's benefit, for example), but the differences are actually pretty minimal, and the decisions you make along the way simply build up to a very clear "OK, THIS TIME THE PERSON YOU BACK WILL BECOME THE LEADER FOR THE REST OF THE STORY" roadblock, anyway. Of course, you'll have an easier time with some of that campaign stuff if you perform some side tasks.
What sort of side tasks? Well, taking over the aforementioned outposts gives you more fast travel points around the island. Climbing bell towers to turn off Min's state-run radio broadcasts reveals more of the map. Hunting animals gets you skins that you'll use to craft bigger wallets, ammo bags, holsters that let you carry up to four weapons, and so on. You'll also earn experience points along the way, which turn into ability points, which you spend on things like the ability to reload while running, reduced damage from fire, the ability to takedown heavy enemies with stealth kills, the ability to ride elephants, and so on. In short, it's the same sort of thing you saw in Far Cry 3 with the same sorts of hooks for upgrades and abilities. It took me around 15 hours to get through it, and I left behind plenty of fun side stuff along the way.
There's a five-on-five multiplayer side to Far Cry 4 that feels precisely like the sort of thing that shouldn't be in Far Cry 4. Limiting the scope of the world and boring it down to some simple point control and other objective-type matches isn't why you're here. If you want that kind of shooter, go play Call of Duty. The co-op, however, is a different story. You can bring your character-based progress into someone else's world and take over outposts together. It's a little clunky and undercooked in spots, but it's fun enough to be worth a shot, especially if you have friends who like to communicate. Taking over fortresses and outposts from opposing sides of the camp is quite cool, even if it does make an easy game even easier. Maybe play on hard if you're looking to really dig into the co-op.
All of this is wrapped in the same sort of nice-looking visuals that you saw in the previous game. It's a well-rendered world with a good draw distance and foliage that is as fun to hide in as it is to burn. It runs well on both PS4 and Xbox One. It also runs great on PC, where the higher potential resolution and better image quality really stands out. That's the version to play, if you have a PC that's capable of running it properly.
On one hand, it's tempting to say that you'd be served just as well by going back and playing Far Cry 3 again. Most of what's great about Far Cry 4 is emergent in a way that doesn't need to be attached to a story or locale, so in most of the ways that matter, Far Cry 4 is more of Far Cry 3. But the little additions and co-op play do make meaningful differences, and on its own terms, Far Cry 4 is a great time.