Of the many ongoing Ubisoft franchises, Far Cry seems like it’s the only one that hasn’t seen too many massive changes. Assassin’s Creed’s recent entries doubled down on the RPG aspects and revitalized the series, Watch Dogs tried an innovative new “play as anyone” mechanic with Legion, and Ghost Recon is basically a different series now (for better and for worse). Far Cry, though, has stuck to its core tenants since Far Cry 3, which is almost a decade old at this point. Far Cry 6 feels like an attempt to push the series in a new direction, but it ultimately fails to add anything meaningful to the formula. It tries to be both a serious drama and an action-packed open-world sandbox, spreading itself far too thin in the process.
You play as Dani Rojas, a guerilla fighter who gets swept up with a bunch of revolutionaries attempting to overthrow Anton Castillo, the oppressive dictator of the fictional island of Yara. It’s basically a stand-in for Cuba, borrowing pretty much everything but the name. Castillo rose to power as a result of his promise to restore the island to its former glory using a miracle drug called Viviro. All who oppose Castillo’s regime are deemed “fake Yarans” and are forced to work as slaves to produce Viviro. Through propaganda, military power, and fearmongering, Castillo has assumed total control over the island of Yara.
It’s arguably the most serious subject matter the series has ever tackled, and Ubisoft attempts to give the story the gravitas it deserves. There’s a fancy opening credits sequence that plays every time you boot up the game that feels like it was lifted straight from an HBO show, and Anton Castillo is played by Giancarlo Esposito of Breaking Bad fame. From the marketing leading up to launch, it really seemed like Far Cry 6 would be a significant step up in the storytelling department.
Unfortunately, it’s all mostly for show, and the game never really explores any of its themes beyond a surface-level examination. Far Cry 5 seemed like it would touch on heavy topics like religion and the current state of America, only to end up saying very little at all. Far Cry 6 falls victim to the same problem, adopting the aesthetics of a revolution without taking the opportunity to explore those themes with any depth. A-list actors and a slick presentation can only do so much to cover up shallow writing.
In typical Far Cry fashion, the only parts of the story that are compelling are the scenes that involve the big bad. Despite a mediocre script, Giancarlo Esposito still delivers a fantastic performance as Anton Castillo. Castillo’s son, Diego, however, is the core of the story. Watching the young boy wrestle with his loyalty to his father but also his reluctance to follow in his footsteps is the real narrative hook of Far Cry 6, and I wish the game featured more scenes with the father-son duo. Most of the time, you’re stuck with the different guerilla groups on the island, and they’re nowhere near as compelling as the Castillo family.
Far Cry 6 is a game with a serious identity crisis. The game feels like it wants to be a gritty, realistic shooter where you’re only just scraping by like in Far Cry 2, but it won’t let those restrictions get in the way of the over-the-top action the series has become known for since Far Cry 3. For example, most of Yara’s airspace is restricted, preventing you from flying unless you take out anti-aircraft installations first. Your initial set of weapons is weak, recoil is hard to control, and your attachments are made from spare parts. Horses are recommended so you can stay off the main roads, and you have to explore for supplies to build custom gear called “Resolver” weapons. These things stop being problems after a few hours though. The game really wants you to feel like you’re a resourceful, outgunned guerilla fighter but still wants to let you wear silly hats and hunt alligators with grenade launchers.
In the opening hours, the game keeps continually beats you over the head with the idea of using the right tool for the right job, and Far Cry 6 would have been a much better game if it actually committed to this concept. Just like most things, the game plasters the guerilla aesthetic over everything without actually committing to any interesting gameplay ideas that stem from it. After a few hours, you’ll be equipped with military-grade weapons, a Supremo backpack that serves a variety of purposes from explosives to EMP blasts, and more tools than you know what to do with. At that point, there’s nothing special about the setting or premise. It’s just another Far Cry game set in an exotic location with plenty of stuff to blow up.
That’s not to say there aren’t any new additions to the gameplay loop in Far Cry 6. The most significant change is the addition of multiple ammo types. You’ll have to equip armor-piercing rounds to efficiently take down armored enemies, soft target rounds to shred through unarmored targets, and special ammo types like incendiary for everything else in between. You can also equip different pieces of clothing that have various perks and bonuses, but they’re relatively minor buffs. The ammo addition is a nice touch, but like most of the supposed guerilla struggles in Far Cry 6, it stops being an issue since you can carry three weapons and a sidearm at all times.
The divide between its overly serious story and over-the-top gameplay is what hurts Far Cry 6 the most. These two aspects constantly clash with one another, and it’s hard to escape that feeling that the game would have been a lot better if it really leaned into one of them over the other. That’s not to say games can’t balance silly gameplay and melodramatic cutscenes (see the Yakuza series), but Far Cry 6 is not one of those games.
The setting and premise aren’t entirely wasted, however. Yara features multiple dense urban settings, a first for the series. Yara’s capital city of Esperanza is heavily guarded and you’ll have to make use of secret guerilla pathways to pass through safely. Other towns and villages across the island have collectibles and caches tucked away in alleyways and on rooftops, making for some exciting exploration. Anton’s regime also has a powerful military, so you’ll frequently be in combat with tanks and helicopters. There’s even a heat meter, which sends powerful Special Forces enemies to your location if you cause too much trouble. Anton’s military forces allow for quite a bit of enemy variety, and the new urban zones provide a nice change of pace from the jungles, forests, and beaches of Yara.
Yara is also a ridiculously beautiful island, especially on next-gen consoles. On Xbox Series X, the game’s vistas never failed to stun even toward the tail end of the game. There’s an impressive level of detail everywhere, and the skyboxes are some of the best I’ve ever seen. It’s just a very pleasant place to explore (not counting the oppressive fascist regime). While you’re exploring, you’ll come across caches that require small puzzles to unlock, unique animal hunting spots, fishing spots, and all the usual Far Cry side content. It’s just as engaging as ever, even if it’s still a bit formulaic. When you add in a full co-op campaign, there’s a lot of fun to be had.
The weapons feel better than ever as well. Your first few weapons are intentionally weak and hard to control, but once you either purchase or find new gear, you won’t have any problems aiming and shooting. New traversal options like horses are appreciated as well, and the new Supremo backpacks add a new layer of strategy to the combat loop by essentially giving you a rechargeable ultimate ability. If you’re solely looking to play Far Cry 6 to ride a horse and shoot some fascists, you’ll have a good enough time.
At the end of the day, Far Cry 6 is a beautiful playground filled with stuff to shoot and things to blow up. That’s all it really is though: a playground. It really feels like Far Cry doesn’t know what it wants to be at this point. The road to Far Cry 6 and the game’s first few hours suggested a grittier, more grounded take on the open-world formula the series is known for. Having played the game through to completion, it’s now abundantly clear that all the talk of guerilla warfare and Resolver weaponry was just that: talk. Far Cry 6 is just another Far Cry game, one that desperately wants to utilize the imagery of a revolution without having anything meaningful to say about one.
- This article was updated on October 6th, 2021
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