(FAR CRY 6 is out on October 7th for the PC, Xbox, and PlayStation. Distributor provided review code.)
Another year, another Far Cry title. That’s as simple as it gets.
Far Cry 6 is slightly more refined than Far Cry 5, and on a technical level, it’s a solid, if unsurprising, addition to the series. If you’re a fan of open-world mayhem, you will enjoy this one, too. If not, there’s nothing here that will convince you otherwise.
Like the FIFA series, Far Cry is a series so deeply invested in delivering the same product on a tight schedule that there’s zero chance of innovation. It’s a victim of its success, striking gold years back with Far Cry 3, and never straying from the formula ever since.
That’s not inherently a bad thing if all you want from a new addition is more explosions in exotic locales. Only this time you’ll have to work even harder to ignore everything else around the chaos.
Far Cry 6 is set on the island of Yara, which is definitely, absolutely, not Cuba. Ignore the visual cues, the cars, the talk about taking a refugee boat to Miami, the third-world-yellow-filter. They might all look like what pop culture conditions us to expect as being Cuba, but Yara is not Cuba.
Glad we cleared that up.
So, Yara is under civil war after a long trade blockade and uprising of a bloodthirsty dictator, and – OK, look, it’s Cuba. It’s as thinly veiled a reference to Cuba as possible.
In fact, after much hand-wringing and denying it, even Ubisoft finally came out and said it was about Cuba.
But after such a statement, Far Cry 6 continues to skirt any implication of politics, despite revolving around, well, inherently political topics. Which, in turn, makes it feel intensely problematic.
Instead, we get a run-of-the-mill story about a dictator (Giancarlo Esposito) and a young revolutionary called Dani going at it over the control of the island nation. Fans of the series will guess most of the plot beats before they happen. Newcomers will recognize the pattern pretty quickly.
The idea of playing a freedom fighter (never actually called that, they’re all referred to as guerillas) is an enticing one. And there are even examples of fantastic pulp films mixing reality with fantasy, such as Robert Rodriguez’s Once Upon a Time in Mexico.
But Far Cry 6 is interested in the tourist version of things; the superficial archetypes and easy finger-pointing. Apart from a throwaway line regarding foreign power-backed coups, there’s nary an indication that this revolution is connected to larger topics. Yara exists in a vacuum, one that has always been at war, and will always be in one.
In theory, Far Cry 6 wants to be a consequence-free sandbox built for mayhem. But by infusing it with Cuban politics, and history, and then mixing that into a pan-Caribbean melting pot of faiths and ideologies, Far Cry 6 becomes a tangled mess of good intentions which never work.
Instead, not a single minute passed in-game where I didn’t think about the larger implications of what passes for entertainment. Simply because Far Cry 6 won’t let me escape it. An entire mini-game is devoted to cockfighting. Poverty becomes DIY romanticizing. A gun plays The Macarena when you aim down sights. Everyone speaks English until they suddenly pepper the language with random exclamations in Spanish. Just to remind you where you are.
It’s an outsider’s view of real suffering, where suffering is mistaken for nobility by those who’ve never experienced it.
On a technical level, Far Cry 6 is consistently impressive while never being impressive. It’s another open world, and Yara comes packed with mountains, jungles, hidden camps, and dangerous getaways. Everything works and looks great, and will provide easily a hundred hours of entertainment if you so choose.
The controls and vehicle mechanics are all lifted directly from previous episodes but do feel more refined once again. It feels like a running theme; everything is fine, and that’s as much as you can expect from it.
But it’s all the same as we’ve seen in Far Cry since the very beginning. While some elements are toned down (there are no longer towers to climb and unlock), you still spend most of the time repeating the same actions over and over again. The opening tutorial is a great litmus test for the rest of the game. If you enjoy those first three hours without any gripes, you’ll probably enjoy the rest.
If, on the other hand, you’re like me, and even the first few hours raise eyebrows, chances are the following twenty will be equally tiring.
The bloat and stuffiness become even more pronounced as you realize this is supposed to be a revolution. But your handlers are all bureaucrats with binders, standing stiffly in front of maps without so much as proper animations to their name. Before long, you pick up new errands (and they are errands) at such a rapid pace that eventually the once vast frontier looks like an elaborate shopping list.
It bears repeating: if this sort of gameplay is your thing, Far Cry 6 delivers in spades. But it is, ultimately, the very same experience you’d get with Far Cry 3, 4, and 5. Only the people you kill are different.
The major frustration stems from the knowledge that Far Cry doesn’t need to be like this. The developers behind the series clearly know how to craft interesting open vistas, yet they’re constantly hampered by dated mechanics and a stifling need to cram the game with things to do.
Far Cry 6 has content for days, even months if you want to do everything. But none of it is particularly unique or exciting. Most of the tasks become repetitive within the first few hours. Eventually, you realize that despite the map showing a wealth of activities, once you remove those that are the same activity repeated in a different location, you end up with less than a dozen things to do.
Combine that with a tonally inconsistent plot that can’t decide if it’s fantasy or hard-hitting drama about the real world, and Far Cry 6 turns even more frustrating.
One minute you’re hiding in a boat with refugees, the next you’re firing missiles from a backpack that’s made with copper wire and soda bottles. Another hour and you’re forced to watch innocent people die in gruesome and horrific ways, the next you’re mowing down sci-fi-level soldiers with the help of a seemingly sentient alligator in a t-shirt.
If you can ignore all the implications and troubling aspects that come with the plot, and if you don’t mind repeating the same missions you’ve already done in previous games, Far Cry 6 provides many hours of potential fun.
But that doesn’t feel like all that much praise, does it?