Far Cry 4: User Experience Review

This user experience review for Far Cry 4 was based on the first two hours of gameplay from the Playstation 4 version of the game. Though initially based on the first hour of gameplay the session was extended by an hour due to the games long-introduction before allowing the player to roam the world and experience the games systems freely. Before playing Far Cry 4 I have had experience with a number of similar titles including Watch Dogs, Far Cry 3 and Grand Theft Auto, which share a number of mechanics and features in relation to open world navigation, their user interface and gameplay systems. This user experience review highlights both positive and negative areas of the games design (labelled highlights and issues respectively) and how these affect the user experience. Each issue is categorised by severity (high, medium, low) in relation to their potential impact on the user experience and viewed objectively and in relation to game and user experience design theory. Potential resolutions to each issue are provided with a mind to provide actionable feedback to the developer.

Within this particular expert review issues have been split into three core categories in accordance with the games structure, Controls and Options, Interface, Gameplay and Bugs and Glitches. Controls and options regards the games options menu and it’s functionality, the options presented for adjusting the controls and how well these options function. Interface regards the games HUD items, including on-screen mini-map, navigational cues, and on-screen contextual prompts, and Gameplay, regards the moment to moment gameplay, the players control of the character and their ability to perform as expect. Issues regarding the games tutorials are also raised in the gameplay section.

Controls and Options

Highlight: Interface Options
The game features a myriad of options for customisation of the display interface, including the removal many core aspects of navigation and gameplay such as the ammunition counter and mini-map. While for many, removing these display items would make for an inconvenient experience, others will likely appreciate the arguably enhanced immersion that can stem from a HUD free or HUD minimal experience and the ability to customise these items is a great asset in allowing players to retain the interface features that they view as essential for their own experience.

interface 

Highlight: Menu responsiveness and ease of use
The menu’s in Far Cry 4 are immediately responsive, enabling you to switch tabs quickly and move between items you want to select at a lightening pace. The menus provide very clear visual feedback in relation to what is currently selected, and categorise everything consistently, making whatever option or feature the player seeks, quite easy to find. Sub-menu’s like the skill window and crafting window are simplistic and easy to use, functions like crafting (traditionally quite complex in video games) are performed with a single button press, and completed recipes are highlighted for the player.

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Low priority issue: Control Options
The game allows you to toggle various control presets however there are no options for controller remapping, the game also lacks any option beyond sensitivity for the analogue stick. Horizontal and vertical sensitivity can’t be adjusted independently, the player can’t change the deadzone or linearity of the acceleration. These aren’t game breaking issues as the default control set is very controllable and will be quite familiar to those who have played popular shooters like Call of Duty or Destiny, however for players that have preferences that often differ from the default layout it would be nice if they could customise the controls to achieve something familiar. A set of options for remapping, and more indepth options regarding the movement of the analogue stick would be the clear resolution to this issue.

User Interface

Highlight: HUD usability
Speaking broadly, the interface functions well, the ammunition, health and directional gunfire system is easy to understand and will be familiar to many of other mainstream first person shooters. Navigational cues placed into the HUD are easy to follow to the destination. For some the rather large quantity of information presented on the HUD may be seen to spoil some of the games immersive qualities, while others may appreciate exploration without so many prompts, however fortunately the games interface options happily facilitate a range of experiences, achievable by adjusting the information conveyed to the player via the heads up display.

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Highlight: Availability of information and tutorialing
Tutorials are presented with 3 step splash screens that interupt gameplay. While the interuption can seem a little abrupt, breaking the flow of early gameplay segments, the manner in which tutorials are broken down into steps with clear instructions for each is very good at conveying details of the games systems to the player. Additionally, tutorial information is all stored and readily available from the games menu for easy access this is good and allows the player to quickly recap on anything they may have missed.

tutorial

 

Medium priority issue: Inconsistent prompting
Before being able to interact with an object with square you need to move yourself within range of the item to interact. Despite this, in a number of instances I found myself incredibly close to items that were interactable, yet the prompt not being displayed. It appears this may be because the actual area the prompt is cued is smaller than the model you’re interacting with. For instance, despite being as close to a bed as possible, if you are at the bottom corner of a bed you cannot interact with it despite being pressed up against the glowing bed that’s making an effort to indicate that you should be able to interact with it. The same is true for chests and other items, as I needed to move around and find the sweet spot, where the prompt to interact would occur, despite other angles seeming fine also. Making this mechanism more consistent would benefit these interactions and could be achieved by allowing the player to trigger the interaction from anywhere on the object.

Another example of a related issue regards the games grappling system, as I noticed while grappling the game would display prompts for other grapple points that seemingly could not be transitioned to. This highlights two issues, one where prompts aren’t being presented when the player appears to be in interaction range, and another where prompts are presented when the action is not actually available to the player. Together they compose an interaction and prompting system that is not consistent, which the player may be liable to find confusing. The screen shot below demonstrates one of these issues, here, I am too far away to interact with the chest.

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Low priority issue: Overlapped prompts
You can pick up weapons with square, but you also search bodies with square, weapons and bodies tend to drop in the a nearby location, so these prompts overlap. This can occasionally make make it difficult to get the correct prompt when they are directly overlayed. A resolution to this issue would place either function onto another button, preferably move body, and it seems less frequently used. While this is a limitation, fortunately you can almost always get the correct prompt by moving around the items a little, so it does not negatively affect gameplay, most of the time.

Low priority issue: mini-map and world map icon quality
The resolution of the icons presented on both the mini-map and world map is of noticeably low quality when compared to other games, or elements of the games own interface. The low resolution gray icons are also somewhat difficult to discriminate from one another at a reasonable distance from the screen, some like the paragliding icon don’t really look like anything in particular until you become familiar with what the icon means. While resolving these issues is non-essential – as these gray icons are not of crucial gameplay significance -increasing the resolution of these icons would seem a simple fix to this issue. Existing colour coding of many of the icons is good, and helps the player identify what the icon relates to, even if the resolution of those icons isn’t ideal.

worldmap 

Gameplay

Highlight: Weapon feedback on Humans and Vehicles
Far Cry 4 features a vast array of different weapons and each of which provide appropriate, destructive feedback on enemies struck. Everything from fully automatic machine guns to bows and explosives have an appropriate and expected impact on their environment, including reactive animations for humans when shot, rag doll animations when killed, and vehicles that reflect clear damage progression. This makes the weapons feel powerful, easy to understand and use in combat.

Discussion: Tower system
The tower system is a good means of introducing a small portion of the games content to players at a time. This helps prevent information overload, where users might get overwhelmed with the sheer number of things to do and see within the world of Far Cry 4. Despite this, it’s a shame that the means of opening these portions of the world up are all the same, which could make the game feel quite repetitive, especially if users open the map and see the 17 towers they’re going to need to climb, each not especially dissimilar to the last. While staggering the stream of information and content given to the player is a good method of promoting engagement, other games (like GTAIV) have achieved a similar staggering of content by attaching this progression and opening up of the world to the games narrative, with unique missions. These may be much more interesting and engaging for the player in the long term. This is not considered an issue as the existing tower system functions perfectly well, however I would suggest considering alternatives that avoid such repetition.

towers2

 

Low priority Issue: Weapon feedback on Animals
While human enemies reflect the clear impact of bullets, animals do not. They lack the animations set that humans feature and do not typically limp or stagger when shot. During direct combat this feels unintuitive, failing to reflect the damage dealt to the animal while additionally making direct confrontation a relatively simplistic affair where raw damage per second is king, forgoing strategy that might come with causing the animal to stagger or fall.

One means of resolving this issue would be to include a number of animations that reflect damage dealt to each of the animals, affording better feedback as animals are struck by gunfire. But it’s understood that this may entail a considerable workload. Alternatively, better audio cues could be used to indicate damage, as while I did not often hear animals whimper and yelp when struck, these types of sounds could be used to reflect damage dealt, either on their own, or in conjunction with new feedback animations.

animalreaction

 

Despite this, this is only listed as low priority issue, as the lack of animations does not significantly affect the gameplay most of the time. Killing aggressive animals is a smaller component of the game than hostile humans and vehicles, and the player can get through and understand these encounters without the receiving the same weapon feedback that they do from humans.

Medium priority issue: Aim assist
Aim assist is in Far Cry 4 works by locking the player onto the target when pressing the L2 button, often known as snap to target assist. Turning aim assist off turns this feature off, there appears to be no supplementary assistance, no traditional sticky aim (where the camera movement is slowed across the target to enable easier acquisition). As an experienced first person shooter player but one that’s also familiar with having the default the sticky aim that features in many popular games like Halo, Destiny, Uncharted, even in multiplayer, the lack of this feature in Far Cry 4 makes gunplay feel a little awkward. Leaving Far Cry 4’s aim assist on feels a little too easy, as you do not need to aim yourself, merely pointing in the general direction and pulling the trigger to fire, while without aim assist the gunplay feels a little more difficult to control than is typical for this genre. A larger degree of options, including sticky aim would certainly benefit the game. Games like Call of Duty allow you to turn off the snap to target aiming that features in their campaign, but retain a sticky aiming feature that gives the player a little bit of assistance.

While this issue is only likely to affect those more experienced with first person shooters, it could be significantly detrimental to their overall enjoyment of the game, with snap to target reducing the sense of agency that gunfights provide, preventing the player from making their own mistakes and missing the target, while the complete lack of assistance with this feature turned off is likely to feel a little less controllable and intuitive than these gamers are familiar with. An option which removed the snap to target aiming but would slow the crosshair over enemy targets may provide a good middle ground between these two settings.

Summary

PriorityType DetailPotential Resolution
Medium Inconsistent PromptsPrompts to interact not always displayed when it appears they should be, and sometimes when they shouldn't. Evaluate the range in which prompts can be triggered and remove prompts that should not be displayed.
Medium Aim AssistSnap to target aiming or none at all offer little middle ground for players seeking moderate but not absolute assistance. Offer alternative options such as a 'sticky aim' system
Medium Weapon Feedback on AnimalsAnimals do not recoil or reflect damage dealt in a clear and visual way (like human enemies)Use animations or auditory cueing to better indicate when animals are hurt in combat
LowControls and OptionsMissing options for controller deadzone and acceleration curvesInclude these options
LowOverlapped PromptsMultiple prompts with the same input can overlap, can cause issues getting the correct interactionAssign a different button to one prompt when they are overlapped
LowIcon Quality Extremely low resolution minimap icons lend to ambiguous identification. Enhance the resolution of map and mini-map icons

 

Overall, Far Cry 4 offers a very polished user experience. Navigating the interface is consistent and easy to use, the world is easy to understand thanks to a myriad of icons and cues on both the hud, and minimap, and gameplay is quick to get to grips to due to tutorialing that’s broken down into various simple steps. Some issues present themselves in relation to the games prompt system, presented on the games HUD, and while these do not spoil the experience they do perform inconsistently and may frustrate users when they fail to respond. The on/off aim assist and control options could use a little more consideration and may be off putting for seasoned first person shooter players who know the genre and know how they like their games to control, but this didn’t significantly hamper my own enjoyment of the game. 

Author: Jozef Kulik

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