REVIEW – Welcome to Yara, the Island of Peace, the pearl of the Caribbean, where under the benevolent rule of the kindly leader, “El Presidente”, Antón Castillo, everything is thriving, especially the… resistance!? Ideally, yes, because in the latest instalment of the Far Cry series, our goal is nothing less than to defeat the dictator, liberate the country and enjoy the Caribbean sunshine. Can the new episode repeat the success of its predecessors? Read on to find out!
The Far Cry series probably needs no introduction to anyone, as it has made gaming history in more ways than one since the first episode was released in 2004. French-based Ubisoft has developed the series since the second instalment, and this time they’ve given their Toronto branch team the daunting task of surpassing the massive success of 2018’s Far Cry 5 (Ubisoft Montreal).
It must have been hard work and a big responsibility to make the latest episode of Far Cry: there’s a tried and tested system that works, so it’s not worth changing much; at the same time, players are right to expect new things, and you can’t just develop a game for the pleasure of fans of a game series or a narrow genre – well, it can be done, but it’s not necessarily profitable, and big developer companies are in it for the profit… – so, attracting new users is one of their goals. Ubisoft Toronto played it safe: they changed as little of the tried and tested open-world, sandbox FPS formula as possible and spruced up Far Cry 6 on the principle of “more of everything, better of everything”. The question is, when does a scenario as successful as the Far Cry series become boring?
Yara: welcome to Paradise…
Speaking of the script, the new setting is breathtaking: a sea of brilliant colours, a jungle teeming with life, a seedy Central American metropolis – all served up with high-quality graphics. Cuba and Haiti inspired the island of Yara, and the whole game has the light-hearted Caribbean, Latin American feel. The depiction of the material culture is also completely authentic, with a strong ‘cubano’ feel with 1950s American cars, ridiculously tacky officer uniforms and all the other paraphernalia of the banana republics.
Yara is the most extensive Far Cry map you’ll ever see, and the landscape is varied enough to keep you from getting bored as you move from one location to the next. From a roadside checkpoint to a military base to an anti-aircraft missile strike, you’ll have to take out a whole host of other targets – no more easy gunship strikes as we enjoyed in Far Cry 5! The presentation of the environment is genuinely fabulous; the changing weather and lighting effects are also very atmospheric.
…or to Hell?
As for the plot, it is to be appreciated that the developers wanted to break away from the cliché-ridden classic Hollywood B-movies this time. First of all, unlike in the previous episode, we have a speaking (breathing, living) protagonist, actually, two of them: at the beginning of the game, we can choose between a male or a female character. Both characters are spot-on; the voice actors are particularly commendable – and so are most of the supporting characters and NPCs, with one or two exceptions.
The character of Dani Rojas is easy to identify with and really likeable: an orphan who, at the beginning of the story, just wants to escape his increasingly intolerable home; a tragedy, however, leaves him with no choice but to take revenge for the atrocities he has suffered and liberate his homeland with the help of the guerrilla organisation “Libertad”, which opposes the island’s tyrant…
…and the problems of the game starts right here. It’s not the first time a Far Cry episode has tried to explore earnest themes, but this is perhaps the least successful in setting the tone for the game. We get a genuinely twisty and – without spoiling anything – rather tragic story that takes a thorough look at corrupting power, social injustice and the workings of dictatorships as much as is possible in a video game without compromising the gameplay experience. We see the masses enslaved in tobacco plantations treated with the cancer-curing panacea ‘Viviro’; we meet the ‘good junta-materiel’ military officers who kill civilians without a second thought and the wealthy, influential Americans who help to maintain Castillo’s regime, apparently in an entirely altruistic way. But as the story progresses, something disturbing may come to the attention of the one-time player.
Viva la… retarded?!
I’m afraid I can’t put it any better, but the opposition, apart from perhaps the one Clara Garcia, is a bunch of idiots. Please make no mistake; I do not mean to denigrate the intellectual abilities of the characters: I am merely pointing out that they are, for the most part, amusing, nutty characters who cannot be taken seriously for a minute, and the game itself makes little attempt to do so. When you’re not doing the main campaign missions, but rather, for example, the side missions of the resistance leaders (because the story is that you’re supposed to unite the four big cliques of the Libertad), it can feel like you’re playing a completely different game. It’s hard to imagine that these people would be able to oust a real dictator, let alone create a functioning, free, democratic state – and this dramatically reduces the sense of empathy and thus the game experience.
Antón Castillo, the character of “El Presidente”, could have been the best Far Cry villain of all time: a shocking backstory, dark secrets from the past, great design and an excellent performance by Giancarlo Esposito all combined to create a solid foundation for the character’s “ascension”. However, it is unknown why, but we hardly meet Castillo during the story: we see him mostly in flashbacks, Dani only faces him a few times. Instead, the plot focuses mainly on the relationship between Castillo and his son Diego. This would not be a bad thing, of course, because it is a well-constructed story thread, but it is thin and ultimately unable to live up to the potential it has hidden within itself. It’s a shame.
Madness on foot…
But if you can ignore the story’s shortcomings and the inconsistent tone, you’re guaranteed a great time. Far Cry 6 does everything that the previous episodes did, and (almost) everything is slightly better. In terms of gameplay, you get exactly what you’d expect: a slightly tactical action FPS with a massive arsenal of weapons and a wide variety of gadgets. There are three areas where we can talk about a significant step forward from previous episodes. Firstly, the skill tree has disappeared: your character continues to evolve, but now your clothing and equipment determine exactly what you are capable of. This is certainly an advantage in those opportunities that were previously only available to the protagonist towards the end of the story can now be “unlocked” much earlier, provided we have the necessary tools. Moreover, it offers an additional opportunity to customise and personalise the appearance of our character, as we now have to consider more than just aesthetics when dressing our virtual action figure.
On the other hand, there’s a much more significant role for customization: all our weapons can be upgraded in several ways. In addition to the standard accessories – sights, silencers, etc. – the use of different types of ammunition is a new feature. Some of our enemies wear armour: armour-piercing projectiles are the most effective against them, and so on. It’s unfortunate that almost at the very beginning of the story, you get a weapon that can be used to take down just about any enemy with a headshot… But the “homemade” custom weapons are undoubtedly the most fun butchering tools of the game: the spray-flamethrower or – my personal favourite – the minigun built from a motorbike are incredibly destructive and have a very high cool factor.
Thirdly, the so-called “supremo” appears as a new element. This is essentially a backpack that functions as a special weapon/accessory to help Dani in combat. From a “back Katyusha” that launches homing missiles to an EMP-wave blaster, to an instant resurrection/healing pack, you can get all kinds of supremos throughout the game, making combat more tactical and varied.
…and on wheels
The range of vehicles has also been expanded compared to previous titles, and some of the beasts are pretty extreme. Let’s just say there’s something charmingly insane about shooting up a military convoy in a machine-gun Cadillac coupe from the Mad Max universe, in the Caribbean sunset, while Dani sings “Livin’ La Vida Locá” blaring from the car radio. Equally entertaining is when we use our pet alligator or battle rooster (!) to incite the enemy while dispersing the vicious Yaran army squads that are trying to kill us with an automatic grenade launcher. It’s in these moments that Far Cry 6 really captures you; it’s when you feel like you’re having a good time. And if talking about craziness: I haven’t even mentioned the Mortal Kombat mini-game of fighting rooster… my animal rights activist side is vehemently opposed to it, but I have to admit, it’s great fun.
In terms of gameplay, you can still choose between frontal assault and tactical stealth, both of which work. Or you can even hijack a tank if it happens to get in your way; or bomb an enemy base with a fighter jet. Dani must have had excellent military training because there’s no weapon on the island he can’t use with the skill of a James Bond-turned-McGyver. The usual squatting, side-mission-execution schedule remains, with the novelty that different regions of Yara have been given a rank system: so below a certain ‘rank’, some places will be much harder to get to; you need to think carefully about where you should try your luck at a particular level.
¡Tu es hermosa!
It means “you are beautiful!” – which we can safely attribute to Far Cry 6 because the visuals are really something to behold. Even though the Dunia engine is far from being new, it still performs well, and the developers have put a lot of effort into optimisation. So the game runs smoothly at 60-80 fps in most situations with the right settings and rarely stutters. In addition to the usual goodies – dynamic light/shadow, lifelike water effects, etc. – the PC version also features hardware ray-tracing (RT) (if you have the right home nuclear power plant), producing stunningly lifelike shadow and reflection effects.
Likewise, the sound effects and music are not to be complained about, with Pedro Bromfman composing a soundtrack to match the soundtrack of a movie. Listening to his melodies, you can easily get into the mood of the Cub… er, Yara. We’ve already mentioned the great dubbing, the weapons sound authentic, so Far Cry 6 is also a great game in that respect.
Long live the (not so) revolution!
Despite all my criticisms, I have to say that Far Cry 6 is a good game. It’s pleasant, fun, engaging, spectacular. But it could easily have been so much more: if not groundbreaking, it could have been a game that reformed the series and took it to a new level. It’s commendable that the Ubisoft Toronto team has invested more time and energy than ever before into writing an authentic, realistic plot; a story that is believable. It’s also okay if they were influenced by the Latin American banana republic humour of Tropico and Just Cause. However, mixing the two has, in my opinion, proved to be a serious mistake, which ultimately detracts a lot from the fun factor of the game. In addition, the repetitive and increasingly unimaginative side missions and tasks, which are focused solely on looting, cannot be ignored and can be a bit boring for some players after so many previous occasions. Despite the great visuals, the good music and voice acting, the varied weaponry and the crazy action, this Far Cry episode still manages to get the 8/10 rating that is almost the norm of the series by now.
+ Atmospheric and stunningly beautiful open world map
+ Crazy action, varied weapons and accessories
+ Great acting and music
– Wobbly, sometimes too serious, sometimes banal and light-hearted tone
– Little bit repetitive gameplay
– Few upgrades over the previous episodes
Developer: Ubisoft Toronto
Release date: 6 October 2021.