A Solid Evolution, Not a Revolution

Far Cry 5 was the worst entry in the series that also came at a bad time. Far Cry had grown long in the tooth by that time and, ironically, didn’t mix well with Far Cry 5’s overwhelming toothlessness; it was a dual-pronged odor that even infected the forgettable expandalone Far Cry New Dawn. Ubisoft’s latest entry in the series, Far Cry 6, isn’t a total reinvention worthy enough to make up for those transgressions, but is the most streamlined and expansive version of that established formula.

Because it is a formula, Far Cry 6 is easy to fit right into as the other installments are shorthand for what this game is. Players are dropped onto a huge, padded open world with a litany of different tasks scattered around it and are given a bevy of tools to complete those tasks with. It’s a vague description that’s not just apt for Far Cry as it can also be used to loosely (yet accurately) characterize most games Ubisoft puts out from Watch Dogs to Assassin’s Creed to Ghost Recon to Immortals.

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Far Cry 6 sharpens that blueprint to a fine edge but that blade ends up cutting both ways. Being the ninth Far Cry game means it basically ends up as a massive collection of most of the series’ best tools that run the gamut from useful to wacky. There’s a staggering amount of weapons and vehicles to choose from and, thankfully, the game doesn’t hold players back in the early hours from its ludicrously stacked arsenal.

Compiling and customizing your loadout is where Far Cry 6 opens up and allows players to take advantage of its vast sandbox. While some of the makeshift guerrilla Resolver weapons prioritize style over function — the CD launcher gun that plays “Macarena” is silly at first but ultimately too weak — the sheer number of weapons means it’s not hard to experiment and shop around for something useful. Each gun even has a wealth of cosmetics, perks, attachments, and ammo types and further adds to the amount of agency players have over their arsenal and, in turn, their playstyle.

Far Cry 6 Review: A Solid Evolution, Not a Revolution

While that is often the case for Far Cry, Far Cry 6 sits above the other entries because of its improved gunplay and upgrade system. Firearms sound beefier and handle better this time around and thus making shooting a smoother experience. Swapping them out doesn’t even require a special workbench as it’s possible to switch weapons at any time and always feel prepared for the scenario at hand.

Perks and attachments are also handled better here since various items littered around the world act as upgrade currencies and encourage players to engage with their surroundings. Meticulous scavengers will find enough to grab some of the gear they want, but not enough to trivialize the upgrade economy. It’s a steady and gratifying climb that gives players incentive to pilfer through their surroundings instead of running straight through them. The piecemeal gear system is mishandled since many of the perks associated with them are useless, but the progression and shooting that it feeds into are quite solid, giving Far Cry 6 a firm bedrock to sit upon.

Far Cry 6 Review: A Solid Evolution, Not a Revolution

Even though the shooting feels more polished and the upgrade loop is more involved, the overwhelming familiarity is where the fascist-killing blade begins cutting back. Far Cry 6 is still unmistakably a Far Cry game and it’s almost impossible to shake that when creeping up to one of the many enemy encampments around the country of Yara. They’re better contextualized here (usually with a brief phone call explaining their backstory) and the roadside checkpoints and anti-aircraft encampments thematically mesh with the authoritarian state of Yara, but the gameplay opportunities within them are almost always so similar to what the series has done before.

Stabbing guards in the back, sniping them with arrows, tinkering with alarms, and turning into Rambo when it all goes sideways can still be enjoyable and often is, but it can be too much of a routine, especially when this routine has been so heavily iterated on over the last few console generations. While the sneaking seems to be slightly tougher in Far Cry 6 and there are a couple of new variables like security cameras and tripwire mines, falling into the same predicaments of invading enemy encampments and having to grab a key item or murder a specific target can get repetitive. Outside of enemies being weak to certain ammo types, the game also doesn’t require that players switch up their tactics or reward them for doing so, which can further feed into its cyclical nature for those not willing to sub in different weapons.

Far Cry 6 Review: A Solid Evolution, Not a Revolution

Clearing camps is mindlessly entertaining and is a tried-and-true foundation, but Far Cry deserves to be more than after all of these years. Games like Hitman, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Dishonored, Metal Gear Solid V, Death Stranding, and Deus Ex have shown how designers can craft sandbox-style worlds that reward experimentation, prioritize exploration, and thoughtfully play with their many variables. Far Cry 6 can have its own emergent moments, but they mostly grab from the same bag the series has been plundering for the last 10 years and aren’t as fresh or dynamic as those aforementioned more ambitious games.

It’s easy to fall into autopilot when also doing its uninspired main missions since the game leads players by the nose from objective to objective. The marker is always pinging the player and the reminder in the top left of the screen pops up even when not summoned as if any second spent wandering could be the second before the player turns off the game forever. It’s a sort of confidence-free mindset that occupies many video games, but especially Ubisoft titles that are specifically designed to always welcome and coddle players no matter the cost.

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There is a cost: the satisfaction that comes from exploration. Far Cry 6 gives the impression that it wants players to explore with its big open world and deep arsenal, but the oppressive markers dissuade them from doing so; beelining to the beacon is more efficient. Turning them off is possible, but the game doesn’t usually diegetically tell the player what to do so it goes from having too much direction to almost none at all.

Assassin’s Creed has been clumsily at least attempting to add exploration modes to its latest entries and Far Cry would benefit from pushing further in that direction, especially since it was founded upon always immersing the player. There are a very small handful of missions that don’t forcibly hold the player’s hand and those are a small, tantalizing glimpse at what could have (and should have) been.

Far Cry 6 Review: A Solid Evolution, Not a Revolution

Far Cry 6’s gameplay lacks some freedom, which is unusual given its story. It follows Dani Rojas, a reluctant guerrilla fighter aiming to free her Cuba-esque country of Yara from the evil clutches of its dictator, Antón Castillo. The campaign revolves around recruiting an army of rebel fighters that’s large enough to take down a powerful tyrant.

Far Cry 5’s cowardly (and irresponsible, at times) story set the bar quite low, but Far Cry 6 at least doesn’t treat its subject material as a silly joke to be laughed at. Far Cry 6 isn’t some deep and moving examination of fascism; it mainly uses it as a means to establish its villain, set up the downtrodden nation he’s got in a chokehold, and give a fitting context to building an army. However, it does at least — on a very surface level — touch on how a regime treats minorities, the fascistic concept of a “true” citizen, and the scourge of modern Western imperialism, although it spinelessly subs in Canada instead of the United States in one key instance.

Far Cry 6’s narrative misses some opportunities (and fumbles the ending), but it at least has a more entertaining presentation. Far Cry has bounced back and forth between voiced and silent protagonists and Far Cry 6 not only makes the smart choice of having a chatty main character, but it has also gone one step further and pulled the camera out into a third-person perspective for cutscenes. This simple move gives the narrative a more cinematic and dynamic appearance, thus making it more engaging over the static “monologue straight to the camera” shots of old.

Far Cry 6 Review: A Solid Evolution, Not a Revolution

These cinematics can lack meaning sometimes as they often just mechanically stitch together story beats with hardly any twists or bits of intrigue between them; Dani has a goal and she often just completes it after predictably going through the motions. However, the performances are still compelling throughout. The supporting cast, for the most part, is likable (or, if the case calls for it, appropriately unlikeable) enough, and being able to see Dani makes them a stronger lead, even if they aren’t the most memorable main character.

Giancarlo Esposito’s Antón Castillo is appropriately menacing, falling in line with the series’ history with villainous antagonists. And while it would be easy to compare his Castillo to his portrayal as Gus Fring in Breaking Bad or Better Call Saul, it’s a different form of wickedness that is more boisterous and overstated when put up against Fring’s subtle nefariousness. Having a non-Latin actor portray a Latin character is a bit jarring, but aside from that glaring casting choice, Esposito is an unmistakably great actor that will likely sit up near the top of Far Cry’s Hall of Villains.

Castillo’s appearance in the propaganda all around Yara is almost equally heinous since those well-drawn posters and billboards paint him in such a positive light, as is the case with any true malevolent dictator. This is just one way the game fleshes out Yara, which is one of the better settings in the series. The actual landscape isn’t groundbreaking — it’s mostly just beautifully lit greenery and mountains — but its strengths in establishing its atmosphere lie more in its music. Its mix of licensed Latin music and geographically accurate original compositions set a more joyous tone that appropriately balances out the chilling nationalistic march music, making for a cohesive aural package that ties the whole game together remarkably well.

Far Cry 6 is ultimately a safe sequel that doesn’t aim to redefine what Far Cry is. However, it is still the well-tuned entry that does improve upon the formula in key areas, mainly the upgrade paths, gunplay, and cutscenes. It disappointingly doesn’t take that formula into a new direction or modernize it and can feel antiquated as a result, but it can still be mindlessly addictive even amongst its familiarity. Its narrative may posit revolution as the only possible answer, but its overall presentation posits that a solid evolution can still be quite effective.

SCORE: 8/10

As ComingSoon’s review policy explains, a score of 8 equates to “Great.” While there are a few minor issues, this score means that the art succeeds at its goal and leaves a memorable impact.

Disclosure: The publisher provided ComingSoon with a PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5 copy for its Far Cry 6 review.

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