The animals in Far Cry 3 could be real jerks. Just as much as you enjoyed hunting them, they enjoyed hunting you too - with a habit of picking the most inconvenient moments. But Far Cry 3 was a petting zoo compared to the jungle that is Far Cry 4. Some are weird, some are wonderful, some are majestic - but every creature in this Himalayan wilderness is going to try to kill you. Alright, maybe not the turtles.
The AI has come a long way since we last immersed ourselves in the world of Far Cry. That's both a good and a bad thing; with the animals more lifelike than ever, they're also smarter than ever.
"Animals are really interesting because they're part of the open world," Far Cry 4 creative director Alex Hutchinson tells TechRadar. "We think 'What's appropriate? Can we get a lot of different animals in there?' We look at behaviour… animals will be free, but even within that, some will charge at you, some will weave, some will circle"
With Far Cry 3 the developers spent a lot of time at zoos studying animal behaviour, but much of the research this time was done from a desk. Perhaps that's not as interesting, but it made for some unique discoveries. "We found an amazing video of an eagle picking up a goat and dropping it off a cliff," says Alex. "We had to show people the reference video because they were accusing us of making stuff up."
The Himalayas are home to a plethora of wildlife, but human conflict is still at the heart of the game's narrative. So it was essential that the tigers, elephants, rhinos and bears remained secondary to everything else.
"It's a really tricky thing to deal with because if you dial it down too much, you find a lot of players don't engage with the animals," says Alex "Your goal is to allow the players to be annoyed sometimes, but for it not to become oppressive. You dont want to stop them achieving their goals. It's a very challenging and subjective thing to deal with because every player is different and their skills levels are different."
It was also important that the team didn't get too lost in the jungle. "You could disappear into those systems. That might not always be the best spend of resources and time. So we've tried to add as much believability as we can. It's a big step up from Far Cry 3. Predators will hunt prey, elephants will wash itself in the stream. I think in terms of animals it's the best job we've done so far."
The developers have placed different species in different areas of the map, with crossovers at various points, so you won't be swarmed by every single species from the start. "We try to find some level of predictability, but...the chances of them spawning are semi random."
"One of our goals was to spread it out. So we don't want them to find everything in the first hour. Definitely, the animals are spread everywhere. You'll be finding animals throughout the whole game."
We've already had a good taste of the majestic beasts we'll be encountering in Far Cry 4, which we believe qualifies us as professional naturalists on a level that David Attenborough might feel intimidated by. So as David was unavailable to offer his own commentary on the animals of Far Cry 4, we've done it ourselves. These are the creatures that you'll be shooting in the face, and this is how much of a nuisance they're going to be.