Release Date October 6, 2021
Reviewed on Playstation 5
Much has been made over the years about the formulaic Ubisoft approach to open world building – a heavy reliance on addictive, repetitive gameplay loops, juxtaposed by chaotic emergent events. Vast, expansive maps of considerable depth and diversity, but often with a lack of character development and stories that are a bit undercooked. Titles that are inherently political, yet unwilling to explore said politics in a particularly deep or meaningful fashion.
Far Cry 6 is no different – a focus on player agency and freedom of progression that often leaves the player with option paralysis, with an entire country at their disposal after the initial string of story missions. Treasure hunts based on simple puzzles and light platforming elements, timed supply drop retrieval quests, outposts and forts to be cleared, and solo checkpoint races all beckon, bewildering yet enticing in their abundance.
The setting this time is Yara, a fictional island nation based largely on Cuba, complete with retro vehicles and crumbling architecture. It’s the best FC world to date, and by far the biggest – so big I still haven’t seen it all, and may never do so. Purity of the experience is somewhat diluted as such – how much game is too much? It’s highly subjective of course, and one is under no obligation to play all of it (after one checkpoint, you’ve seen them all really). In terms of sheer content, the modern Ubiworld is tremendous value, a campaign taking weeks to beat in totality – almost four of them for this particular Far Cry veteran.
The formula is in full effect, but I will say this: It has been perfected and streamlined to tremendous efficacy. Everything feels great – gunplay is tight and punchy, and loaded with options. Vehicles have a wonderful heft, but most handle fantastically, and the haptic enhancements of the PS5 controller make the tactile differences between land, sea and air vehicles incredibly distinct. Not to mention the new option of horse riding (which hits just right), and benefits from a map laden with passages and terrain well designed for the purpose. Stealth is as reliable and satisfying as ever, and a far more viable option than in the last couple of entries, but when things go off the rails the messy approach works better than ever.
Bolstered by an dizzying array of classic weaponry, FC6 introduces the unorthodox Resolver weapons, obtainable through stealing depleted uranium from anti-aircraft sites and trading with arms vendors. There is everything from a chaingun powered by a motorcycle engine, to a stealth gun that plays the Macarena and shoots weaponized compact discs, and my personal favorite: A sniper rifle that shoots time delayed sticky bombs – especially useful at disposing of enemy choppers.
The much maligned enemy health bars of Far Cry New Dawn return, but can be removed in the HUD options, which provide a remarkable depth of customization and accessibility optimizations. Ammunition types are a factor in combat, sometimes to a detriment – having soft target rounds come up short against armoured opposition is understandable, but a head shot on a non-helmeted enemy with armor piercing does not always result in a kill, so loadouts must be carefully balanced with different weapon and ammo types. Of course, the bow and arrow kills just about anyone with a single headshot, and as such remains the bread and butter of the stealth arsenal.
In addition to the usual grenades, throwing knives and such, host of new options such as axes, deployable turrets and specialized mines with poison, fire and EMP variants are available. These are equipped to the individual Supremo loadouts, so unlike regular weapons, the blades and thrown or planted explosives can’t be switched out at any point. To be honest, I didn’t get to try a lot of them – there’s more than any one player will ever need.
Another new wrinkle in combat comes in the form of the Supremo backpacks, each offering a different powerful tactic that can turn the tide of battle, or end said battle very quickly. There’s a target seeking rocket trio, poison bombs that turn foes against one another, the option to create a literal ring of fire when surrounded by enemies, and plenty more. They are subject to cooldowns, which can be accelerated by killing enemies and applying mods. Rather than being a crutch that engenders total player dominance, they’re designed more as either the opening salvo in an assault, or a panic button in the event of emergency.
The traditional skill trees gave been forsaken this time, and as such the XP and player ranks accumulated are essentially pointless. I get the distinct feeling that Ubisoft assumes you’re already a returning player at this point, fully addicted, knowing what to expect. Yet challenge wise, it seems geared to the casual fan, and with only two difficulties (Story and Action), it may be a bit of a stroll for the hardened veteran compared to the last couple of series iterations. Action seems closer to normal than hard in it’s scaling, and other than the odd poorly laid out checkpoint race (a Ubisioft staple), very few scenarios were overly testing.
Visually, the world is stunning – by far the most impressive lighting in a Ubisoft world that I’ve seen to date, even without the benefit of ray tracing. I found framerate to be extremely stable (outside of certain cutscenes), and other than some clipping issues with enemy corpses being stuck in walls or floors, it all holds together nicely. The game never crashed or stuttered, and load times were usually five seconds or less. Pop-in of enemy vehicles was an issue, and enemies in certain areas tended to respawn after walking less than 50 meters away. It wasn’t an issue in situations like outposts where a specific number of foes needed dispatching, but it did get me killed a couple of times elsewhere.
Mechanically, it’s as stable and satisfying as the series has ever been, and the sound design is crisp, though the soundtrack itself just seems like a rehash of past efforts. The overall experience is slick, tight and holds up just as well in the more frenetic moments as it does when slowly stalking through the jungle or taking in another splendid sunset vista. FC6 certainly offers some of the best.
The irony is that such a mechanically sound, addictive series of feedback loops – perfected over more than a decade since the series went open world – has become a bit too mechanical at times. Story missions are many, far more than any prior installment, and there are some downright bangers in there. However the side content is mostly repetitive, and far too easy. Given the scope of the game, one wonders if it might be a better experience with about 25% less map, and the story missions taking up a bigger percentage of the overall game.
Hunting takes a back seat this time, and is basically unnecessary, but the emphasis on crafting and weapon customization is as heavy as ever. The lack of a skill tree means certain perks are tied to gear stats, but with nowhere near the granularity of Ubisoft’s tactical shooters. No need to get granular with it all – it’s an FPS, not an RPG.
There are no shortage of thrilling moments – some scintillating missions involving two rebellious factions in the east of Yara in particular. The story is stronger and more coherent than any in the series, with plenty of strong, entertaining characters throughout, and finally having a fully voiced protagonist with an actual personality is a nice change, lending cutscenes a more immersive feel. As a fairly jaded gamer, there were certainly a few moments that shocked me, and there is no shortage of misery along the way.
FC6 has set piece moments that rank amongst the best the series has to offer, but plenty of the greatest hits as well, like the field burning quests that have become a staple, and frantic escapes after a kidnapping (less frequent than before thankfully). Of course, the real magic of this series is in those unplanned events inbetween, and I had my share of organic unscripted moments too.
Low on ammo, trapped in an enemy tower, escaping by wingsuit to parachute into an enemy supply truck, before killing the driver and taking his vehicle back to camp, all within the space of a minute. Stumbling upon drunk construction workers having a fight using only headbutts at a small town building site, or enemies being eaten by crocodiles while relieving their bladders. Many times, what could simply have been a minor skirmish often escalated into a full blown slaughter, with enemy air support incoming and tanks rolling in. While I rarely felt overly threatened in most situations, the most dangerous were those that seemed routine at first.
Then there are the mongeese – oh, the mongeese. I had several ‘mongoose problems’, but one I’ll never forget: While being briefed with other comrades for a key story mission, one comes raging in and jumps on the face of an ally. This causes the other guerrillas, as always, to solve the issue with molotovs, which of course hit me and not the offending critter. Instead of getting an inspiring two minute pep talk, there I was running around trying to put out the fire on me, while hacking at the furry ball of murder on my friend’s face with a machete. Hilarity.
Lead antagonist Anton Castillo holds up better than any since Far Cry 3’s Vaas and Hoyt, anchored by a typically weighty, measured performance by Giancarlo Esposito. It’s nothing you haven’t seen from him before, but engaging nonetheless. I found the hero, Dani Rojas, to be about what you’d expect from a young, salty guerrilla, but it’s nice to finally have an actual character to play, and not a mute or a bland placeholder as in past efforts. The supporting cast is varied, and that extends to the various Amigo animals that are your fangs/claws for hire this time around.
This is a series that has been chasing the (blood) dragon for some time now, and while this installment is the most cohesive and effective since the FC3 era, it does feel time for a real change – one which is coming next time if recent rumours are to be believed. If that’s true, then let this then serve as a fitting swansong to the FC open world as we know it, before the returns become too diminished.
FC as a series is essentially murder tourism, and the violent vacation vibe is at it’s best in this kind of tropical habitat. I do appreciate a (mostly) more serious, grounded narrative this time around, but that doesn’t mean the ridiculous isn’t embraced. While that contrast is frequently criticized, it’s ingrained in the DNA of this franchise, and what sets it apart from more dry, direct Ubisoft IPs like Ghost Recon or The Division. Given how grim, even tragic much of the story is, humour’s required for levity and especially in worlds this large.
It’s mostly a lot of fun, incredibly accessible on many levels, and full of the wonderful immediacy that defines the series. Perhaps, having perfected this formula, it’s now time to try a new recipe, and take a few risks. For a series built largely around the sense of grand adventure through the mastery of terrain, it’s been covering similar ground for several years. That conquering spirit needs new ideas as much as it does new places.