It’s impossible to deny that Ubisoft’s fourth Far Cry title is a great game. In fact, I’d probably even have the audacity to brand it one of the most addicting games I’ve played this year.
Kyrat, the fictional, war-torn region that encapsulates Ubisoft’s action adventure hit— think of it as the Himalayas on cocaine – is worth the price of admission alone.
Lush, dense forests; wildlife, both beautiful and dangerous; ancient temples, colossal mountains, and sweeping, jaw-dropping vistas meld together to create an intoxicating jungle of sounds, sights, and vivacious gunplay. Seriously, I can’t remember the last time I encountered a world this absorbing. It’s irresistible.
Unfortunately though, it’s impossible to praise Far Cry 4’s ambitious open world without highlighting some of the title’s frustratingly avoidable flaws.
A beautiful lie
Indeed, once you look past Kyrat in all its monumental glory, you might, for one fleeting moment of pure unadulterated terror, realise that Far Cry 4 doesn’t really have much going for it.
Story missions leave a lot to be desired, uniting forgettable, by-the-books characters with quests that rarely deviate from the tried and tested shooter formula. Even the game’s most unique denizen, colourful ruler Pagan Min – voiced by the omnipresent Troy Baker – simply feels like a rehash of Far Cry 3’s resident madman,Vaas Montenegro.
More unforgivable than that though, is the lack of imagination elsewhere.
You see, I’m used to shooters dropping the ball when it comes to story and character development, but what I cannot forgive is the missed opportunity that is Far Cry 4’s painfully anonymous soundtrack.
Composed by Cliff Martinez, the man who masterminded the scores for Drive, Only God Forgives, and Solaris – the 2002 remake, not Andrei Tarkovsky’s 70’s classic – Far Cry 4’s lacklustre soundtrack is smothered by the game’s more attention grabbing assets.
As a fan of Martinez’s previous work I take no great pleasure in calling the composer out. The evidence – my own unassuming numbness – however, is hard to ignore, and as I spent more time with the game I became increasingly aware that Martinez’s score had misfired. It became a hapless bystander content to lurk in the shadows, refusing to grab Ubisoft’s shooter by the scruff of the neck and bombard our ears with the title-defining brilliance we’ve come to expect.
Perhaps though, I’m being unfair. After all, Martinez’s score isn’t exactly a bad effort. In fact, it’s quite serviceable, and I hesitate to shove line after line of snarky criticism down your throat for fear of convincing you that the OST is a train-wreck from start to finish.
The fact of the matter though, is this: while the soundtrack isn’t awful, it simply isn’t all that memorable. Sure, it does its job in filling players’ ears with background noise as they liberate Kyrat using explosive democracy, but, like an orphan confined to the Victorian workhouse, it will be forgotten as soon as controllers are laid to rest.
That’s a bitter pill to swallow as Martinez’s work really does shine at times, with the climactic, pulsating beats of Blood of Faith and Painted in Blood along with the brooding, mystical tones of Royal Reception, The Moon’s Light, and The Whisper of My Blade all showing what could have been if the score had been given more room to breathe.
Unfortunately though, that wasn’t to be, and Far Cry 4’s score will remain a diamond in the rough: a soundtrack with the potential to dazzle, but one that’s suffocated by the weight of expectation and Kyrat’s impossible allure. It won’t go down in history, but you won’t care. You’ll be too busy hunting honey badgers.
This review is based on a copy of Far Cry 4 provided by Ubisoft.