Far Cry is what made me a gamer.
After years of watching gameplay footage and listening to the soundtrack, Far Cry 5 hooked me with its open-world exploration and gripping story of a cult takeover. It took me a while to establish the muscle memory for a first-person shooter, but to this day, it’s still the game I revisit when I need the video game equivalent of comfort food.
When I started playing Far Cry 5, Far Cry 6 was already being advertised within the game’s menus. It seemed tailor-made for me: The setting was a fictional Caribbean island named Yara, much like the overseas base where I grew up, and the villain was played by none other than Giancarlo Esposito, a huge deal for a TV fanatic like me given his role in series like Breaking Bad and The Mandalorian.
Far Cry 6 does not disappoint. It didn’t just make me fall in love with it, but it made me realize what was so wrong with its predecessor.
A Franchise Grows Up
Esposito is known for menacing villains like Gus Fring in Breaking Bad and Moff Gideon in The Mandalorian, but with Far Cry 6’s Antón Castillo, his acting skills are fully unleashed. Gone is his typical quiet manipulator. He chews up the scenery whenever he appears, but it never feels hammy or overdone. In comparison with Far Cry 5’s Joseph Seed or Far Cry 3’s Vaas, Castillo feels grounded and realistic.
Overall, the game’s aesthetics are as beautiful as you would expect from an open-world game of this pedigree. Finally, water physics technology has caught up with Far Cry’s obsession with swimming and boats, and the motion capture adds life to every performance. It’s melodramatic, sure, but these over-the-top cutscenes perfectly match the tone of the world.
The biggest difference between Far Cry 6 and my much beloved Far Cry 5 is the story. While Far Cry 5’s player character was a nameless, mute person only referred to as “Rook,” Far Cry 6 gives Dani Rojas a name, a face, a personality, and most importantly: a voice.
Far Cry cutscenes are traditionally in the first person, meaning there isn’t much cinematography involved. The “camera” just presents the character’s viewpoint, which makes for nearly seamless transitions between gameplay and cutscenes. Far Cry 6 gets rid of this convention entirely, instead using models for motion-capture cutscenes just like other narrative games such as The Last of Us Part 2.
But unlike The Last of Us, we’re dealing with an open-world game, a format that’s taken a while to hone. Far Cry 3 was very railroaded, with the occasional side quest. Far Cry 5 clearly indicated which quests would advance the story, and which were just for fun. Far Cry 6 blurs those lines with quests given on a separate screen where the objective and rewards are detailed and laid out for the player to accept or deny. Of course, the first few missions are pretty mandatory to kickstart the narrative, but the player can make their own decisions.
Sharing the Fun
The player character, Dani Rojas, can be played as male or female, though the choice can only be made once at the start of the game. They may just be this game’s secret weapon, aside from all the literal secret weapons that can be found in puzzle-like “treasure hunts.” Dani brings back a concept that has been lost in the Far Cry franchise. Dani isn’t fighting for their life, they’re fighting for a cause, one they don’t necessarily align with at the start of the game.
While Jason in Far Cry 3 and Rook from Far Cry 5 were fighting to overthrow a power that threatened their very livelihood, Dani just dreams of life in America. Their first encounter with Antón is on the boat smuggling them into America, and even after that fails, Dani is still skeptical of the rebel group Libertad.
But in conversation with Juan, another freedom fighter, he points out something about Dani that they don’t even recognize: They think running around and shooting up baddies is fun.
By giving the player character the same sense of fun that the player experiences, there’s room for the kind of superficial additions that would otherwise seem unbelievable in a fight for survival. Running around chasing a mongoose for a gun? Why not. A rocket backpack that recharges as you kill more people? Of course. A suppressor made out of plastic scraps? Sign me up!
It’s these touches that make Far Cry 6 a joy to play. The silent takedown kills are so satisfyingly violent, you’ll want to try a stealth approach just to see them. Existing infrastructure from a 1967 revolution means lookout posts are easy to identify for recon, and trails without Yaran soldiers marked with blue flowers make exploration a cinch.
Though I loved Far Cry 5, I did have the occasional issue which I chalked up to me just being a beginner not used to “good gameplay.” But now, playing Far Cry 6, I realize all those annoying features could be fixed, and this game fixes them all.
Gone is the perk menu, replaced with customizable gear that can be switched out for applicable missions. Gone is the annoying weapon switching mechanic that made obtaining powerful weapons easy but made looting difficult. In fact, looting itself is gone: Like in Far Cry 3, just walking over downed enemies picks up their ammo and other belongings. Just want to walk around and enjoy the countryside? Holster your weapon and nobody will mess with you. Even the healing method has changed. Don’t worry about crafting or looting, a rechargeable heal ability means you’ve always got a lifeline.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a Far Cry game without the animals, and the ones available in Far Cry 6 are great. You can hunt animal hides to trade for crafting materials, ride a horse like it’s Red Dead Redemption 2, or pick an animal to help you on a mission, building on Far Cry 5’s allies system.
I did the majority of my Far Cry 5 playthrough with Boomer, a lovable pup who would tag nearby enemies. In Far Cry 6, you can pair up with a croc or a rooster, but my semi-stealthy playstyle suited wheelchair-using sausage dog Chorizo perfectly as he distracted enemies, allowing me to roam undetected. And yes, you can pet just about every friendly animal.
Far Cry 6 caused a bit of discourse earlier this year surrounding how politics fit into games, which are meant to be universal immersive experiences. But Far Cry 6 navigates this murky ground by giving their enemies something that is so rare in video games: lives.
While shooting faceless soldiers can get old after a while, in Yara, many of Antón’s soldiers are just trying to feed their family and will even give you intel on enemy territory. These people are NPCs in name only, and serve their own role in the narrative. In a genre where it’s rare to encounter three-dimensional characters or real people (I didn’t try the multiplayer co-op options), this just adds to the immersion.
Far Cry 6 plays like the platonic ideal of a Far Cry game, but it isn’t a perfect game in general. Environmental design is occasionally frustrating. The looting and crafting weapon enhancement system is a lot more complex than just the cut-and-dry store system.
In the thin sliver of perspective throughout the franchise, Far Cry 6 manages to drag a legacy that isn’t inherently suitable to the AAA model into 2021. It may be different to the Far Cry games you know, but the core is the same. The rough edges have just been sanded down, leaving behind the gleaming FPS experience you’re expecting.
Far Cry 6 launches for PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, and PC on October 7, 2021. Inverse played the PS4 version for this review.
INVERSE VIDEO GAME REVIEW ETHOS: When it comes to video games, Inverse values a few qualities that other sites may not. For instance, we care about hours over money. Many new AAA games have similar costs, which is why we value the experience of playing more than price comparisons. We don’t value grinding and fetch quests as much as games that make the most out of every level. We also care about the in-game narrative more than most. If the world of a video game is rich enough to foster sociological theories about its government and character backstories, it’s a game we won’t be able to stop thinking about, no matter its price or popularity. We won’t punch down. We won’t evaluate an indie game in the same way we will evaluate a AAA game that’s produced by a team of thousands. We review games based on what’s available in our consoles at the time. And finally, we have very little tolerance for junk science. (Magic is always OK.)