Far Cry 6 – Viva La Revolucion
PC, Xbox Series/One, PS4/5
For better or worse, Far Cry has become synonymous with a certain type of gameplay. Ever since the 3rd entry, it has been about a lone soldier taking on an evil dictator/overlord/mad prophet to free an oppressed people and set the wrongs right. The gameplay loop has been essentially the same in all of the games, free a region by completing missions, clearing outposts and climbing towers. Players would then move onto the next region and repeat the process. With Far Cry 6, that DNA is still very much present, but the context of that gameplay loop has changed, and that makes all the difference.
For those that missed the marketing blitz, the story goes like this. You play Dani (either Male or Female, your choice) a downtrodden citizen of Yarra, a fake country that is Cuba in basically everything but name. Dani looks to escape Yarra and head to the USA but in the middle of her escape, her boat is boarded by evil Yarran dictator Anton Castillo and chaos ensues. You escape the mass murder committed by Castillo’s soldiers and make it to an island off the coast of Yarra. This island happens to be the current base of operations for Libertad, a guerilla organisation opposing Castillo’s regime. Libertad takes Dani under their wing and thus begins a journey to unite Yarra under Libertad’s banner and take the country back from Castillo and his associates, returning power to the people in the process.
It is a story that has been told before, in fact, it is the story of many countries from around the world, so there is a sense that you know where things are headed throughout the entire game. Ubisoft uses that to their advantage with some twists and turns that are likely to leave you a little shocked and possibly even disgusted. The atrocities committed by Castillo’s regime are not glossed over, but then again the actions of the guerilla factions can be just as brutal. The game makes a very strong statement about freedom fighters and the distinct possibility of them becoming the thing that they hate, in fact, it is a theme that is constantly running throughout the game. I should also mention the game’s ending, while I am sure it won’t be hated as much as Far Cry 5’s was, it is still quite shocking and may leave you feeling a little stunned and even upset.
That said, the real reason this story hits so hard is the exceptional dialogue writing brought together thanks to the fantastic performances by the actors in the game. It is no shock to anyone who has seen Breaking Bad or the Mandalorian, but Giancarlo Esposito is deliciously evil. You hang off his every word, his every malicious vowel. He never once dips into parody and although you are very much aware of his atrocities, his conviction and passion are compelling almost making him understandable, almost amiable to his line of thinking. That couldn’t be achieved by a lesser performance and it is clear that Giancarlo is giving it his all. He is a real reason to buy this game and will go down in history as one of gaming’s greatest villains, even surpassing the legendary Vaas from Far Cry 3.
The power of Giancarlo’s performance could have easily overshadowed the other characters in the game, but it is almost like every performer knew they had to step up their game to share the screen with such a legendary baddie and step it up they did. The cast of characters in the game are, without exception, excellent. Juan, the grizzled guerrilla veteran and Dani’s mentor strikes the perfect balance of humour and hate. Clara, the leader of Libertad, strives to be the representative that Yarra needs and that pressure shows in her actions and words. Diago, son of Castillo is caught between wanting to escape his father’s brutality and yearning for his approval. These are easily the most fleshed-out group of characters ever in a Far Cry game and all of the actor’s behind these characters deserve special praise.
Finally, that brings me to Dani herself (or himself.) I played the female version of Dani as she had been the focus of the marketing materials and let me tell you I am glad I did. Far Cry has never had likeable protagonists. For the most part, they have been silent and have very little to love about them. They act more as a faceless avatar for your path of destruction. This is not the case with Dani. She is vulnerable yet powerful, confident yet scared, a force of nature yet disgusted by her actions. From her insistence that she doesn’t enjoy the role of guerrilla commando, to singing along with the radio as she drives to a mission, there is just so much to like about her as a lead character. In fact, I haven’t fallen in love with a lead character like this since Kassandra in Assassin’s Creed Odyessy, another Ubisoft title. Clearly, the writing team at Ubisoft have focused on creating strong, well developed and loved lead women for their games.
Another thing worth mentioning as far as characters are concerned is the representation of minorities in-game. There is a strong undercurrent of racial tension based on the history of Yarra that has lead to many characters behaving the way they do. This is handled with a subtly and care that I didn’t think was possible from an AAA developer. Further to this, two of the main characters are Queer, one a Trans man called Pablo who not only fights Castillo’s regime but for acceptance by the (obviously Catholic) community as a whole and Rosa, a drag queen who doubles as Libertad’s spymaster, using her performances as a means of gaining information for the cause. Both characters are treated with respect, are never played for laughs and feel like natural inclusions in the story, not just there to tick a diversity box. Once again, something I didn’t expect from a Far Cry game and Ubisoft should be applauded for the way they have gone about it.
The setting of Far Cry 6 also deserves praise. I as said before, Yarra is essentially Cuba and as a result, there is a lot that is familiar here. The tropical vistas, the art deco architecture, the 1950’s automobiles, it all feels like it has come straight out of a Cuban documentary. It is easily the most lived-in and vibrant world in Far Cry’s history and there is a very real sense that this is a believable world, as opposed to the distant and sparsely populated worlds represented in previous Far Cry titles. I especially liked the mix of Spanish and English, being a rusty Spanish speaker and having lived in South America, I found great joy in the merging of the two languages, it gave me a feeling of colloquial comfort that I have missed since living there.
On the gameplay side of things, the Far Cry staples are here, but all elements show refinement and, more importantly, are contextually appropriate. Gone are the traditional outposts from Far Cry games and in their place are traffic checkpoints used to control the population or military complexes built to serve Castillo. Sure it boils down to just another location to take over, but the context really matters and gives weight to the engagements. The other thing worth noting is that you are very much playing as a guerrilla here. The game, even on normal difficulty is tough and picking when to fight and when to run is essential. There are no one-man armies here, tactical engagements and scouting are a must, no matter what level you are or what gear you are wearing.
Speaking of gear and levels, Far Cry 6 has done away with the traditional, RPG style experience trees and replaced them with rank and gear. Your rank determines what gear you have access too and all the gear can be modified to suit your playstyle. What I really liked about this system is that just because a weapon or piece of armour has a low rank requirement doesn’t mean it becomes useless against enemies later in the game. A level one gun can be just as effective as a level four one. The ranks are more about providing more modding options and a wider variety of death-dealing instruments. Much has been made of the “home-made” or Resolver weapons in the lead up to Far Cry 6’s release and while they are fun to use and more than a little crazy, I found them for the most part to be less effective than standard weaponry. The Supremo’s, or crazy homemade backpacks of death are a different story and they can often be the difference between life or death.
Now I have spent quite a lot of words telling you all the good things about Far Cry 6, but there is, unfortunately, some bad things to report. For starters, companion AI can be woeful at times. Your animal companions, while loveable, more often than not get in your road, especially when trying to be stealthy. Other human companions are just as hopeless, in one particularly frustrating mission, I was breaking a guerilla out of jail. I spent a lot of time sneaking and skulking to make sure no one was alerted. However, once I broke him out, he felt the need to shoot everything that came past, people, animals, even tanks, instead of hightailing to safety like he should of. Another giant frustration is getting caught in animations. Some of the reload animations are exceptionally long and once started cannot be stopped. This lead to my death on numerous occasions as an automatic reload stopped me from using a melee strike or healing myself. Hopefully, that can be tweaked in a patch because it brings significant frustration to the proceedings.
In the grand scheme of things though, these annoyances are only minor, especially in comparison to the vast array of positives to be found in the game. Far Cry 6 represents what is easily the best experience the franchise offers and in a lot of ways feels like the game that Ubisoft have always wanted to make. The story is surprising and engaging, the character performances are exceptional, the country of Yarra is fascinating and the traditional Far Cry gameplay elements all now come with context that heightens both their meaning and importance. In many ways, Far Cry 6 is one of the most surprising titles of the year, surpassing my expectations for both a Far Cry title and a game developed by Ubisoft. Far Cry 6 is the reinvigoration the franchise needed and one of the year’s most entertaining titles.
¡Viva La Revolucion!
Far Cry 6 was reviewed on the Xbox Series X with code kindly supplied by Ubisoft Australia