Far Cry 6 doesn’t fix what ain’t broke

photo from the video game Far Cry 6

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Grade: 3.5/5.0 

The Far Cry series, despite not sharing any narrative continuity between games, has been defined by a clear familiar formula for the better part of a decade. The first three games, unified by their focus on chaotic, free-form action combat, each had a distinct identity. But the immense success of Far Cry 3, released in 2012, has led the franchise to continually remake essentially the same game with some small tweaks and innovations.

Like the previous three main entries, Far Cry 6 puts players in the role of a reluctant hero fighting to save a revolution-torn land from the rule of a crazed, charismatic despot. This time, the hero’s name is Dani Rojas (male or female, depending on player choice), a revolutionary who joins Libertad, the group of guerilla fighters who oppose the dictatorial rule of the brutal Antón Castillo (Giancarlo Esposito). The setting is Yara, a fictional Cuba-inspired, paradisiacal tropical island seeped in a conflict-heavy history. 

In the game’s opening minutes, Castillo begins rounding up poor civilians and enslaving them to work on Viviro, a cancer-treatment drug derived from a unique Yaran tobacco strain that funds Castillo’s regime. To destabilize Castillo and damage the Viviro production lines, Dani sets out to coordinate rebel groups across the island into a powerful opposing force. Doing so requires players to carry out missions counteracting Castillo’s propaganda, incinerating his tobacco fields and slowly regaining control of the island’s military checkpoints.

Yara represents the largest and most complex Far Cry map to date. Though traversable by automobile or horse, the map also features hidden Guerilla routes that allow players to secretly navigate the dense foliage and ambush off-guard enemies.

Far Cry 6 shines brightest in the moments of pure anarchy. From the get-go, players are well equipped to deal with anything the game has to throw at them — unlike previous installments, players do not need to upgrade character skills or unlock weapon slots, allowing combat to be more fluid and fun right out of the gate. Players have the ability to carry three heavy weapons and a sidearm, allowing plenty of room for experimentation, and, early in the game, players learn to use a missile-launching backpack capable of disabling tanks or helicopters in a burst of hellfire.

Also returning in this installment is the wingsuit first introduced in Far Cry 3. In combination with the widespread access to helicopters and planes, the wingsuit allows players to take dynamic approaches to combat encounters and makes for some of the most cinematic action gameplay in the series. The game additionally revamps Far Cry 5’s team mechanic into the “Amigos” system, which allows players to summon an animal companion to help take down enemies — options include a baby crocodile, a puma and a Daschund pup.

Though gameplay-wise, Far Cry 6 streamlines the Far Cry 3 experience to its benefit, the new game’s narrative and characters suffer in comparison. Esposito, as Castillo, is intimidating and adds greatly to the game’s atmosphere. However, the character is woefully underused and appears mostly in brief cutscene interludes between major gameplay sections. Castillo, as a result, remains a far less gripping or memorable character than Far Cry 3’s eccentric antagonist Vaas, played by Esposito’s “Better Call Saul” costar Michael Mando, the template-setter for the series’ subsequent villains.

Likewise, though Dani’s sarcastic personality is welcome after the comparatively dour and self-serious unvoiced protagonist of Far Cry 5, the streamlined gameplay results in a stripped-down, less impactful character arc. Far Cry 3’s protagonist Jason begins as a douchey, privileged rich kid who must suddenly learn to fight for his life. As such, players began Far Cry 3 with fewer weapon slots and abilities — as Jason honed his survival instinct, players unlocked these features and got deadlier. The increasingly anarchic gameplay thereby mirrored Jason’s spiral into insanity, a degree of ludonarrative synchronicity that strengthened the game’s themes and introduced meta-commentary on the nature and psychological effects of violent first-person shooters that aim to make killing seem enjoyable.

Though Far Cry 6 is the best entry in years, it lacks the risk-taking edge of Far Cry 3, instead offering a more polished, visually stunning iteration of the template, with more of the same stupid, chaotic fun.

This review is based on the PC version of Far Cry 6.

Neil Haeems covers video games. Contact him at [email protected].