Early on in Far Cry 6, a character explains that a revolution isn’t something that happens once, but rather something that will keep happening. History is destined to repeat itself over and over. The irony of Far Cry 6 using this as a theme isn’t lost on me. And yet, here I am, unable to break free of this franchise and somehow still enjoying it all.
This is a series that has, since Far Cry 3, stayed largely the same, with only minor changes to the overall formula. There’s always an evil leader, a map to take over, rebels to support, and explosive action. At this point, if you’ve played one or two of these games, you already know if you want to keep playing them. Sure, this time there’s more crafting, gear, and base building. But this is still Far Cry, and you probably don’t need to read the next 14 paragraphs to know if you’re interested in yet another entry. Still, for those of you who want some insight into just what this entry delivers, I present the following review.
Far Cry 6 takes place on the tropical island nation of Yara, a fictional place heavily inspired by the actual island nation of Cuba. Both have suffered through revolutions, foreign interference, and endless trade embargoes and blockades. The nation’s current leader, Anton Castillo, is the son of a former dictator who was taken out by rebels in the ‘60s when Anton was just a young teenager. After decades of economic decline, an older Castillo rises and becomes president, using his discovery of a miracle, cancer-slowing drug to gain folk hero status. He promises that the drug will turn Yara into a wealthy paradise. The only problem: The drug is made by spraying Yaran tobacco with a toxic chemical, and is produced using slave labour and human medical tests. As people begin to question Castillo’s rule, he tightens his control over Yara, becoming a dictator like his father before him. And like his father, Castillo has a son, about 13, who he is grooming to be the next leader. The cycle never ends.
This setup, while not all that original, at least provides a solid foundation on which to build an open-world action game. Sadly, Far Cry 6 mostly squanders Castillo, played by Giancarlo Esposito (The Mandolorian, Breaking Bad), as he barely interacts with the main characters outside of a few cutscenes. When he is on screen, Esposito offers up a fantastic, intimidating performance as a cruel dictator and, in his own way, a loving father. It’s just a shame the game isn’t interested in fleshing him out more.
Facing Castillo and his army are disparate bands of rebels that include young guns fresh out of high school and old legends who fought way back in the last revolution. Throughout the game, your main character, Dani (who can be either a woman or a man) helps these various rebels come together to take on the big, bad dictator. And it’s here that Far Cry 6 really shines. Dani, unlike past series protags, is interesting and actually shows signs of a personality. She’ll sing while you drive around the island, take a stand in verbal conflicts, and even experience an actual character arc by the end of the game.
Far Cry 6 spends a lot of time trying to illustrate how all of these rebels, be they old farts tired of war or a young trans DJ unsure of his future, have one thing in common: hope. It’s the lifeblood of any revolution, and Far Cry 6 lets you be the one who comes in time and time again to provide these people with the hope they need to defeat the monster enslaving and killing them.
Dani’s mission to liberate the country of Yara works because, unlike nearly every other Far Cry protagonist, she’s a native of the game’s setting. This isn’t a random white dude or some American jumping in and playing the saviour. Instead, Dani, who is also an orphan, is a homegrown hero desperate to help her adopted rebel family in any way possible. Her story and the people you meet elevate what is a fairly by-the-numbers series of campaign missions. You stop some convoys, kill some targets, take over some bases, you know the drill. But with these rebels behind me, counting on me and Dani, I felt more motivated and invested in it all.
I do wish the game did more to show you how the rest of Yara’s people are dealing with all this turmoil. Only a handful of missions and cutscenes feature the ordinary citizens of Yara. They often end up joining your cause, which is nice, but their general absence makes it feel like this big, tropical island is mostly filled with soldiers, rebels, and a handful of old farmers who are one fetch quest away from joining the rebellion.
Yet, for as empty as this island often feels, it’s a pretty place to fight a war. Far Cry 6 is gorgeous. I played on Xbox Series X and regularly found myself snapping screenshots of sunsets, tropical forests, and sunny beaches. I think the Far Cry formula can work anywhere, but it works best when it features white sand beaches and palm trees.
Far Cry 6
BACK OF THE BOX QUOTE
There’s always a bad guy and a map to clear.
TYPE OF GAME
Open-world action-adventure-shooter with co-op and collectibles
Visually impressive, a nice cast of rebel characters, fun treasure hunts, strong lead character.
Bland main missions, bad vehicle controls, underused main villain.
PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X/S (Played), Xbox One, PC
October 6, 2021
Over 33 hours. Completed the main story, most side missions, and explored the whole map, finishing some races and treasure hunts.
There’s a lot to do on this island, which is nice because sometimes you just want a break from fighting an army. When you feel like chilling in this beautiful setting, you can fish, hunt wild animals, solve puzzles, and locate hidden treasures dotted all around Yara. It’s all mostly old hat for Far Cry vets, but acquiring the hidden treasures is still fun. One had me creeping around a haunted mansion, looking for clues to solve a puzzle so I could nab a cursed item deep below the spooky old house. Good stuff. Those moments where the game takes away your guns and has you using your brain more are a welcome break from the shooting. In fact, I left many of them undone so I can go back, without the time pressure of a review, and enjoy them at my own leisurely pace. (Ubisoft, just let these devs make a first-person puzzle game already. Please.)
On top of all that, there’s also playable dominos, vehicle races, a full crafting system, a text-based side mode where you remotely guide rebels through different missions, and a new gear system. It’s a lot, and it often makes it hard to focus on the drama that Far Cry 6 is, based on its marketing, so very proud of. There’s a serious story of rebellion, war, and violence here, but it’s buried under a huge checklist of silly side-quests and collectibles.
And yes, there’s a whole cockfighting mini-game. As a white dude living in Kansas, I don’t feel qualified to speak on that, and would instead advise you to read this wonderful article by Kate Sánchez discussing the cultural history of the sport and how people around the world see it. I’m also not going to criticise or praise the specific ways in which the game draws on Cuban culture, or how the characters speak in a mix of English and Spanish. I just don’t have the cultural background to meaningfully contribute to that conversation, and anyway smarter, non-white folks have written about these topics already. I recommend you seek out their voices for a more informed take.
As for the shooty-shooty action part of Far Cry 6, it’s as solid as before. The gunplay in Far Cry has never felt as tight as in other shooters, but it gets the job done. I’m happy to report that, yes, getting a rifle with a silencer once again makes you an unkillable ghost. And even though I’ve done it so many times, clearing a big enemy base quietly and quickly as a badass, gun-toting assassin is still a hoot and a half. You now have more ways to customise your weapons and gear, but I mostly found the new combat features (like an upgradable backpack) not all that useful. When a silenced handgun and some throwing knives can take down an army, why do I need a silly flamethrower or EMP bomb?
For some reason, even after all of these games, Ubisoft still can’t seem to make cars and planes in Far Cry feel good to operate. They still handle like shit, and often just lead to more problems. Thankfully, this time around you can get horses who are fast, handle better than cars, and can be used to sneak around the island using secret rebel trails marked on the map.
It might seem wild to those of you who have long grown tired of the Far Cry formula, or open-world games more generally, that I’m going to wrap up this review by explaining how much I love Far Cry 6. And yet, that’s what I’m gonna do. Focusing so heavily on the idea of history repeating itself is weirdly perfect for the series at this point in its life. It’s almost as if this game knows that so many of us, like various Far Cry protagonists of the past, like Dani, like myself, are addicted to virtual violence and conquest. We can’t stop collecting things, destroying bases, and wiping a map clear of all the bad guys. It’s why we keep coming back to Far Cry, game after game. Even if it doesn’t all come together, or if the star villain gets left behind in favour of goofy side-quests, I keep coming back, over and over.
At one point, toward the end of the game, as you’re destroying some wifi jammers hidden around the island, one of your rebel friends radios in and gives you some news. Turns out, they found the rest of the jammers, and you can stop. Dani isn’t happy. Instead, she mentions how much she enjoys clearing the island of these objectives. In response, your rebel associate comments how weird you are, and laughs. And then Dani and I went and took out the last few wifi jammers, even though we didn’t really have to. What can I say? I’m just a sucker for the big maps, checklists, and pretty islands of Far Cry. I had a blast taking down yet another dictator and his army of warriors. I also get why, for so many, this formula has started to wear thin, and why they are tired of repeating history over and over. Perhaps I’m just out of my mind, damned to keep playing Far Cry games for the rest of my life. As someone once said, “Insanity is doing the exact…same fucking thing…over and over again.”