Far Cry 6 has ended up with rather a lot on its shoulders, hasn’t it? A controversy about whether the game is or isn’t political – every piece of art is political, obviously – and then the promises of telling a story that will try to be sensitive and thoughtful means there’s a frisson of excitement here: will this be the Far Cry that manages to tell a mature story?
It nearly sticks it. A taut opening sequence shows that Ubisoft has a decent idea of what a tense shooter – one that really makes you feel the fear and outrage of fighting under a despot – could actually mean, but after this shocking sequence, Ubisoft lightens up the tone and never really tries from this point on.
It’s somewhat worse because this entire opening has you sneaking through a city being searched for by a scant few guards because your character doesn’t realise they’re a nigh-unstoppable tropical fuck storm that can visit death on anyone until after the opening sequence has run. It’s plot cowardice, and it serves no purpose as within about 15 minutes of game time everyone Dani Rojas – not that one – has ever loved is dead and you’re filleting people with a machete.
It’s okay. Rojas was a soldier once. She’s good with guns.
In spite of the shockingly bad overarching story, Dani Rojas is actually incredibly likeable and feels distinctly human. The Far Cry franchise has typically put all of its energy into a series of madcap villains and left their protagonists as blank slates or vapid brotagonists, but Rojas – I played the female version, voiced by Nisa Gunduz – is probably one of the more likeable psychopaths I’ve spent a Far Cry game with. I found myself genuinely grinning at a few of her quips and when I realised her character was actually singing away with the in-game radio as we drove, it was a really nice moment.
Outside of Rojas, nearly everyone you meet is a two-dimensional character that has been arbitrarily dropped into the good or evil box. Rojas is good despite her one-woman assault on the island of Yara – specifically after we’re told that several soldiers are just trying to earn a living to support their family and don’t want to fight. So too is anyone that’s even vaguely revolutionary, even if they execute someone on live television, or make weapons out of depleted uranium and turn them loose across the island.
One character hates you for indirectly killing your childhood best friend and his love interest. One musical number and a burnt down biolab later and you guys are the best of friends, with him finding the time to forgive you before the game dispenses with him entirely. He’s little more than a tutorial island dalliance, and Far Cry 6 loves to pick characters up and drop them to move onto something more exciting, to a point where no one’s story really matters anymore.
It is, ultimately, a narrative for people who are spending most of their time charging around the place and ignoring the story except when it involves a huge action set piece. As a result, it’s a perfect story for Far Cry 6. If, of course, the marketing push hadn’t been promising a nuanced portrayal of a dictatorship, and broad political statements.
I’m largely ignorant to what living under a dictatorship could actually do and the struggles that arise from that, so feel poorly equipped to discuss how accurate the story gets it, but the most damning thing that I can say is that I’m no better informed for playing through Far Cry 6’s story of cartoonish villains.
It’s on us really, everyone got stung by this with Far Cry 5, and Far Cry 6 is largely the same game, just with more things that explode and a frankly bizarre amount of animal companions that are eager to help you maul people. If you wanted your big action game of 2021 to go light on storyline and include both an alligator in a waistcoat and a punk rock rooster with no chill whatsoever, you’re in the right place.
The game’s gunfights are punchy, and while several weapons feel underwhelming, there’s so much on offer that you’re sure to find something that fits. Several different types of rounds ensure that you’ll have a fighting chance against armoured and unarmoured soldiers, and even be able to blow through reinforced vehicle windows and blast choppers from the sky. Special weapons let you shoot enemies with CD-R’s that are currently playing Los Del Rio’s ‘Macarena’, shoot enemies with clouds of loyalty-altering poison, or just a giant EMP cannon that can stall out a tank or a helicopter and take some of the enemies most powerful playing pieces off of the board.
You’re doing the same stuff you’ve always done: outposts are checkpoints now, military bases are… still military bases. But you’re still faced with the choice of sitting in a bush overlooking them to tag everyone or running in shooting, as long as you remember to dispense with the alarms to avoid reinforcements coming. You’ve been colouring in these particular numbers for years, and if you’ve played any game in the series since Far Cry 3, you already know whether this game works for you or not.
Levelling up is out, another victim of Far Cry’s attack on anything that might add some friction to the experience. Instead, there are clothes that you can find in boxes and put on for perks: an armoured vest might give you defence against soft damage, while a new wristwatch could let you booby trap an alarm box to catch out enemies trying to report on your activities.
It all feels very… temporary. I feel like I could do just about anything in Far Cry 6 in a way that’s actually a little disappointing: everything can be changed to my whims, and even the tank, initially a godless killing machine, is easy to defeat with the right kit, and with so many slots you’ll always be carrying something to knock it out.
But it’s still good. The PC version has a lot of extra greeblies and it looks the business. I adored the game’s soundtrack, whether it’s the score or just the radios in the car. The atmosphere is pretty good, and while I was cool on it at the preview stage, with more time to explore I’m actually quite into Yara, with the roads giving way to a host of hidden pathways, caves and coves that are hard to reach with a car, but perfect to reach with a horse.
I also played some co-op, and this increases the nonsense you can get up to as two players doubles your possibilities impossibly. For some weird reason though, it doesn’t save the progress of your co-op partner, who will lose any story missions they’ve done but keep access to the resources and weapons you find with them.
At a superficial level, Far Cry 6 has a lot to love, and that’s reflected in the score. Ultimately, Far Cry 6 has, ten years into a career of writing about games, landed me with a conundrum. Far Cry 6 is a “good” game in the traditional sense. Lots of players will get a kick out of the unfocused shooting, letting you rampage across the countryside blowing up anything unlucky enough to be painted red. But it doesn’t really succeed at any level outside of “being fun.”
But I think maybe that’s all that most players want. This is the same old Far Cry, and adding in a few pets and a surprisingly likeable protagonist in the shape of Dani Rojas doesn’t do a good job of making the game “political” and instead the series seems to be getting more and more ridiculous, lampooning the political situation of its setting in what feels like a bitter missed opportunity.
It’s the same old toothless Far Cry game. It does a great job of that, but there’s no point going in expecting it to be anything else. See you all again next year when Ubisoft repurposes the map for a half-sequel.
Brainless violence. Far Cry 6 is selling a power fantasy at an industrial scale. If blowing up billboards, clearing up map markers, and delivering political power from the barrel of a gun is your scene, you’ll have a great time. For those listening to Far Cry’s marketing push and hoping for a more nuanced campaign (or even just a brief respite from the endless silliness) this isn’t the game for you.
- Great shooting
- Dani Rojas is a delight
- Excellent soundtrack
- Two-dimensional characters
- Doesn’t say anything interesting despite the setting
- You’ve played this before