A fun, if overly familiar, tropical sandbox
Ready or not, it’s time for another Far Cry, and Far Cry 6 is bound to be a big one.
With each new mainline Far Cry and spin-off game, fans — myself included — tend to reflect back on the series’ highs and lows. We like to rank this stuff, again and again, to the point that we talk in circles. Inevitably, a bunch of people will renew their vows with Far Cry 3, which seemingly can’t be topped, while the rest will splinter into smaller groups to fondly remember Far Cry 5, Far Cry 4, or maybe even Far Cry Primal. There are standout moments in all of these games, but at a certain point, everything else blurs together.
Ubisoft has settled into an easily identifiable formula that leaves just enough room for a few design shakeups here and there, and I don’t blame the developers. These games sell; they’re pretty well-liked. As someone who can only handle keeping up with one open-world Ubisoft series at the expense of all the others, for me, it’s Far Cry — no question.
I just wish I didn’t feel the weight of that formula quite so much while I played.
Far Cry 6 (PS5 [reviewed], PS4, PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S) Developer: Ubisoft Publisher: Ubisoft Released: October 7, 2021 MSRP: $59.99
Far Cry 6 is a very fun game in which you, playing as a voiced protagonist with an honest-to-goodness personality for once, tear up a gorgeous (Cuba-inspired but fictional) Caribbean island just as the latest revolution is about to boil over. After attempting to escape for a better life in Miami, Dani Rojas kinda sorta reluctantly joins the guerrillas in hopes of uniting three different regional factions under the wider Libertad movement.
Far Cry 6 is also a very familiar game — so familiar, in fact, that it can be distracting.
If you’ve played any of the recent Far Crys and you know a one-sentence summary about the plot — which tries to juggle care-free open-world antics and heavy real-world themes like “fake” citizens who are forced to work in labor camps — then you know what to expect. Genuinely. There will be few, if any, surprising moments — in the story or the gameplay. Now, that isn’t an inherently bad thing, especially with some refinements in the mix, it’s just worth stressing upfront. If you aren’t in the mood for another Far Cry, then do not expect to want to finish this game. It’s not short, and it sure isn’t groundbreaking.
The main change feels like it’s a course correction from Far Cry 5, which took some bolder risks that ended up annoying a lot of players. People really didn’t like being interrupted or captured while they roamed Montana, and there’s nothing of the sort in Far Cry 6. The game goes out of its way to let you run wild and chart your course across this island nation. I can see why Ubisoft leaned heavily into this “unrestricted” direction, and I bet a significant number of Far Cry fans will dig it — but I also think there are trade-offs.
Aside from Dani, who can be male or female (though I recommend the latter choice for her great VO), there are a handful of other characters who are worth taking seriously.
Most notably, there’s the fierce dictator of Yara, Antón Castillo (played by Giancarlo Esposito), and his well-meaning son Diego, a president-in-training who’s far less dogmatic. Their family dynamic is explored in far-off cutscenes throughout Far Cry 6 as well as in a few, but not too many, face-to-face encounters. I felt a believable tension in the room with those two. I mean, I had guesses about how a Far Cry game would likely end, but I wanted to see how Dani wound up there. The journey itself was hit-or-miss.
Almost everyone else — from zany side characters you’ll recruit to fascist underlings you’ll wipe off the map — comes across as pure Far Cry fodder. You know the kind. You know how these characters tend to be written. I’d say that Far Cry 6 goes even more over-the-top with some of its big personalities, to the point where it took me a few hours to acclimate to the arguably too-playful tone. I eventually came around on people like Juan Cortez, a world-weary “guerrilla master” who outfits Dani with slapdash weaponry including a rocket-firing backpack, and El Tigre, a revolutionary legend with big dad energy who takes an immediate liking to Dani and adorably refers to her as Bebé Tigre.
The rest of ’em? Well, they won’t get in your way too much. In fact, Far Cry 6 really tries to streamline the way quest-givers dole out information. Main quests have a spoken intro that you can skip right over in a Destiny-style screen with a virtual cursor, which is great, because there are 50-some story missions. Given how many of the objectives will feel familiar, that is plenty. An early drug-burning mission with a flamethrower gave me bad flashbacks, and there’s an obligatory intoxicated goof-off session, but nothing else jumped out in a bad way. The bulk of Far Cry 6 is perfectly fine comfort-food gaming.
The cursor-based menu interface also extends to Dani’s equipment menu, which is another big shift in Far Cry 6. You do not have a skill tree in this game, which I think is for the best at this point. Dani will acquire tools like the fishing pole and the wingsuit early on without any fuss, and perks are tied to pieces of gear like gloves, helmets, and pants.
After clearing Far Cry 6‘s introductory island, you’ll head off to the main landmass. Yara is made up of three huge zones (each with a group to recruit for Libertad), as well as a fortified city center, and everything is further split up into smaller districts. As you chip away at military checkpoints, outposts, and other activities, Dani will level up, and the threat level in these different districts will also rise. Not every zone is the same — and at a certain point, your arsenal will feel unstoppable against even the most armored soldiers — but that’s the basic format. Once you can deal with tanks and choppers, you’ll be fine.
My favorite part, and maybe yours, too: you can look however you want and still keep the benefits of ugly gear. There’s a no-cost transmog option right in the inventory screen.
I was a little worried about the progression setup, initially. I saw a number associated with my gear pieces and my guns, and I didn’t like the idea that they’d potentially become disposable in an endless power-level grind. In reality, Far Cry 6 doesn’t work that way at all. With enough accumulated resources, you can bulk up the lowliest weapons with scopes, silencers, and other wide-ranging benefits, so nothing feels like a waste if you don’t want it to be. Customization, in general, is a huge focus in this game. For instance, I have a perk where, once I reload a certain handgun, all of my weapons are also magically reloaded — a slick solution to the grenade launcher’s elaborate reload animation.
For players who just want to get on with the skirmishes and not worry about picking up too many resources, during your Yaran adventures, you’ll organically get some unique weapons that come with bells and whistles all ready to go. I used a mix of these turnkey weapons and my own fine-tuned creations. There’s also an on-demand weaponized car that you can deck out, but honestly, this is Far Cry — I mainly tried to clear out military targets to open up fast-travel air-drops on the map. If I wasn’t gliding to my next waypoint with a wingsuit, I was calling in a horse. They’re a lot of fun to ride, and they suit the uneven terrain, whereas vehicles can be a little dicey. On PlayStation 5, you will ~feel the horse~. Anyone who has picked up a DualSense controller will know what I mean by that.
Even though there are considerations for ammo types when you’re facing certain foes with such-and-such weaknesses, I should say that the progression doesn’t come across as a slog, and I didn’t feel like the difficulty was artificially inflated (outside of a couple of weirdly tough moments, like a chase scene on the back of a fleeing truck). You should ideally be picking up bits of scrap metal, medicine, and gasoline after you clear out an area, because that all goes toward upgrades at your three main bases, so keep that in mind. Eventually, over time, it can be a chore to hold the Square button to grab all of this stuff.
It’s ultimately worth doing, though. There are six structures to build at the different guerrilla HQs, and they have a wider impact on gameplay, whether you’re a fishing pro, a hunter, a chef who wants to cook up limited-time buffs, or you just want to get around the map more conveniently. There are other diversions at camp like choose-your-own-adventure missions that can earn you resources in the background if you pick the right Bandido leader for the right task, and, no joke, there’s a full-on 3D fighter mini-game with chickens. Yes, it has a roster with unlockable roosters. It’s ridiculous. And strangely fun.
Animal buddies return, including a croc with a shirt and an oh-so-tiny dog who can catch enemies off-guard with weaponized cuteness. Again, you know the game-design drill.
At the end of the day, headshots and stealth still matter most. A well-aimed arrow is often devastating, and for better or worse, my good but by no means maxed-out bow was my weapon of choice in Far Cry 6. Same as it ever was. Maybe I’m boring, but I also ended up sticking with what is essentially the default Supremo backpack — the one that fires just enough homing rockets to take down a helicopter. While other options, like healing, seemed interesting for a co-op build, I just felt most comfortable with this basic yet effective “ultimate.” I found my strategy and it consistently worked; that’s the Far Cry way.
Any technical mishaps? I noticed several instances of short-lived screen tearing, and a bit of weird framey-ness in some cutscenes, but otherwise, the performance was great on PS5. The lighting and foliage can really hit the spot depending on the time of day.
At the risk of starting to ramble, which is always a concern when it comes to these sprawled-out Ubisoft games, I should wrap up this review. I can’t cover every facet.
I spent around 25 hours finishing Far Cry 6‘s main campaign, with some distractions here and there, and then I spent at least another five hours on slightly more cerebral treasure hunts, assorted Yaran Stories (side-quests), and yeah, I couldn’t help but capture more of those military outposts on the map. Overall, I had a good time — I had a fun time! — but so much of this game feels so familiar, to a fault. And it didn’t make a strong first impression, either. Even though it fell short in other ways, and it lost steam, I feel like Far Cry 5 spoiled me with its tense intro, more interesting cult setup, and that unforgettable soundtrack. I still think about the serene loading-screen tunes and map music to this day.
As someone who has played all of these games, this is probably the least motivated I’ve felt to fully “finish” a Far Cry. You might feel the same way. You might totally disagree. The high point is definitely Dani Rojas, who steals the show, and I can’t see Ubisoft going back to another silent protagonist. She truly fits the tone of this game and this series.
In a vacuum, Far Cry 6 is a great open-world action romp, and I should love it without caveats. Plenty of fans will. But when we’ve seen these same old tricks so many times before, year after year, and the new story mostly lacks nuance or even just high stakes, it’s tough to get excited about another checklist no matter where it’s set or who you’re fighting alongside. I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was in a sandbox; the illusion broke.
I’m in a tricky position where that deflated feeling is probably partially on me, the player, and partially on Far Cry as a series that keeps returning to the same well. The refinements are appreciated. The reliable gunplay — and the even greater ease with which you can get around and fight without being bogged down — go a long way in Far Cry 6. I have to give props there. And while I wasn’t able to test co-op, that’s going to be a bigger draw this time, and might be the ideal way to play. It’s supposed to be a thrill ride, after all.
If Far Cry 3 was the last game you really got into, or the modern Far Cry formula is your meaty open-world experience of choice that somehow never loses its potency, you’ll find a lot of comfort in Far Cry 6. Otherwise, get to it when you get to it, and try not to burn out.
[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]