If I had to sum up people's reaction to Far Cry 4 in a single sentence, it would have to be: "Fuck these birds."
That's one of the first things Kotaku's Steve Marinconz said to me when we started playing online. I'd already played 30 hours of Far Cry 4 at that point, but Steve had only just begun. And he was quickly realizing the exact same thing I did when I first stepped into Kyrat, the game's mountainous Nepalese-ish setting: the birds in this game are absolutely fucking terrifying.
You spend almost all of your time in Far Cry 4 outside. No matter where you're going, or what you're doing, birds suddenly appear—seemingly out of nowhere—and try to eat your face. The first time it happens its shocking. And then it happens again. And again.
Giant Bomb's Jeff Gerstmann captures the bird-fearing mindset that Far Cry 4 puts you in perfectly in this video:
Notice that he's already complaining about the birds, and then another one drops in to remind him, yet again, fuck these birds. He even makes a joke about he's scared of that happening when he introduces the eagle attacks by saying:"I almost don't want to mention it it, in case it happens." Well, it sounds like he's joking. But maybe he's just using humor as a mask for his mounting fear and superstition? I certainly am.
What makes it even worse is that they don't just go for your face either. Oh, if only they were so polite. They also swoop in to steal other animals that you're hunting:
Hell, they might even circle back to try to drop the pig on you afterwards:
"The birds were trying to crush me with livestock." When will it end? It never does, really. There's always more birds out there, just waiting to swoop in and claw at your eyes. Is this the rapture?
It's not like we weren't warned, though:
If only we know how horrifying this feathery death from above was going to be:
But not everyone's just consigning themselves to living through a never-ending bird-filled nightmare. Some players are starting to press for answers. Like: what kind of cruel god must there be in Far Cry 4, to sit back and let us be tormented by endless waves of vicious eagles? To see so much fear and pain, and do nothing—not even tell us why it is that we're suffering?
Well, I don't know about Far Cry 4's story providing an origin story for its Hitchcockian hellscape. But at least now I have a slightly better idea why I keep happening upon random groups of soldiers in Kyrat's expansive forests, all shooting into the sky:
At first you think there's nothing there, like they're just shooting blindly—or madly—into thin air. But then you realize: they are shooting at something. They just don't know when, or where, the next demon bird will appear.
And yet...it's not like we want to see the birds go away, either. They're part of what makes this game so weird. And its deep, intrinsic weirdness is what makes the gameso great. The two beats whose likenesses emblazon all the official branding of Far Cry 4 might be the elephant and the tiger. But we all know who the real stars of this show are:
Also, I think I know why I've felt so out of it the past few days, coming off a serious Far Cry 4 binge like I am:
Stay safe out there, people of Far Cry 4. And don't stop shooting at the sky.