Far Cry 4 gameplay preview: Elephants, guns and microlites equals awesomeness

The Far Cry 4 demo at this year's E3 expo in Los Angeles presents us with a trio of options: "Stealth / Ride / Fly" reads the fortress conquest screen. It's no contest, really, as "Ride" means we get to mount an elephant, smash down a fortress door and cause havoc among enemies and objects.

Indeed riding an elephant trumps any in-game vehicle we've ever used. It's seriously cool, easy to control and as it's another (virtual) living thing you can use it to attack, melee and topple over vehicles and walls. And when a sniper shot our friendly beast down it made us sad and ready for revenge.

After watching the first five minutes of Far Cry 4 unfold at the Ubisoft media briefing at this year's E3 expo we were already excited to play the game. The cinematic opening which introduces the Himalayan setting is both brutal but beautifully acted and played out.

The game itself is a masterclass of a first person shooter too. It's not reinvented the wheel when it comes to controls - the typical dual thumbstick control, weapons wheel, gun and grenade triggers are all here for an immediate familiarity with the control system - but has focused on gameplay dynamics to make the world more exciting and varied.

It's not all just about elephants though. In the "Fly" mission you get aboard a microlite and fly on high while dropping pipe bombs and a hail of bullets onto the ground below. Enemy choppers make it difficult and in this mode it's the mixture of vertical and horizontal controls that makes it the toughest of all.

These types of play don't feel like afterthoughts either. Not happy aboard your elephant then get off, shield yourself behind cover and watch as the big beast takes on a life of its own by reacting to surrounding enemies. 

Crucially Far Cry 4 gets the gun play right. A quick-access weapon wheel - typical of modern shooters and other games of late - makes for easy weapon selection, while aiming, and reloading all come naturally. There are shotguns, machine guns and, as the "Stealth" mission touches on, sniper rifles to boot. From throwing knives from grenades - it's all here, even if the latter won't help you achieve that stealth attack.

Despite there being a constant stream of first person shooters hitting the market, there's something about Far Cry 4 that, just like its predecessor, makes us excited. Not one to dismiss in the face of Destiny, Halo, Advanced Warfare or Battlefield - Far Cry has its own theme and feeling that sets it apart from the familiar crowd.