Far Cry 6 is the latest in the franchise that dates back to 2004, the original game was developed by Crytek to premiere their CryEngine software, and released to much acclaim. Far Cry 6 returns to the original game's tropical setting and starts as it means to go on with a high quality intro that is better than any movie's or TV series' I've seen this year.
People are revolting aren't they? Well the people of Yara certainly are, and El Presidente and evil dictator Antón Castillo (played by the excellent Giancarlo Esposito) rules his archipelago with an iron fist. Castillo can't be all bad because his regime is developing an anti-cancer "wonder drug" called Viviro from a tobacco-like plant, and uses the civilian population like slaves to harvest, manufacture and package it. The Viviro manufacturing process produces a dangerous side-product in the form of a red-tinged gas called PG-240, which causes hallucinations, aggressive behaviour and sudden death. Like all good dictators, Castillo doesn't like waste so uses the deadly gas to keep the rebelling population of his idyllic archipelago paradise under control–seriously, if it weren't for all the gunfire, explosions, murders and corpses Yara would be my next holiday destination!
Playing as either a male or female character named Dani, you soon meet weaponmaker Juan, who mentors you into your new life as a guerrilla freedom fighter for Libertad, one of several resistance groups. Juan gives you your first Supremo backpack and continues to produce more throughout the game. These amazing backpacks supply all sorts of extras, from volleys of rockets to EMPs and ammo or health boosts. Juan also produces Resolver weapons like a flamethrower, grenade launcher, crossbow, poison gas sprayer, explosive firework launcher, weaponised nailgun, disc launcher, EMP rifle, minigun, explosive sniper rifle and a railgun that works in tandem with a certain backpack to allow you see and shoot through walls!
But first Juan introduces you to Guapo, your incredibly faithful and obedient Amigo or pet crocodile who immediately kills an FND (Fuerzas Nacionales de Defensa) soldier and saves your butts! As the game progresses you'll unlock more six more Amigos; Chorizo (an adorable disabled sausage dog), Chicharrón (a psychopathic rooster), Boom Boom (a loveable mongrel) Champagne (a beautiful white puma), K9000 (a strangely out-of-place robot dog), and Oluso, who would seem to be a black jaguar. Oluso is like Champagne's darker half, with the supernatural ability to make the bodies of enemies she kills disappear in a puff of smoke and sparks–which obviously makes her invaluable during missions that require stealth. When trying to remain undetected you can carry, hide and dump bodies yourself, but it's all a bit clunky and almost impossible to throw them over a wall, handrail or the side of a bridge, which seems a bit silly, but it makes you appreciate Oluso's "gift" even more.
All the Amigos have different strengths and weaknesses, and they can all be improved as you practice using them in combat. You don't have to use your amigos at all, and when the AI guerrillas fight along with you, you genuinely feel guilty if one of them gets downed and you don't revive them in time. But as usual in this sort of adventure, the AI don't actually help out all that much so an Amigo is not only fun to order around and watch in action, but they also come in extremely handy when you frequently find yourself heavily outnumbered.
The islands are heaving with wildlife and domesticated animals, there seems to be all sorts of creatures except domestic cats, so maybe Presidente Castillo banned them, or Guapo ate them all?
As you explore the islands, accepting missions from various characters will lead you all over the place, clambering around with some pleasing agility you almost feel like a parkour runner. I was pleasantly surprised to see that Dani dives into water rather than just bombs in as in most FPS. You also have a grappling hook and there are a lot of high points only accessible by climbing or swinging to, almost Lara Croft-style. From these you can use your parachute or wingsuit to get around or just to return to ground level safely. It's a shame the grappling points weren't more numerous, because it's a great game mechanic.
You can also use a huge selection of vehicles; cars, jeeps, trucks, planes, helicopters, hovercraft, boats and even ride horses. In land vehicles you can enable 'Auto–Drive' (by clicking L3) which will follow a major road and allows you to take it easy or shoot more accurately. Autodrive can become a pain if you have a waypoint set on the map because it'll keep trying to turn you towards your set destination–they should have made it possible to toggle Autodrive 'off' as well as 'on.' Some parts of the expansive landscape are best traversed on horseback, they're not only the easiest form of travel to find, but they'll jump fences and go places even quad bikes, 4x4s and even tanks won't go–plus they all look gorgeous and are superbly animated. If you don't like riding horses, you'll eventually have a choice of 4 personal vehicles that you can have delivered to you, but you can only call them to a well-defined road, making the many horses wandering, being ridden around, and found at horse pickup points a constantly viable method of transport.
On your travels you find numerous boxes of medicine, scraps and apparent junk, metal, gasolina, something called 'Supremo Bond' (which is presumably some sort of glue or resin) and gunpowder which allow you to craft your own weapon mods and ammo, which is just as well as the first rifle you get has such bad recoil that automatic fire means it's hard to hit a barn door (from inside the barn!) The first sniper rifle I found only had an ACOG scope on it—many that I found later had no scopes at all, and while of course you can add a variety of optics, it seems odd to find a sniper rifle without a scope.
Castillo's FND government troops are all over and will attack on sight if your GTA-style "wanted" level is elevated. When you've been injured either by enemy gunfire, fall damage, PG-240 gas, bitten by wild animals or burnt, you can heal yourself by holding 'Y'. This is accompanied not simply by you bandaging or jabbing yourself, but by a selection of imaginative animations showing you downing some pills, removing shrapnel, stubbing a cigar out in yourself (presumably to cauterise a wound), chugging liquor or even relocating a dislocated wrist or fingers, which somehow manages to look both horrible and amusing.
Talking of getting burnt, as usual in the Far Cry franchise fire is dynamic so it spreads, causes secondary fires and explosions before eventually dying out. Some fires burn for ages, and the scene of a battle always looks and feels right because there's nearly always something blazing away or a smoking wreck or two when the fighting is done.
Far Cry 6 looks consistently gorgeous, with a vast, detailed landscape and smooth frame rate, regardless of draw distance or the amount of action on-screen. While there's very little pop-up on Xbox One sadly there's some screen tearing even on a Series X, which is just plain wrong. It wasn't apparent at the start of the game but as locations get more complex, detailed and populated it seems to occur more frequently. I wish Ubisoft had given us a V-sync option, I'd rather have a momentary frame rate drop than eye-stabbing horizontal tearing–I was hoping I'd seen the end of that on the last gen. Ubisoft fixed an early problem with the 'Quick Resume' function on Series X/S so maybe they'll fix the tearing too.
Far Cry has always been a bit po-faced serious but while it still has moments of ultra violence, murders, sadness and torture, FC6 seems to have lightened up and definitely doesn't take itself too seriously. This might grate with some but I enjoyed the lighter approach to mercilessly killing Anton's lackies, and you always feel like you're the good guy (or girl.) One of the most amusing stories is when you get to undertake a five-and-a-half-step personal improvement therapy program with a local quack psychiatrist. Will you achieve inner peace? Probably not without killing even more FND troops!
Although the game allows you to play your own way, if you follow the story-driven plot you'll soon be encouraged to meet the Monteros, the Legends and Máximas Matanzas, and you'd be daft not to. As much fun as you can have just trolling around ignoring all your contacts, making friends and influencing people in Yara–especially these 3 resistance groups–really makes things go more smoothly.
Guerilla Camps in each of their regions will become forward bases for you, and if you complete all the related missions you can build two facilities in each camp which will enhance your chances of success and allow you access to more 'fast travel' locations, weapons and vehicles. There are dozens of characters to meet and help out, each with their own backstory, demands and things to reward you with.
The two most important things to add are 'Hideout Networks' (which supply intel on safe houses which enable fast travel and use of the wingsuit) and 'Bandidos Barracks', which give the captives you come across and rescue during normal gameplay somewhere to live and organise. I was gobsmacked to see two hostages I rescued go to the bodies of their captors, take their weapons and look like they wanted to go and shoot some FND ass! It was a great moment, and kudos to whoever thought of making them do that.
You can even collect recipes to make special enhancing meals in a Cantina at your bases that give you things like extra stamina for one hour real time. Again, you don't have to partake of any of these micromanagement sub-game type things, but they can be fun, and really help make your character better, faster, tougher and therefore missions easier.
You don't have to, but it's a good idea to loot/search everything–everywhere, it'll pay off in the end. You'll discover hidden weapons, collectibles and notes that give you new locations of FND bases. There's a lot to read, but you don't have to, although if you do read everything you'll occasionally get a tip on the location of an important place or item.
Apart from the obvious military targets Bandido leaders will join you after you complete Yaran Story missions successfully–these are given by locals you meet, and Special Operations, which are handed out by the ubiquitous Lola at your larger bases (she sure does get around!) These leaders will then be available to use in a simple multiple choice sub-game called Bandidos Operations. Rescuing hostages, defacing posters and destroying billboards gets you Los Banditos recruits which means you can do more Los Bandidos Operations, and these can earn you extra recruits, money or crafting materials.
Destroying billboards and defacing posters also gets you more active recruits, and pleasingly you'll actually see more resistance fighters staging their own attacks as you make progress in an area. You hardly ever get anyone to travel and fight with you though, so being able to have a co-op friend along sometimes is a great feature, and it works really well. Ubisoft really have become the masters of the drop-in, drop-out co-op mode.
There's a ton of stuff to do and genuine variation in mission types and activities, way more than any previous Far Cry. Extra curricular non-combat activities include Grand Premio races (in various land vehicles, boats, jetskis, hovercraft, helicopters and planes!), fishing, cock fighting and even a strangely addictive game of dominoes going on! Anyone who's played Forza Horizon from the in-car view will feel right at home in the Grand Premio races, and the Cockfighting plays like a classic 2-and-a-half-D beat 'em up. I always seem to win the first bout but lose the next 2—dammit!
There are a tremendous number of customisation options for the plethora of weapons, vehicles and outfits. This makes you wonder why they went with just 2 Danis, rather than an actual character designer. It can feel a bit weird, like an out-of-body experience if you play co-op and your friend plays as the same Dani, similarly equipped as you!
FC6 lets you play as stealthy or aggressive and 'go loud' as you like, but taking out an FND installation undetected is extremely satisfying. Hiding bodies, using Oluso, disabling alarms (EMP weapons can do this from range) and having gear that enhances your stealth abilities all help you to stay undetected. Even sliding quickly (hold B while running) out of a guard's sightline is a useful tactic when trying to remain undiscovered.
Weapons are plentiful and the designers want you to use them too, your loadout can include 2 primary weapons, a Resolver weapon, a Supremo backpack and a sidearm. Shotguns are for once in a FPS actually useful as they have decent range, pistols handle well and pack a heavy punch and the flamethrower is the best I've used in a FPS, it even has two fire modes: fire from the hip and it spreads its flames horizontally, aim down the sights and it has more range-it's simple genius.
Another nice feature that probably won't get used much but is a welcome addition anyway, is the Photo Mode. This allows you to pause the game and take a screenshot at any point, arrange your Dani in several poses and with different facial expressions, change the time of day, include various Amigos, items and even vehicles, or even just remove everything to take that perfect postcard-type photo.
Far Cry 6 seems a genuine evolution in terms of the number and variety of activities, the range of weapons, ammo and vehicles, but then takes a step backwards because you can no longer go prone. Crawling around on your belly for stealth and to hide when being chased was a big part of earlier Far Cries, and I have to admit I miss it. Another minor gripe is that the game is consistently finicky about picking things up, entering vehicles and interacting with various items. Even when pushing a boat or jetski back into the water the game insists you stand in just the right spot, which rarely actually makes sense. Finally, and I'm not even sure if this is a gripe, but there's almost too much to do-so many missions, side missions and activities (like fishing and various races) are thrown at you that it requires a good deal of discipline to advance the story at all...
What a game Ubisoft have produced here, its looks, size, quality and variety surprised and pleased me, and brought back pleasant memories of both the original Far Cry and Far Cry 3, which was previously my favourite in the series. FC6 has nicked its spot, and there are still a host of DLCs to come!
Thanks to Ubisoft UK for the review code.