Less than five minutes into Far Cry 6, I was iffy about it.
It opens on dictatorial President Antón Castillo delivering a televised address to Yara, a faux-Cuban paradise saddled with a history of political dissent. Castillo has reinstated a citizen draft for the ongoing cultivation of Viviro, a homegrown wonder drug that cures cancer. Made by fertilizing Yara’s tobacco crops with a chemical gas, this magic medicine is the key, the president declares, to raising his broken-down island to the upper echelons of the world economic stage.
But this is Far Cry, well-worn in its love of open-world war games, destabilized nation-states, and crackpot despots. And Castillo, played with overblown heel gusto by Giancarlo Esposito (Breaking Bad), is certainly a tyrant. The truth we’re shown during his address—citizens shipped off to the fields as forced slave labor or gunned down for resisting—is a non-revelation given the series’ touchstones.
It’s when the president’s forces then march into Yara’s capital of Esperanza and begin indiscriminately slaughtering everyone on the “draft” list that I first raised an eyebrow. Though this series has made its cartoonishly warped sociopaths the cover stars of their respective games for some time, the game-y nonsense of making your fascist regime an inhuman death squad before it’s had time to carry out the vile plan your antagonist just finished explaining is beyond ridiculous. It also feels like peak Far Cry—and maybe says a lot about where these games are today.
Two sides of the same coin
You can’t really say Far Cry isn’t aware of its own idiocy; starting with 2012’s Far Cry 3, the order of the day has been breezy, stupid, freeform fun. The franchise has incentivized running riot through typically exoticized locales by enticing you with truckloads of guns and gimmicky death toys to inflict maximum mayhem. That is, if you’re not already distracted by setting things on fire, hunting wildlife (or otherwise unleashing it on hapless goons), capturing occupied strongholds and points of interest, tearing around air, sea, and sky in all kinds of vehicles with and without mounted weaponry, or any of the other myriad activities that have become staples of the series.
And so it goes with Far Cry 6. Playing as Yaran ex-soldier Dani Rojas, after escaping Castillo’s draft in Esperanza you become a member of Libertad, a revolutionary group with plans to overthrow his rule and free Yara. To do that, this band of guerrilla fighters needs the support of a number of allies spread across the western, central, and eastern parts of the massive country.
In practice, earning their pledges boils down to familiar territory for longtime players. You’re given the option to take on bigger, set piece-type missions at your leisure, or just screw with side distractions like pursuing a homing-beacon pelican across the sky to hidden caches of “treasure” (loot and gear) and chasing a geriatric guerrilla through a carnival of explosive traps to deliver a love letter.
To its credit, Ubisoft has gradually made each passing entry in this series increasingly frictionless. Getting around and terrorizing Castillo’s troops in whatever ways you feel like is straightforward from the get-go—even momentum-destroying enemy checkpoints, a sticking point to greater or lesser degrees in earlier entries—don’t pose much of an impediment this time around.
To my point: early on, I was easily able to gain access to an enemy base with some parked tanks and only a handful of guards on duty. A few messy machete stealth kills later, I stole a tank and wreaked explosive havoc for almost an hour, turning hostile jeeps into hunks of twisted metal, sending soldiers comically ragdolling, and otherwise bulldozing through everything destructible that got in my way.
I have to admit, there’s some brainless fun to be had here.
Instruments of chaos
Two other encounters I happened upon while wandering around the game’s opening island are microcosms of the systemic chaos you’ll probably find.
One: in the area just outside Libertad’s base camp, I tried stealth-killing a soldier who was harassing a poor villager at gunpoint, but other nearby foes were alerted anyway. I sprinted into some nearby woods and engaged in a wild shootout; someone threw a grenade that must have landed near an errant barrel of gasoline or something flammable, since the woods then caught on fire. Fleeing the burning brush, I downed a guard standing in the road with my rifle, only to turn around and face an enemy jeep slamming on its brakes right in front of me. I shot the driver, stole the jeep, and took off.
Two: I was exploring the Yaran countryside at night when I came across three Libertad grunts training at the base of a radio tower. After I watched them scrounge around the camp for supplies for a minute, a pack of wild horses charged through the chain-link fence. The horses knocked over the guerrillas’ equipment and injured one of them. The trainees reacted by shooting at them as if they were enemy soldiers, causing the animals to trample everything else that wasn’t nailed down. In the end, they galloped off, and all the guerrillas were dead. (The human AI had some bugs in this scenario, but the point remains.)
A few new additions over previous games also add some charm to the countless scrapes you find yourself in, and on the surface these bonuses make Far Cry 6 the wackiest of any recent installment. The game dumps Far Cry 5‘s commandable human AI companions for a bunch of animal pals to follow you into battle, including an attack crocodile in a silly jacket, a punk-rock rooster, and an unreasonably cute dachshund in a tiny wheelchair. You can use them to distract or attack unsuspecting baddies. (Yes, your furry, feathered, and scaly friends can all be petted.)
Then there are the Supremos, made by the drunk, world-weary arms dealer Juan Cortez. Juan constructs these low-rent Iron Man-styled backpacks at his weapons shop, and once you’re outfitted with one you can pull off super attacks like launching a volley of rockets or using an EMP blast to disable vehicles and security systems. Supremos are thematically coupled with “Resolvers,” equally outlandish special weapons that turn a haphazard selection of everyday objects like fireworks and CD-R discs into DIY tools of destruction, giving Dani’s loadout a touch more visual personality than your expected selection of assault rifles, pistols, sniper rifles, rocket launchers, and the like.
Dani’s first mission with a Supremo and Resolver involves torching a Viviro tobacco farm with a custom flamethrower and the aforementioned rockets, a pretty potent combo that, in the context of all of Far Cry‘s tandem interactions going on under the hood, seems to hit all the right feedback loops. Setting the countryside on fire has been a major part of every Far Cry since 2008’s Far Cry 2, and it’s pretty satisfying in the moment. (The gas used on the tobacco is also highly combustible, go figure.) However, once you’re through burning everything to the ground, it doesn’t take that long for the high from everything to start wearing off.
For everything Far Cry 6 does that seems to work in its favor, there are seemingly just as many ways it shoots itself in the foot. Let’s take a look at a few. To get more Supremos and Resolvers you need to grab special high-grade materials (like depleted uranium) only found in high-security military installations like AA gun emplacements, bunkers, and fortresses. That’s fine in theory, being a variation on the many other scavenging mechanics used to fashion tools in other installments.
The problem is more in the speed of your character progression, as Supremos, Resolvers, and every other piece of gear you can buy in one of Juan’s shops, from the man himself or one of his network of offsite arms dealers, are now tied to Dani’s overall experience level. XP is doled out in appropriate doses for finishing story missions, blowing up army equipment and vehicles, or completing various side quests, and it can take a good chunk of time before you level up.
That means for the earlier parts of the game, you’re going to be stuck with merely the gradually increasing goods on offer, apart from anything else you might find stashed in one of the Libertad drop points dotted around the map (if you get intel from NPCs for those) or tucked away in a military facility. Unlike Far Cry 5, you can’t earn points to unlock a suite of new skills, either. Instead, permanent stat boosts and new perks are also tied to equipment. It’s an interesting choice to allow you to swap out perks any time as needed by simply changing what Dani is outfitted with; you’re also confined to using just a handful at once.
This is actually more of a net positive, as you eventually gain a great deal of versatility. It just won’t be especially useful until after you’ve spent a long enough time playing. At least there are temporary boosts you can gain with recipes, which you can cook at guerrilla camps or hideouts, provided you’ve gone hunting for the ingredients. It works as a nice consolation prize.
The workbench rounds out your customization lot. While the game, and Juan, go overboard hammering home using one to mod your weapons, it always felt relatively pointless. Mods give you loadout-specific bonuses, like being able to draw or holster your gun faster or being rewarded for pulling off headshots with faster Supremo recharges, which would be nice if they weren’t undermined by a pretty limited selection and had bothered to include unique perks for each weapon type. After poking around a little and adding homemade silencers to a couple of rifles, I never bothered with them again.
Likewise for outfitting your guns with separate types of bullets that target weaknesses on opponents. Since this requires a clumsy change via the menu—and more to the point, because you’re invariably getting swarmed by a mess of soldiers of different classes—thinking this system was anything other than worthless was shortsighted on the developers’ part. (And if this entire section sounds like a mess of menus, it is, so your mileage may vary there.)
With all of this in mind, the combative substance of Far Cry 6 can be hit or miss. Enemies react the same whether they’re being blasted with buckshot, riddled with bullets, or shot by compact discs, and enemies’ animations don’t change depending on the area where they’re shot, taking a lot of teeth out of Resolvers, especially.
No surprise then that firefights can devolve into same-y encounters. That the standard assault, defense, and secure or rescue type missions rarely present you with anything particularly dynamic or unexpected doesn’t help. Nor do your animal buddies make a huge difference beyond momentary diversions, and that goes double when Castillo’s special forces start packing real heat.
Perhaps the most disappointing bit of 6‘s gimmicks is that your Supremo is on a painfully slow timer. Worse, the headshot mod is the only component I found in the whole game that could speed it up. When Dani first puts on her Supremo, Juan calls her a superhero, and I wish it were true. As it is, a lot of battles don’t offer you much incentive to vary your approach other than switching out for fresh weapons that have ammo between mid-fight restocks found on the fly. Those Supremo blasts should be saved for tanks or military choppers.
When it’s suggested you handle things with a lighter, quieter touch, the game’s stealth implementation is inconsistent at best. Detection is often marred by the most basic of bugs, where making one tiny mistake instantly reveals your exact location to an entire base or allows enemies to detect you from behind barriers. Most operations that go topsy-turvy can just as easily be played loudly, and often when I ran into bugs or accidentally triggered something I shouldn’t have, improvisation won out, though I don’t always recommend this. But the most aggravating of all is when the design flat-out doesn’t follow its own rules—by, say, magically setting off disabled alarms because a scripted moment requires an area to be repopulated with baddies. When the game pulls this, it feels like issues from the PS2 era. Ugh.
The more things change…
And yet, for all its many, many problems, I don’t hate this game. Once you settle into a groove with a good shotgun-rifle-Resolver-or-grenade-launcher combo—your weapons do tend to feel pretty good to shoot, as you’d expect from the series—there’s some enjoyment in going Rambo. Tanks and other heavy-duty machinery pack a satisfying, explosive punch, too, and for an engine with such old bones, Dunia creates an impressive amount of environmental destruction. Since the entire game is available in co-op, I’d imagine it’s also more fun to go on a spree with a friend, although I didn’t get a chance to test this.
What might sound stranger is that switching the storytelling from in-the-moment first-person cutscenes to typically cinematic third-person ones makes the storytelling feel like it’s been borrowed from an entirely different game. While you wouldn’t guess change would have much of an effect on the game overall, it does. Dani is a surprisingly engaging protagonist, and, inauthentic English-to-Spanish mid-sentence switches aside, most of the characters are well-acted. Even if the revolutionaries aiming to topple Castillo aren’t the seediest bunch in Far Cry‘s pantheon, some of them are likable in the off-kilter ways the series is known for, and Esposito clearly had a good time working with the material.
In short, if you’re already a Far Cry fan, there’s probably plenty here to like. This sequel’s playground remains at odds with its darker “grounded” story to a greater degree than its spastic action can support, and there’s plenty of questionable decisions and very, very stupid story beats that aren’t explained or are abruptly dropped without comment. If you’re good with the relatively shallow, similar combat experience—which is kind of fun in spite of itself—it’s unlikely you’ll be too fussed about the trappings around it. Everyone else may feel iffy.
Verdict: I wouldn’t call Far Cry 6 “good,” exactly, but it has its moments of silly entertainment. Next time Ubisoft should either pick a lane or remake Far Cry 2.