It might be numbered Far Cry 6, but it’s actually the 15th game in the series when you factor in the offshoots and recent VR foray. This means that Ubisoft have had plenty of attempts at mastering the open world shooter formula, and combining that with nuanced characters and thrill ride stories. Ever since Far Cry 3 we’ve been getting brilliantly realised villains, and throwing the weight of Giancarlo Esposito behind this instalment whets the appetite significantly; yet we’re all aware that the protagonists haven’t really mirrored that effort. With selectable male/female versions this time, and fully voice acted to boot, there’s a promise of something more engaging than has come before. However, there’s a mountain to climb in terms of bringing a fresh approach to the gameplay, and not allowing it to become another open world bloat-fest. Is top notch star talent portraying a strained Father/Son relationship in a country on the brink of revolution enough to bring the gravitas back to the series? And will it remove the fun?
No spoilers for the last game, but Far Cry 6 is very clearly not set after that one! In terms of timeline it’s not clear, but there are enough clues that this might actually be before Far Cry 3. Not that it really matters… all you need to know is that you are Dani Rojas (no, not the Mexican striker from Ted Lasso), a former army recruit who’s trying to escape the dictatorship that is the island of Yara. Located off the coast of Central America, Yara is ruled by the Castillo’s who have turned the population into an unwilling workforce in the dangerous production of its number one export – a cancer curing drug. The current “El Presidente” is Antón Castillo whose iron grip on the country is getting tighter, and even bringing his son Diego into the limelight is doing nothing to soften his image, or approach. Dani accidentally finds himself/herself (depending on which gender you select) at the heart of La Libertad, a cadre of freedom fighters who want to free the country from tyranny. Becoming a guerrilla to help the cause is just the start of Dani’s journey that sees them travelling all over the island, meeting the greatest Yaran’s alive, recruiting them, and taking out Castillo’s forces in order to flush out the man himself. Whether they’re successful or not is dependent on how well you get to grips with the combat and strange upgrade choices.
Whilst the core principle of Far Cry 6 is the same as the previous main games – travel around the map and undertake missions for the local characters, shoot lots of people, etc. – there are changes to the way some of the systems work. Most noticeably (because it gives a tutorial on it) is around ammo selection for specific soldiers. This time around enemies will have a weakness to either soft target or armour piercing rounds, and viewing the opposing forces through the trusty camera phone will highlight which is best to use against them. It’s a nice idea that means scoping out a location and figuring out the right tactics is key to getting in there and doing the business, as long as there’s a workbench nearby that allows an ammo switch. In practice there’s rarely a bench nearby so that means carrying weapons to deal with both situations and switching as necessary, which in the chaos of battle can be slightly confusing leaving many shouts of “FFS! Why aren’t you dying!?!“. A rather frustrating drawback is that the base ammo in each weapon bought or found is pretty much useless, so everything requires an upgrade, and once that’s been done with two or three staples there’s a good chance you’ll stick to what’s in your loadout rather than trying out some of the more exotic weaponry picked up. That might be because you’ve not got enough of the gunpowder currency to keep buying upgrades and can’t be bothered hunting the many, many, many item boxes dotted around; or it might be because it’s a unique weapon without the right kind of penetration that cannot be altered at a workbench, and means it’s rendered impotent as soon as it’s awarded.
To augment the standard firearms, Far Cry 6 leans into the underfunded but highly resourceful guerrilla ethos and introduces Supremo’s and Resolver weapons. The former are nuclear powered backpacks (yes, really) that have special functions such as rocket launching and EMP blasts, and allow access to throwables which is everything from baseballs to automated sentry turrets. The latter are homemade versions of Gatling guns, flamethrowers and RPGs, and are as ludicrous to look at and designed to be fun. E.g., one is a disc launcher that plays the Macarena as you’re firing CDs at unsuspecting foes. There’s a kick in pulling out these monsters and letting rip, though it won’t last long because they just don’t do much in the way of damage. There’s a rocket pod which fires off about six explosives at once to mimic a battery of rockets, and it’ll take several reloads to knock out a helicopter; a minigun that can empty a full clip of ammo into an enemy with no effect whatsoever on their health; and the Macarena disc launcher would do more damage tripping enemies up as they ran away. What should be the showcase pieces that encourage exploration to find the resources to buy them become something you’ll not even remember you’ve got. It’s the same with the Supremo’s because whilst they have some very useful special abilities, charging them up can take a while at which point you’ve typically cleared out whatever was in the way. The balance of combat and tools vs. the upgrade options and tactical thinking is way off, and no matter what your intention it’s best to go with maybe 4 or 5 staple weapons and simply swap those in as needed. That’s 4 or 5 out of over 100… that should give you some idea of how off that balance really is.
Those looking to get into the skill tree and earning abilities and improvements for Dani will come away disappointed. One of the things that’s been working well for the last few games has been stripped out, and oddly, its replacement isn’t even covered in a tutorial. To change the skills you need to change your clothes. With five pieces of clothing to equip, each will have some form of stat boost or unique effect, and there are matching sets that work within a certain theme (like stealth or poison resistance). It’s freeform, so you can go the mix and match route and find what you like, though this means you are always limited to only five effects as a maximum, and there’s always a compromise to be made. Frankly it’s a faff, and even if you do get yourself a decent setup, there’s still going to be something out there that knocks you sideways. That is if you want to play it as balls out action, stealthy gamers will find a completely different experience. Grab a vantage point, tag up the patrols, pull out the sniper rifle and BANG! Job done. Likewise, sneaking around behind enemies, or jumping from above, allows a machete attack which neutralises every foe type. The skill tree might be gone from Far Cry 6, but the abilities are still there if you can leverage them, and have the patience to creep around the massive world.
Completing the story is about gaining the support of the different factions of rebels that live in Yara, and here the work’s been put in to give them life. Whether they’re seasoned resistance fighters or enthusiastic borderline terrorists, they are distinct and come with their own reasons for taking part in the fight. Of course, Dani needs to bring them onboard the Libertad train and the only way to do that is complete quests for them. Variety is paramount in such a big play area, the last thing anyone needs is to travel miles to just do the same things over and over again, and fortunately it’s here that Far Cry 6 delivers. There’s no getting around that there are lots of the army to take down, and there’s even a GTA style heat meter if you’re really pissing them off, but there’s a lot of effort been made on giving variety to the missions. I particularly liked that the factions all have a different style of mission and not every one is about wiping out a garrison of guards to get a piece of intel. Away from the core objectives and side quests, outpost clearances are back, as are checkpoint takeovers and ambushes, which all want Dani to kill anything that moves, though these are found whilst exploring rather than a task they’ll be given, and are totally optional. Skip them and there’s less to do between progressing the story, though completing them is going to make life easier. Along with the action focused asides are treasure hunts which are more of a puzzle to figure out, and the use of notes scattered about to give clues is a nice touch. They offer a change of pace and the chance to relax a little whilst using the traversal or interactive mechanics instead of pulling a trigger constantly.
Structurally, the progression is very similar to the last game and all the outlying regions need to be completed before getting to face off against Castillo. Travelling through each area and doing what’s asked gives you a boots on the ground view of what exactly is happening across the country, and how the Yaran’s are being treated. Delving into this world by looking at the surroundings, the state of the land, the graffiti, and reading the strewn about texts paints a picture of brutal oppression and horrific treatment of innocents, and it’s this element that ties together Dani’s motivation to free Yara. Whilst it’s mostly a solo task outside some key missions with a fighting force alongside, there are several Amigos that can be recruited that bring a dose of humour as well as being vicious. All the companions are animals and range from the cute disabled Chorizo the Dachshund to the monstrous Guapo the Alligator. Each has special abilities and will lend aid in a fight, though don’t expect Chorizo to be taking out heavy gunners. If you’ve one of the main story characters with you, or occasionally one of the NPCs, the lovely Far Cry 2 mechanic of being revived by an AI buddy is back. It certainly saves on the reloading if you can get dragged back into battle. Expect to die a lot though because you’re guaranteed to be wearing the wrong type of clothing to survive every eventuality, and even though health regenerates and you can fix wounds on the move, the enemy are crack shots and unrelenting.
Technically I believe Far Cry 6 suffers from being a cross-gen title and the Dunia engine is starting to creak. Yara is big, ambitious, and it does look gorgeous with little pop in or textures resolving in plain sight. Yet it has stuttery performance, especially in the cutscenes where it’s really jarring to see massive amounts of screentear that aren’t present in gameplay… unless you use Rest Mode on the PS5, then that seems to build up a big of dose of the jaggy rips over time and needs a reboot. AI glitches and objectives disappearing don’t help the situation, but at least it’s stable and reliable, I’d just expect a smoother and quicker loading experience on the latest generation of consoles. However, the UI design has some really bizarre decisions which might only be quality of life improvements, but are so strange they’re worth a mention. First up is the GPS on the minimap, it’s not projected on the road any more, it’s now a slightly thicker, slightly different coloured line on a small map in the bottom corner of the screen. Tough to see at a glance and requires a lingering look to make sure you’re going the right way, unless you cross an invisible boundary between regions which then strips the whole HUD away to advise you of where you are for several seconds. Well done, you’ve missed a turning and lost your bearing. It’s worse when flying because you can cross several boundaries in quick succession, giving you no clue of whether you’ve missed your target or are still going the right way. Bringing up the map to check means having to zoom right in because most markers aren’t shown in the highest view (most, read that as none), and then heading back into the game will mean having to release all controls and start from scratch because the throttle in whatever you’re driving will have cut out. These are simple things that don’t really affect the holistic gameplay, but Ubisoft have got this right so many times before it’s downright weird it feels unpolished now.
At least in the casting they’ve nailed it. Giancarlo Esposito is brilliant, if a little underused in the end; Jaun, Dani’s mentor and guerrilla tactics expert is wonderfully blunt and has some memorable phrases and rules to learn; and one of the legends met in the game, El Tigre, is superbly pitched as the classic 60’s revolutionary complete with ever lit cigar. Others aren’t so endearing, though it’s impossible to say any are bland or forgettable, though there’s the rappers that are part of the middle act that I would have liked to see less of. They’re still well realised and motivated, but I couldn’t care less about defending some speakers and a PA whilst they spit rhymes on a rooftop. They feel out of place and partly filler, which is one thing that Far Cry 6 was always going to have, you just might have expected it in the collectables. Depending on your focus, you can easily be looking at 40+ hours to see the end of the story, and then an ongoing amount of time mopping up all the other events and tackling the end game. In fairness there’s a nice touch in what happens after the story wraps up, and it’s good to see that woven into how it lets you keep going over regions and finding something new to do. Of course, you could always grab a friend and do everything in co-op, which works beautifully, and even attempt the 2-player specific missions that are steadily being unlocked over time. Or have a go at the choose your own adventure style minigame that require farming recruits from the game world. Or go fishing. Or cook recipes. Or hunt. There is a lot to keep you occupied, and that’s before the DLCs land later.
Reading through this you would be forgiven for thinking that I didn’t like Far Cry 6 and there are too many issues to recommend it. It’s true that it compromises itself with a staccato rhythm due to weapon swapping in menus and faffing around with ammo types; and nixing the abilities in favour of outfits is another unnecessary contrivance. Yet I’ve spent more time in Yara over the last 3 weeks than I care to think about. There’s a lot here that could have just copied previous iterations and made this a great game, but the decision to try new things should be commended, even if they don’t land right. Chiefly though I think Dani Rojas and the Yaran plight hit home in the right way from the start, and even if there’s an overwhelming amount to do early on, it all starts to become clear as you’re dragged along with the fight for freedom. There’s also the fact that despite the bits I don’t like, it’s not stopped me from repeatedly grabbing time to explore and progress, and it is fun when it all clicks and you realise the heavy call backs to the excellent Far Cry 3, and that despite the size there’s always something to do nearby. Does it mean it’s bloated? Yes, but from being stuffed to the gills with appetising treats, rather than being thrown in a lake with rocks in its pockets. Now patch out the ammo requirements and I’ll get to using some of the more imaginative guns.
Far Cry 6 is out now on PC and across PlayStation and Xbox generations for around £55 depending on version and platform.