The woodland hills of Kyrat sway in the breeze. The only thing stationary in the Himalayan wilderness is me, crouched, setting up my shot from 100 yards. The Royal Army's road block needs removing, and my initial plan is to see how many troops I can dispatch from distance.
Plan B is a bit louder.
My target turns but stays where he is, his fellow troops are moving with some urgency, making noise as they go, but ignoring them I set up the shot, hold my breath to steady, and.... BAM, a rhino charges through, knocking my target and his car flying.
I lower my scope, bring out my grenade launcher and charge in myself. My first shot takes care of one remaining solider, my second the other, but it also rouses the rhino's attention. Quickly switching weapons I throw a C4 charge at my feet and pelt backwards as the rhino bears down on me.
Right trigger, big explosion, flying, flaming rhino corpse. Job done.
Far Cry 4 casts players as Ajay Ghale, a native of the fictional Himalayan nation of Kyrat but who was brought up in the US. Returning to his homeland to spread his mother's ashes, he soon finds himself embroiled in a bloody civil war between the rebels (formerly led by his deceased father) and Kyrat's flamboyant ruler Pagan Min.
Kyrat's turmoil is rooted in the game world, chaos reigns in a beautiful environment where near-enough everything is trying to kill you. The wildlife is much more aggressive than in Far Cry 3, and enemy troops kill quickly if you make one wrong move.
Far Cry took eight years to fully realise its potential as a series, having started life with Crytek and later becoming the work of Ubisoft Montreal.
Far Cry 3 introduced the wildlife system, hunting, and the idea of planning attacks to take enemy outposts. It was a refreshing and thoroughly enjoyable game, but not one without problems – its story was mishandled, its protagonists utterly insufferable, and its gameplay not varied enough.
The gameplay did provide a great basis to build upon however, and that's what Far Cry 4 does so well, with small improvements rather than major changes. There's more to do, traversal is easier and lengthy journeys are less of a chore. Outposts are more varied now as well, with four massive strongholds taking the concept into challenging territory and designed to tempt players toward the new co-op mode.
Co-op makes sense for the series, but is sadly limited here. Another player can be brought in at any time but they can't partake in core story missions, so they'll be limited to wreaking havoc at your side or helping to liberate outposts and strongholds.
In terms of story, Far Cry 4 is a huge improvement, but still nothing special. Pagan Min, despite his gaudy appearance and social media-bathed persona, is a decent villain only given depth by the game's multiple (clever) endings. He's never a patch on Far Cry 3's cover star Vaas.
Ajay Ghale is a standard protagonist, which is an instant improvement over the last game's omega dudebro douchebag, but he's not engaging or remotely special. His ties to the country removes most of the "great white saviour" that hamstrung Far Cry 3, but there's just enough acknowledgement of his US upbringing to ensure that's still a small problem.
The best character is easily Amita, a fellow rebel with murky ideas about the future of Kyrat. Her ideological battle with fellow rebel leader Sabal opens up some interesting dilemmas, but they aren't brought to any real meaningful or consequential resolution.
Far Cry 4 isn't really a game about the journey though, it's about getting lost in the world, losing track of time and doing what you want. Kyrat is a beautiful, bizarre, volatile place – the quintessential video game open world.
In other games this can make main storyline missions seem like a chore, but memorable set pieces break up the swathes of open world freedom well and will carry you through to the story's end despite few reasons to care where it's going.
The joy of Far Cry 4 is in the wild, where a tiger could maul you at any time and eagles will try to claw your eyes out on a regular basis. Survival means fighting back, getting stuck into the royal rumble of bullets, teeth and claws - and it's a blast to do.
Kyrat is far from a realistic environment - it's Ian Malcom's dream and PETA's nightmare - but it makes for a wonderfully barmy setting to some of the best fun you'll have in a video game this year.