Far Cry 6: ¡Muy Explosivo!

LET me get this out of the way upfront: I love the Far Cry games. The combination of exotic setting, gunplay, interesting stories and thought-provoking villains has always appealed to me and I’ve been waiting for the latest instalment with bated breath as a result.

That game is Far Cry 6, developed and published by Ubisoft for PC, Xbox and PlayStation, and it’s out tomorrow (October 7).

Far Cry 6 is set on the island of Yara, which is definitely not a stand-in for Cuba (*OBVIOUS WINK*) and you play Dani Rojas (your choice of male or female; both are canon according to Ubisoft) who is a former military recruit that has (not unreasonably) decided that Yara has turned to flan under the ruthless dictatorship of El Presidente Anton Castillo and it’s time to Zoidberg out of there.

After getting caught in a military roundup of dissenters and barely escaping in one piece, Dani makes it to the refugee boat – which is intercepted by Castillo, because his son Diego is aboard. Diego is hauled off, the boat is machine-gunned by the military, and Dani manages to survive, meets up with guerrilla group Libertad, and is persuaded to join them to get revenge on Castillo for the whole “Ruining the country and murdering his friends” thing.

Doing that involves a lot of shooting, explosions, and interacting with a colourful cast of characters as you wreak havoc across the country with the aim of overthrowing Castillo and his regime.

Just to really drive the whole “Castillo is a bad guy” thing home, it is explained that Yara has somehow developed what amounts to a cure for cancer, extracted from Yaran tobacco leaves with the aid of a special but poisonous fertiliser. And who is growing and harvesting this miracle product? Slaves – people branded “Fake Yarans” or “Outcasts” for having opinions Castillo doesn’t like. Anyone labelled an Outcast is essentially stripped of their rights; the lucky ones end up in Viviro production while the unlucky ones are shot out of hand or used for medical experiments.

Far Cry 6 looks amazing and Yara is a beautifully realised location.

The whole thing is justified by El Presidente under a “Rebuilding Paradise” mandate, trying to turn the clock back to the island’s glory days before the 1967 revolution when things apparently didn’t suck so much for the average person, even though enslaving or murdering everyone for disagreeing with El Presidente is clearly a worse state of affairs than the results of a decades-long and selectively enforced international trade embargo.

One of the game aspects the marketing makes a big deal of are “Resolver” weapons – basically home-made weapons cobbled together from odds and ends. They’re supposed to be both powerful and illustrating the fact you’re a scrappy rag-tag rebel group making do with what you can scrounge – but they’re not particularly useful.

The weapons are novelties rather than effective combat items, I found none of them were better than the actual firearms in the game. For example, one of the weapons is a CD launcher that plays Macarena and launches CDs at enemies. It’s funny to use it in one encounter and be all “Lol I took out an entire checkpoint with a CD launcher playing the Macarena!”, but after that it’ll likely go straight back into the backpack and never come out again.

There’s a Resolver rocket launcher that uses fireworks. Looks cool, is mostly useless – especially because there’s an actual RPG-7 in the game that’s much more effective and not hard to get. There’s a Resolver crossbow and Resolver nail gun – again, pointless for me because you can put a suppressor on most of the firearms in the game and be as stealthy as you like that way.

The Resolver Backpacks come in several varieties, but the only one I found to have any real value was the “Assaulter” one (a multi-tube rocket launcher which fires homing rockets). The one that launched poison clouds just didn’t seem all that effective against enemies, the healing one is clearly designed for co-op play, the EMP one is only useful for hijacking vehicles (I don’t think I hijacked a single manned vehicle during my entire playthrough), and there’s one that launches a ring of fire and lets you jump forward like a short-range jetpack that I found to be in the same “Cool but impractical” category as most of the rest of the Resolver gear.

Weapons and vehicles can be upgraded using various components found around Yara, and you can do things like change ammo types to cause different damage effects, add suppressors and optical sights, increase the magazine size, or even take health from damaged enemies.

The marketing makes a big deal of the Resolver weaponry and equipment, but I didn’t find most of it all that useful.

The more conventional weapons and vehicles are great fun, with plenty of Cold War hardware contributing to the proceedings, ranging from the FN-FAL and M-14 to the PPSh-41 and VZ-61 Skorpion. The game also gets bonus gun points from me for including the Webley Mark VI revolver, which is one of my favourite handguns.

Vehicle-wise, there are heaps of cars and jeeps, motorbikes, tanks, boats and even horses, as well as your very own personally summonable modified 1956 Chevrolet Bel-Air inspired car with a rooftop gun turret.

The “ride” (summonable car) fixes one of the issues I’ve had with previous games in the series, where your objective is miles away and there’s no vehicles around to get you there. Now you can just summon this one and be on your way in style. What I really liked was how this didn’t detract from the game experience – there’s still plenty of places on Yara where a car isn’t an option.

Aircraft make a return as well – the two-seat 1940s trainer/fighter planes from Far Cry 5 are back, and there’s also an Mi-8 inspired armed transport helicopter too, along with a wingsuit and parachute.

You’re going to need all the vehicles because Yara is massive – one mission marker I recall was more than 6km(!) from my location. Fortunately, as you liberate outposts and checkpoints, they become fast-travel points, so you aren’t forced to spend the game travelling across the entire map in real time like Red Dead Redemption II.

The missions you are approachable either via stealth or by going loud; often a mixture of approaches. I found stealth worked the best, but when things got out of hand it was immensely satisfying shooting things and/or making them explode – and a lot of things will explode in Far Cry 6, ranging from petrol drums to vehicles to aircraft, and that’s not even getting into all the stuff you can set on fire.

You’ve got four regime opponents to get onside – a farmer’s collective, a musician group (for a Dance Dance Revolution, right? Anyone? No? I’ll get my coat then…), a separate rebel group with their own ideas about how to take down the regime, and finally the veterans of the 1967 revolution which overthrew the dictator before the one who recently got replaced by Anton Castillo.

Giancarlo Esposito is fantastic as El Presidente Anton Castillo, and doesn’t feature in the game nearly as much as I’d hoped.

Speaking of the game’s main antagonist, Giancarlo Esposito is almost criminally under-used as Anton Castillo. The character is supposed to be this combination of Manuel Noriega, Adolf Hitler and Gustavo Fring and yet we only see him in a handful of cutscenes, and the character seems to be, at most, mildly irritated by the whole “Guerrilla insurrection and plans to overthrow his regime” thing.

Mr Esposito’s performance itself is absolutely superb, however and he brings a real sense of gravitas and dignity to the character. Anthony Gonzales as Diego also turns in a solid performance as Anton’s son, providing a sympathetic counterpoint to Castillo Snr’s calculating exterior.

The enemy AI in the game, even on the recommended difficulty level, is not great and I was also really surprised at the lack of some of the fine detail that Ubisoft generally put into their games.

For example, one of the items your character can wear is a Hamilton Khaki Field automatic wristwatch (part of a marketing tie-in with the watchmaker, I gather) and it’s a very nice watch – I’ve been after a Khaki Field King automatic for ages – but in the game it doesn’t actually tell the time. It’s purely decorative.

Given that “Wristwatches that display the real-world or in-game time” have been a standard thing for a long time in gaming, I was really surprised to find this one didn’t function. Another example was things like the artificial horizons in the game’s aircraft didn’t seem to work either – the speedos and missile alerts did, though.

Since the game’s subject is revolution, Far Cry 6 naturally has some overtly political messages – most of which are absolutely appropriate (such as the “What happens when you decide you start dehumanising people you don’t agree with?” questions, or the whole “What stops the revolutionaries from becoming the same as the previous ruler but with different hats?” thing, or that age-old chestnut “Do the ends justify the means?”).

However, I still thought there were some jarring elements of woke pandering, however, including one scene in particular – which I won’t spoil – that I felt it was put in largely to get a “Yass Kween!”-type reaction from the social justice activist crowd.

Setting up an ambush, particularly early in the game when you don’t have the best equipment, is a rewarding experience.

The PC version of the game I reviewed was well optimised graphically, either – it looks nice, but to get the HD Textures you need an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 or above, or an AMD RX 6700XT or above,  and there’s not all that many of the high-end GPUs around at the moment. I encountered numerous instances of accessory textures (speedometers, character clothing, gun details) suddenly switching to low-res. The scenery, buildings, character and vehicle models were fine, so it wasn’t an immersion-breaking experience, and I gather it might be a driver issue, but it’s still not optimal for PC gamers.

The Xbox Series X version didn’t have those issues, so based on my review experience, the console version at launch has better (and more consistent) visuals than the PC version, especially on a Samsung QN900A 8K TV.

What I will say is the graphical issues on PC didn’t affect the actual gameplay, and from that perspective it was pure Far Cry, but with some much-needed improvements.

I know I’ve spent quite a bit of time listing some of the issues, but I honestly really enjoyed the game overall. The gunplay and explosives side of things was really well done, the story was engaging with an interesting (if not always likeable) cast of characters, Yara itself as visually impressive and detailed location which feels like a real place – I particularly loved the Spanish Colonial architecture of the old buildings you encounter.

The best way to describe Far Cry 6 is like being a first-person Just Cause – and it’s a lot of fun.

What we have in Far Cry 6 is, essentially, a first-person Just Cause and it’s exactly where the series needs to be. The balance between “serious” and “silly” is just right – the game tackles some pretty serious issues including slavery and atrocities against civilians, but the fact you can do things like fight the regime with a psycho rooster by your side while a new-age therapist calls you in the middle of a raging gunfight to mention that you seem stressed and should try some breathing exercises works very nicely as a counterpoint to keep the proceedings from ever getting too bleak.

Without getting into spoilers, I will say the ending I got for Far Cry 6 might not have been the one I was hoping for, but it wasn’t nearly as depressing as the Far Cry 5 one and didn’t leave me as a player feeling disrespected or like I’d totally wasted my time. The game is still playable after the end credits as well, both to wrap up any side quests you missed or to participate in an “Insurgency Mode” where Castillo loyalists retake provinces each week and you need to hunt down their commanders.

On top of the main missions, side-quests, fishing and hunting, there’s some other neat game modes included, notably a co-op mode (which I didn’t get the chance to try out pre-launch) and the Bandidos missions where you sent operatives out to undertake commando raids in Yara and overseas, making decisions as to how the operation should play out. The missions are all text based, but there’s some good rewards and it’s a fun “I’ll deal with it next time I’m at a guerrilla base” activity.

There is also a co-op mode allowing players to play the entire game with a friend, which adds to the chaos and enjoyment potential of the proceedings as well.

There is, in short, a lot to see and do in Far Cry 6 but it never felt tiresome, overwhelming or dull; There’s almost certainly plenty more surprises waiting in the jungles for me to find even after finishing the main campaign, and that’s not including the DLC which Ubisoft have already confirmed.

Far Cry 6 is an explosive action-fest which represents a welcome return to form for the series (In Spanish, for the Ubisoft LatAm PR team: “Far Cry 6 es un festival de acción explosivo que representa un bienvenido regreso a la forma de la serie”) and despite a few mis-steps still manages to be one of the year’s standout releases.

If you’re a fan of the series, you are going to have a great time here and it’s a must-play – although you’ll probably want to get the console version over the PC one until the graphics optimisation stuff is sorted out.

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