Far Cry 6 Review: The Revolution Will Not Be Well-Advised
Far Cry 6 has launched worldwide, but you've already played it. From its too-large open world divided into regions, each dominated by a lieutenant of sorts, to its hundreds of map icons spread across a dozen or so activities, you've been to Yara under different names — and maybe you really want to return.
I won't fault you if you're not burnt out by this signature sandbox setup. I've had my more excited moments with it as well — even when considering other games from this very publisher. But the best part of Far Cry 6, its villain, is routinely squandered by whiplash-inducing tonal shifts.
I'd forgive a lot of the repetition in Far Cry 6 if it was written with confidence, but it never feels that way. For every mesmerizing monologue from Giancarlo Esposito, there are a half-dozen hours of a years-old formula that more often feel compulsory than captivating.
Far Cry 6 Review: The Revolution Will Not Be Well-Advised
In Far Cry 6, you are Dani Rojas, a draft-dodger who quickly finds themself thrown into the middle of a — you guessed it — resistance movement to upend a despot. While the setting of sunny Yara (based heavily on Cuba) is new and so are its guerrilla fighters, much else feels eerily similar to recent games in this series and others under the same publisher umbrella.
As soon as you leave the tutorial island and the map reveals its good guys, its bad guys, and its massive size, you'll have to suppress flashbacks of Ghost Recon, Assassin's Creed, and several other recent games. It's evident that the love Ubisoft has for underdogs and overthrows still burns.
It makes sense since it easily sustains the gameplay conceit of slowly turning a red map blue over the course of dozens of gameplay hours, but if your flame for such systems has been extinguished, Far Cry 6 is a tough ask.
Personally, I tend to defend these gargantuan games because I think Ubisoft makes them for players who seek out these epically long sandboxes, not for critics who are likely already inundated with half a dozen other games to play for assignment.
So when I say that Far Cry 6 is a chore, I mean it's taxing on even the most passionate open-world devotees. It is an amalgam of years of iteration, and sadly, anyone who has kept up with these games will not be rewarded with many interesting new ideas.
One of the cool things Far Cry 6 does do is allow you to holster your weapon and exist freely among the tyrants, blending in as a law-abiding Yaran. This hiding-in-plain-sight tactic, while at odds with Dani's garb worn in blatant support of the Libertad resistance, allows you to scout areas, plan attacks, and set ambushes.
You'll have to really want to be creative, though, because it's always easier to quietly sneak up behind every enemy with your machete and hide their bodies, or equip a gun with a silencer and armor-piercing rounds to pick enemies off from a distance. Doing everything that way is much less rewarding than daring yourself to find new ways to tackle obstacles.
While you dispatch "True Yarans" from military bases, checkpoints, and anti-aircraft sites, you'll slowly liberate the people of Yara and unite the various disparate resistance movements across the country. They eventually join together under a common flag so the game, like so many before it, can make a point about how the will of a collective people can overcome even the most brutal regimes.
All the while, Anton Castillo, played perfectly by Giancarlo Esposito with a heaping helping of Gus Fring's straight-faced violent impulses, taunts you from televisions played around the country and sometimes comes face to face with you and your allies.
These moments must only amount to something like 60 minutes of cutscenes, but they're certainly the best parts of the game. Castillo and his son Diego bring a compelling angle to the story, one that I haven't actually seen in games before, and in these moments, I see consistent flashes of brilliance.
They are sadly undone by virtually all other moments though.
Your allies are usually caricatures more than people. They quote Abizu's rousing speeches and make jokes about alligator poop just minutes apart. Anytime Far Cry 6 goes for heart, it comes up empty — unless Esposito is in the scene.
Each time he is, I imagined a game that isn't afraid to be sincere, thoughtful, and upsetting in the way lots of good art is. It was never long after that when a guerrilla would hand me a dinosaur mask or ask me to collect depleted uranium (an actual war crime) in exchange for ridiculous DIY weapons called Supremos.
Far Cry 6's map, while big and bloated, is still its best yet. The weather is consistent across the world, but even as it dodges the new hotness of a sandbox with varied biomes, it feels more interesting thanks to both how it looks and how you move about. City hubs give the series a new look away from the usual jungles and mountains — though those are here too.
Ample safehouses, a wingsuit almost right off the bat, and the ability to call rides at will mean you can fast-travel quicker than ever before. And when you do take the long way to a location, taking out anti-aircraft guns and invasive checkpoints doles out appreciable rewards by allowing for easier flying and driving.
These are the sort of side missions that make Far Cry fun in spite of some of its other bits. You can cook, hunt, fish, upgrade your bases, and send NPCs on missions that play out via timers, giving you money and other rewards. But none of these are interesting and those that aren't new have never felt less necessary. I almost didn't engage with some side aspects at all, and when I did (for the purposes of this review), nothing of value was gained.
As has been the case since Far Cry 3, the latest game feels really good. Shooting is always great despite a massive array of guns and gadgets. Stealth is reliable and makes sense, albeit in a typical video-gamey way of vision cones and awareness meters. Upgrades lend you tremendous customization options and missions dare you to pick the right tools for each job. But this sturdy skeleton of a game is not fleshed out with enough good content, trading instead for simply lots of it.
The game is also buggy at times, though I suspect these are things that can be fixed. I tend to forgive bugs pretty quickly, but a few of them — enemies spawning under the geometry, helicopters flying so high above that they were unassailable, horses seemingly targeting cars to crash into — blocked progress several times, and that's when my patience would wear thin.
Far Cry could do with less but more meaningful content, like some of that which is on display in this game, and like I see whenever an unpredictable showdown with Castillo unfolds. It's a game that takes 100 hours to do everything, not to mention the entirely new systems that reveal themselves as the post-credits endgame. But at the heart of this game, there is a compelling drama. It's just too bad you have to squint to see it.
Far Cry 6 Review — The Bottom Line
- Anton Castillo is a well-performed, compelling villain
- Some of the new side content is fun and makes for good world-building
- Trades quality for quantity
- Buggy to the point of temporarily breaking some missions
- Overstuffed with forgettable side activities
- Tonal whiplash gets in the way of what could've been a great story
Looking back on my 50+ hours with Far Cry 6, I can't say I strongly disliked it. Maybe that seems silly after I've levied so many complaints, but the checklist of missions and map markers remains an unbreakable endorphin supply even as I can see through to its cynical core.
Ubisoft has re-imagined several of its biggest series in recent years, and Far Cry's time feels past due. The publisher kneels at the altar of engagement, but I know from some of its other games that something can be intimidatingly huge and still incredibly rewarding. Far Cry 6 doesn't achieve both today, but my hope is quality can usurp quantity in a near-future overthrow.
[Note: Ubisoft provided the copy of Far Cry 6 used for this review.]