‘Far Cry 6’ preview: chaotic fun but the formula is feeling tired

More of the same - for better or worse

IFar Cry 6‘s opening hours you’re given a flamethrower and sent to burn down a plantation while a remix of Bella Ciao plays, punctuated by explosions. If this sounds familiar, it was one of the best bits of Far Cry 3 – although that had a throbbing dubstep soundtrack and Ubisoft correctly left that back in 2012 – and it still works here. You charge around firing gouts of flame and even salvos from a shoulder-mounted rocket launcher.

Yes, Ubisoft’s frenetic open-world shooter is back for another installation, and while it looks fun, my hands-on left me exhausted. This is more of the same, and the formula is starting to wear thin.

In Far Cry 6 you play as Dani Rojas – not that one, but my god would this game be more interesting if it was – a former soldier in the definitely-not-Cuba island nation of Yara. It’s your choice whether Dani is male or female, but regardless you take control of them at their going away party, as they drink a beer to celebrate fleeing Yara for a shot at a better life in Miami.

Far Cry 6
Far Cry 6. Credit: Ubisoft

That… doesn’t go as planned, and after a surprisingly dark opening 20 minutes, Rojas has been stripped away from her friends and dumped in with the rebellion. As with every other Far Cry game, these rebels are dressed in blue, and the government soldiers are in red outfits. As with every other Far Cry game, you’ll adventure around the map to blow things up and slowly wrest control from the villainous Antón Castillo, played by Giancarlo Esposito who is fresh from evil turns in just about everything.

I quite liked Far Cry 5, but I found myself desperately bored of Far Cry 6. It’s incredibly competent, but it’s hard to feel excited about playing the same game yet again, especially one that feels like the changes are all moving in the opposite direction to what I – personally – want to see.

It’s still early days and this stuff could grow on me come full release, but the changes in the game have left me a little cold. I would die for Chorizo, the tiny dog in a wheelchair that is one of the game’s new Fangs For Hire, but the idea of spending the entire game hanging out with a tiny dog in a wheelchair, a crocodile in a waistcoat or a punk rock chicken? it’s a type of zaniness that doesn’t work for me, no matter how cute the dog. There’s a tonal dissonance at the heart of the Far Cry games that has always jammed awful dictators in with hijinks, but as it gets further and further towards the ridiculous – and Chorizo is definitely ridiculous – it loses me as an enthused player more and more.

This is especially true when it’s so easy to see the throughline between “weird sideline thing our audience really swung for” and “our game is about shooting and hanging out with zany animals now.”

Chorizo from Far Cry 6
Far Cry 6. Credit: Ubisoft

There’s no skill tree in Far Cry 6 that I’ve seen so far, and instead you seem to change your clothes or weaponry to give you new perks. This is fine, and I found a nice Parkour set of clothes that let me run around a bit faster, but I also saw outfits that’d make you better at resisting damage, carrying ammunition and even not being on fire.

The island of Yara, also seems to be a step back from Far Cry 5’s American heartlands: mountains everywhere emphasises verticality, but it means driving off-road can be more irritating, and exploring feels a little more sluggish as you walk around the base of a cliff looking for a way up.

The one excellent change is the Supremos, huge backpack-mounted weapons that splash down around you with a mighty crash. These have gadget mod slots that will enable you to customise them, but I didn’t get a chance to play around with this because I was too busy firing rocket salvos from the Exterminador at just about everything, whenever possible. I also had fun with a backpack that sprayed out poison gas in every direction, and an EMP backpack that knocked out all electronics nearby, including alarms. But I kept coming back to the Exterminador, which not only fired a salvo into the sky, but saw them guide themselves into targets on the way home, delivering a nice fuck you to everyone around you.

Far Cry 6: Flamethrower
Far Cry 6. Credit: Ubisoft

It’s tricky to write this preview because if I hadn’t played every Far Cry game since the original, I’d probably be more tolerant of this, but it feels like we’re at the point that Assassin’s Creed reached shortly before it was reworked: the game is mechanically very good, but it feels so samey it’s disappointing.

It’s inexplicable because I consider myself an “Ubisoft Guy” – I love going around a map hoovering up collectibles and blowing up enemy outposts. I collected all of Assassin’s Creed’s bastard feathers. I just can’t vibe with Far Cry 6 and while what I played was bombastic over the top fun, especially with another player, I think this is probably the four star game I’m least excited for this year.

The one saving grace of the game, for me, could end up being Castillo. The Far Cry franchise has had games saved by the villain before, but here Castillo needs to deliver a cracking performance to stop the whole experience from feeling stale. There’s no question Esposito is good for it – even in his short appearances in the preview segments he oozes menace, but with the weight of the game on him it’s going to have to be a hell of a performance.

Still, if all you want is more of the same, Far Cry 6 looks set to deliver, and it even has a couple of cute animals. This preview has left me cold though, and I’m hoping for less fan service and some bolder changes next time this explosive train rolls into town.

Far Cry 6 releases for PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, Google Stadia and PC on October 7 2021. We previewed the game on PC.

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