As robustly built as Far Cry 4's open-world and shooter elements are, the same can't exactly be said for its main story. You'll need to engage in a huge suspension of disbelief in order to accept Ajay's unconditional acceptance of The Golden Path's cause (instead of getting the hell out of Kyrat as quickly as possible). You'll also have to contend with a lack of historical and cultural context for your or other character's actions. Many people you'll encounter will talk about how great Mohan, Ajay's father, was as the founder of The Golden Path, but no one really sits down and explains why - and unless you hunt around for parts of his journal, you won't easily get the full picture of his relationship with your mother and Pagan Min. There's also a lot of talk about how Pagan Min and his North Korean-levels of propaganda are trying to subvert and destroy the Kyrati people's culture, but you're not given many opportunities to learn more about it. Even a mission where you go to a temple and get a brief crash course in some of the region's religious ceremonies is cut short by a gunfight with Pagan's army. I understand that the spectacle of intense gunfights and car chases is the main appeal of a Far Cry game, but in this case it'd be nice to know more about why I'm spinning prayer wheels and what's the significance of the stone statues I'm trying to save from demolition teams.
The various characters you'll meet will help offset some of the muddled elements of the story with several having more depth to their persona once you look at them more closely. The main antagonist, Pagan Min, at first acts like he's little more than a Saturday-morning-cartoon-style villain who does evil "just because," while taunting you via your radio from time to time. But as the story progresses, he'll have a few poignant moments where he will openly express regrets at not giving up rule of Kyrat to instead live a simpler life with your mother in America, making him seem a little more human than a stereotypical evil-doer. Many of the secondary characters you meet also seem like exaggerated archetypes at first, like Longinus, the priest/gun smuggler or Noore, one of Pagan's underlings. As the game progresses you'll learn they actually have some greater, sometimes tragic motivations guiding their behavior that add another layer to their personas. Unfortunately, this doesn't apply to all the denizens of Kyrat - As great as the voice acting and animations of the characters are, you'll come to hate dealing with the likes of the fast talking radio DJ Rabi Ray Rana and his unfunny pop culture-filled ramblings, or the annoying stoners Yogi and Reggie.
In addition, there are opportunities to guide the story through the Golden Path missions that involve Amita and Sabal, the rebel group's leaders. Both are often at odds as to what direction to take in freeing Kyrat, and leave it up to you to be the deciding factor. While an interesting concept, in practice this unfortunately falls into a familiar trap of being a binary "A or B" choice that feels off-putting in a game that gives you so much control over nearly everything else. One mission, for example, is centered on a factory that is being used to manufacture drugs that help fund Pagan Min's empire. Sabal wants the drug factory demolished, where Amita wants the factory secured with the intent of refurbishing it later and selling the drugs to fund clinics and schools. Both leaders have good points, but you're not given the choice of finding a good middle ground between their two respective goals. Most Golden Path missions seem to follow this structure; you pick a side, complete the mission, and then later get berated by the other leader over your decision. It's mildly aggravating that Ajay, as an impartial third party, can't seem to help both parties to reach a compromise. It also doesn't help that both leaders become increasingly extreme in their actions, and you can really start to hate working for either of them.
Bottom Line: Mechanically, Far Cry 4 is an excellent shooter. It adds further polish to the open-world and action of its predecessor with even more involved and dynamic gameplay, and is loaded with rewarding side content on top of featuring a huge game world you'll spend hours exploring. The narrative isn't quite as solid, and falls through in several places with some aggravating characters and a lack of context to drive your actions.
Recommendation: If you're a fan of action games and don't care if it has a good story or not, Far Cry 4 will be a welcome addition to your gaming library.
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