There's plenty that's familiar about the latest entry in Ubisoft's open world shooter, but that doesn't stop it being a blast.
For many fans, Far Cry 3 was the pinnacle of the Far Cry experience. It cast likeable jock douche Jason Brody as a fish out of water, learning to survive in the jungles and beaches of the Rook Islands. Underskilled, outnumbered and stranded on a strange lump of rock and moss with the psychotic Vaas hot on your heels, it always felt like you were one tiny step away from tragedy and an untimely death.
More recent Far Cry's have progressively steered away from 3's set-up, making each protagonist more and more of a one-person war machine - it's less about survival of the individual and more about the survival of a revolution. With Far Cry 6, we see the culmination of that ideology - Ubisoft boasts that on Yara, you'll be made to feel like a single Guerilla fighter taking up the space of an entire army. Dani Rojas is ex-military, instantly proficient in all weapons and vehicles, and a natural, but reluctant leader. They were made for this.
The developers at Ubisoft want you to feel powerful, they want you to feel like a badass, and so they've leaned into the chaos, the explosions and the epic, wacky battles. As a result, as an open world sandbox, Far Cry 6 is a lot of fun. An unfortunate side effect of that, however, is that where story is concerned, Far Cry 6 has lost a lot of the tension of previous games.
You're no longer a Jason Brody, finding your way, learning your skills and simply fighting to live. You're now a T-1000 striding through Yara, firing rockets from your nuclear backpack whilst conjuring an almost unlimited arsenal of weaponry out of thin air. Dani always has a quip, is never under pressure and always knows exactly what to do. Which is fine when you're out mowing down your 20th soldado outpost in a row armed only with a solid gold grenade launcher and the help of your pet crocodile Guapo, but not all that interesting when it comes to investing in Far Cry 6's story.
Luckily though, the open world fun of Far Cry 6 is as good as it ever was. Yara is both enormous and absolutely beautiful, featuring some of the most incredible vistas you're likely to find in any video game this year. Exploring feels intimidating and overwhelming at first, with so much out there to uncover - and after a small tutorial island the game lets you go pretty much wherever you want - though once you strike out you'll quickly find it's all more or less the same fare as other Far Cry games. There are checkpoints to clear, hostages to rescue from the side of the road, collectibles to hunt down and cross off your lengthy list - mechanically, the framework here is almost identical. Depending on who you are, this might come as either reassurance or a disappointment. Many players love that familiar Far Cry grind - while some may have been hoping for a shake up to that formula.
Front and centre of any and all marketing for Far Cry 6 has been its much touted villain Anton Castillo, played by consummate bad guy Giancarlo Esposito, and it's a shame to see that in the end he's criminally underused. He's mostly kept away from the action, and simply not as interesting as previous villains because a lot of the things he's done to earn his reputation are never shown - only implied by the game and told about in passing in cutscenes.
He's more often shown lecturing his impressionable young son Diego - a dynamic and a relationship that also doesn't feel as pivotal to the game as originally promised. There are a couple of scenes where Giancarlo Esposito gets to really show his teeth and these are undoubtedly memorable, but more often than not Anton is relegated to just being a bit of a shit dad. He lacks the grandiose psychopathy of Vaas, the flamboyant mischievousness of Pagan Min and the stomach-churning creepiness of Joseph Seed. And that just makes for a duller game. Far Cry wants to have its cake and eat it - it wants that beautifully chaotic, whacky gameplay where murderous roosters and backpack payloads come together to deliver a fireworks display of explosions alongside meaty headshots from a Surf n' Turf themed sniper rifle. But then it wants to suddenly get all serious and deliver a contemplative dictator who wants to give his son a better life through what he deems necessary bloodshed and slavery. It's a juxtaposition that doesn't always work.
Far Cry 6's wide array of supporting characters, not bound by the often sombre tone of the main plot, fare much better. They're a familiar blend of a little bit wacky, a little bit irreverent, and very often homicidal. Far Cry 6 is at its best when it's leaning into its more ridiculous impulses - fully acknowledging the absurdity of its open world and the plentiful opportunities for chaos it provides. While some of the main campaign stories do deliver some thrilling moments, the side missions like the Treasure Hunts and the Yaran Stories provide the most fun. It's in these optional asides that the game is let off the leash a little, allowing for more imaginative missions compared to the now familiar "take down base, rinse and repeat" mission structure of the main campaign. Instead, there are Indiana Jones-style hunts for Crystal Skulls, haunted graveyards, and an explosive encounter with a very annoying YouTuber, to name just a few.
Because make no mistake, what a lot of fans are really here for is the wide open freedom promised by Far Cry 6's colossal map, and for the most part - in the wilds and beaches and mountains of Yara - that doesn't disappoint. The main city Esperanza - billed as the biggest urban landscape in Far Cry history - is less open than expected. Some players may have hoped to parkour across the city, scrambling up buildings and taking in those sights, but in reality you can only go to certain areas as most of the city is locked off and inaccessible. You can't climb most of the buildings, and you can't fly in there either - so no base jumping from the top of Anton's Palace. Essentially, there's not much to do or see outside of places Ubisoft is directing the action - most buildings are fake and you can't enter them - so eventually you'll start to crave the more rural areas of Yara once more.
Out here, you're given access to most land, air and sea vehicles quickly, though air defences are set up around Yara which must be blown up in order for you to clear the skies and therefore be able to fly in or air drop in safely without the risk of exploding. But if you don't fancy air travel, horses are a neat way to get around too - Far Cry 6 marks their first inclusion in a Far Cry game, and they're a welcome addition, mostly because they're generally resistant to blowing up or catching on fire. Mostly.
Interestingly, there's no skill tree this time around. Instead, you equip and wear different clothes to enhance your abilities or grant you various buffs or resistances. You can change clothes whenever you want and full sets can grant bonuses, but in all honesty these perks do seem rather minor so you may find yourself dressing more for fashion rather than function.
More useful is Dani's ability to change up their weapons on the fly, wherever and whenever you want. You'll amass an absolutely huge selection of weapons in the game over time, so it's useful that you can whip any of them out of storage and into your weapon wheel at any time mid battle - likely when a stealthy encounter shifts quite suddenly into an explosive stand-off. Central to this combat system now are Supremos - a sort of ultimate attack that takes time to recharge, but can be super useful in battles. You start off with a Supremo that fires off a barrage of rockets, capable of bringing down a helicopter or a tank in one attack, but over time you'll unlock an assortment of Supremos to suit your own flavour of combat.
Given that Dani and their allies are all part of an underground resistance movement, their weapons, modifications and the tools at their disposal are all cobbled together by using everyday items found lying around Yara. This 'Resolver' concept, as it's called in the game, is what fuels Far Cry 6's customisation mechanics. You can earn money to buy weapons, but by scrabbling around each area for scraps, you'll be able to spend those on unlocking different, interchangeable mods for your guns and supremos. And there's a ton of options out there to pick up, build and experiment with. Sometimes, perhaps, a touch too much - the sheer amount of collectibles to hoover up gets a little overwhelming at times.
This installment also marks the first time a main series game hasn't had a dedicated multiplayer mode or map editor, which I know is going to be a deal breaker for some people. Sure, Far Cry's previous attempts at multiplayer haven't exactly been the most polished of experiences, but they were certainly home to a once loyal and now forgotten community who bought the games specifically to build and experience user created maps. It's not all doom and gloom for Far Cry fans with friends though, there is a co-operative mode that allows you to play through the majority of the game with a partner (which to is a lot of fun) along with 8 standalone missions called Special Operations that take place across smaller, uniquely themed maps.
Oh and of course, I really do need to mention the bugs. Considering the scale of the map and everything going on inside it I never once during my playtime had the game crash on me which is good, but I certainly witnessed a lot of crazy glitches and rough edges. Played on the PS5, screen tearing was prominent, frame rate dips took the tension out of cutscenes and the NPC AI, be it enemy or friendly, was at times absolutely atrocious. One time I fast travelled to a friendly base and as soon as I spawned I began to slowly choke to death, even though there was no poison gas present. Another time all the voices in the game stopped working necessitating a restart and the less said about the weird potato beards some of the characters kept growing, the better.
But, as much fun as noodling around Far Cry 6's world is, it's probably wise to bear in mind the words of Far Cry 3's Vaas when he attempted to explain the definition of insanity. "Insanity", he said "is doing the exact same fucking thing, over and over again, expecting shit to change.", and I'd say that statement rings true here, because, beyond the slide towards one-man army protagonists, shit has definitely not changed. If you were looking for a sequel that would shake up the series and bring about a gameplay revolution, you're going to be disappointed, but if you enjoy that classic Far Cry collect-em-up grind and simply want a brand new sandbox to explore and explode, you're going to be far from bored with all that Yara has to offer.
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