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    Far Cry 4: Staring into the eye

    You may have followed Nathan Drake here once upon a time, but the Shangri-La of Ubisoft’s Himalayan excursion is like nothing you’ve seen before. Ajay Ghale, the Kyrat native protagonist of this first-person open-worlder, discards his gadgetry and contemporary weaponry whenever he meditates over one of five traditional weavings (known as Thangkas) found throughout the world of Far Cry 4. The frigid bright skies and the dipping valleys vanish as we’re whisked into the skin of an ancient warrior, Kalinag.

    A golden hue soaks this bizarre new landscape as trees shed blood-red leaves which float ethereally through the air. A great white tiger, bedecked with a ludicrous golden crown, stalks through the sward beside us. You could pause at any moment during these Shangri-La sequences and end up with a screen full of artistry akin to a Zhang Yimou movie or some alluring, alien world splashed onto canvas.

    To progress we need to ring the Bell Of Enlightenment, which is perched somewhere beyond a series of sky islands. En route, masked bowmen, nearly naked from the face down, patrol with skin and bone dogs bounding at their sides. The occasional flame-throwing Scorcher shows up for some en flambé action as well. When things get hairy, we call upon our adorned tiger friend to lend a paw,
    commanding him to rip out the throats of stunned foes, or to distract the arrow sponge Scorchers while we sneak past.

    As good as this all looks, once you get down to business there’s something dirty about Shangri-La. The fiends you fight here have clearly been up to no good, the remnants of sacrificial rituals are scattered all over. Fighting these foes involves getting close and personal as our knife explodes through the bare flesh of unsuspecting victims with sickening squelches. We're told that experiences in Far Cry 4’s Shangri-La will inform the story at large throughout the main game. If that’s the case, expect Ghale's excursions to take us to some pretty dark places.

    Speaking of which, our final hands on before next month’s review isn’t all set in this otherworldly locale. We also get to tackle one of the returning mission types from Far Cry 3: a knife assassination. After wingsuiting our way across a cloud-filled chasm, we’re clambering up into a base riddled with guards and told the chap right at the back needs a good skewering.
    We’re able to take several stabs at this mission (ahem) and so give a few different approaches a go. Our über-stealth attempt goes satisfyingly swimmingly. We use our old pal the digital camera to mark enemies, which is especially important in the middle of a raging snow storm that whites out much of area. We time our breaks from cover perfectly and take down our target fairly sharpish. /cough/

    During our second play through we rocket though the base with guns blazing. Weapons have a wonderful habit of running out of ammo really quickly, so there’s always a sense that you have to make each shot count. There’s no such thing as spray and pray, it seems, as you want only charge into the corpses of recently killed guards in order to grab their just dropped guns for ready to go use.

    The third attempt… well, we try to speed-run the base, only to unexpectedly run into a snow leopard. We’re forced to take the beast down as it leaps at our facemeat, only to alert a gaggle of nearby guards. Cue a seven minute long escalation of chaos, which admittedly culminates in our death, that leaves us gasping.

    Far Cry 3 told a hundred stories every time you picked up the pad. Before release this sequel has already gifted us dozens more, only now they're tinged with more mystery and breadth than we ever dared hope.

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