The best part of Far Cry 3 was the game's massive tropical setting and the sense of total freedom. The snow-capped mountainous landscape of Kyrat delivers the same thrill, but also layers it on top of a treacherous terrain filled with dizzying cliffs and unpredictable topography.
I've never been so pleased to see a game take after its predecessor this much, and in the case of Far Cry 4 it's a welcome return to form -- and then some.
Set deep in the Himalayas, Far Cry 4 is a first-person shooter that challenges players to confront steep inclines, avalanches and new predatorial adversaries like wolves, wild hippos and killer hawks. Some animals can also be used to your advantage -- not just in fashioning equipment but also in baiting other animals that sit higher on the food chain. If you throw bait towards a group of enemies, a ferocious beast, say a grizzly bear, will come out from hiding to eat and likely take care of a pack of baddies in the process. Far Cry 4 also introduces the ability to ride elephants and use them in combat. Take it from me, you will not tire of trampling the bad guys.
Far Cry 4 gives players access to a number of new-to-the-series items, most notably the grappling hook. It immediately becomes an invaluable asset, although it can only be used when a specific icon flashes.
As we learned in 2012's Far Cry 3, Ubisoft Montreal has a special talent in the crafting and introduction of a maniacal villain -- an antagonist who essentially drives the core campaign. In Far Cry 3, Vaas stole the show and in Far Cry 4 the psychotic, mad-with-power Pagan Min fills the same role. His debut is a jarring reveal, but it comes off slightly stale: we've been down this road before.
While Min is a moderately compelling arch-nemesis, the player's identity is more of a disappointment. You take on the role of Ajay Ghale, a faceless and oddly passive hero who travels to Kyrat to fulfil his mother's dying wish: to have her ashes spread in the war-torn locale, her homeland.
Ajay seems to jump into the madness of aiding a revolution all too easily, even if it's to unravel the mysterious narrative that's been spun about his parents' history in Kyrat.
Check out more Far Cry 4 coverage at GameSpot
The star of the game, though, is undoubtedly its environment. Kyrat is the most awe-inspiring location the series has ever offered. Standing at the edge of a cliff will force you to pause to take it all in -- anything you can see can likely be visited. Players experiencing Far Cry 4 on new-generation consoles and PC will obviously be afforded the best visuals, which really shimmer around waterfalls and streams.