The long-running Far Cry series heads to a troubled island paradise for a spot of rebellion, guns and hungry crocodiles in its latest giant-sized instalment, Far Cry 6.
It’s hard to keep a successful series of anything going for a decent length of time – and often, by the time a late-stage sequel lands, it’s forgotten what the whole thing was meant to be about in the first place (think The Phantom Menace, or that Indiana Jones film with the atomic bomb fridge escape and the aliens that we all try to pretend was just a bad dream). Dating back to the heady days of 2004, when a “gaming computer” was a fraction as powerful as your current smartphone, the Far Cry series has spent its 17 years of existence trying to not have that bad sequel moment and, perhaps surprisingly, pretty much nailing it.
The secret of its success is probably more to do with the series’ ability to riff off a simple concept rather than recurring characters. But there’s also the heady reputation it carries with it – the original game was developed by German studio Crytek to show off their advanced game engine, which went on to power Crysis, pushing graphics beyond the limits of the hardware at the time. A Far Cry game has always come with the expectation that it’s going to be a visual treat, something Ubisoft has kept in mind since they took over the franchise and turned it into a sprawling open-world adventure.
By this stage, with this sixth instalment of the main series sitting alongside nine (!) spinoff games like 2019’s excellent Far Cry New Dawn, it almost feels like we’re going to need a “previously on” recap to get a vague idea of where on Earth this story has taken us so far. But this is the joy of Far Cry – the stories in each game are always self-contained, giving the developers licence to do whatever they want, and players the freedom to drop right on in, sit back and let the action unfold. And Far Cry 6 is no exception – though this time, even more than with the cult-fighting drama of Far Cry 5, they’ve turned the cinematic mode up to 11.
For this outing, we head to a fictional island in the Caribbean known as Yara, a place that’s quite blatantly inspired by real-world Cuba, but with the sort of flamboyant exaggeration that only a fictional location can provide. Much like the Just Cause series (which this instalment feels a lot like in terms of overall atmosphere – but not so much in terms of that game’s bonkers destruct-em-up), this island is something of a faction-divided war zone. It’s ruled with over-the-top flamboyance by President Castillo, played by none other than Giancarlo Esposito, who fans of Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul will already know is a master at playing villains you love to hate. Castillo is trying to lock in his son as his successor and cement Yara’s destiny as a self-contained nation ruled by its dictatorship – but guerrilla forces have other ideas. And that’s where you come in, as you play the role of Dani Rojas, a freedom fighter hoping to win over local factions and ultimately set Yara on a different path that’s more about the power of the people.
It’s pretty clear from the outset that Ubisoft’s ambitions in the movie and TV worlds have had an effect on this one (the studio has worked on shows like The Mandalorian and Epic Quest, and now has its own film production arm that’s got a Far Cry movie in the works.) Indeed, the game announces itself in an elaborate opening title sequence as “a Ubisoft Original.” That seems a little pretentious for all of a couple of minutes, until you load into the game itself, and get to take in the lush surroundings of what quite possibly is the most expertly crafted Far Cry open world yet.
As console and PC graphics have improved, the Far Cry series has continually pushed the boundaries of what’s possible, and this time they’ve gone even further. We played the game on Xbox One X, which is far from a compromise – the game looks lush and detailed at 4K in HDR. And here’s the thing – there’s an optional 26GB texture pack for the game that’s exclusively for Series S and X consoles that’s intended to increase the visual lushness even further. That seems almost impossible, when the game already looks so lovely and plays so smoothly on last-gen hardware, but it’s clear Ubisoft has made the effort to carefully optimise the game to straddle both console generations without compromise.
Right from the time you choose the gender of your Dani (female is the default, for a welcome change) you’re guided through a prologue that’s pure action-adventure cinema all the way, with showy set-pieces that make you forget that you don’t even have a weapon yet and are just being taken through an interactive mini-movie. But once you get to Yara, get a gun and meet some of the locals, the game’s flamboyance really starts coming to the surface. With in-your-face Tarantino-style titles to introduce characters and help set the tone, you’re sent off on your first mission – and then told “you now have access to the map.”
“…once you get to Yara, get a gun and meet some of the locals, the game’s flamboyance really starts coming to the surface.”
This is good. Maps are handy. So, you pull up the map and see where you are on your island. And then you zoom the map view out and realise that yes, once again, this is a Far Cray open-world game with a map that says, almost with a wink, “settle in, you’re gonna be here for a while.” As has become the norm with Ubisoft’s open-world games, there’s a collect-a-thon on the agenda – but this time you’ll be collecting USB drives with songs on them, the usual lore stuff… and roosters (seriously!) There’s very much an RPG-lite feeling to the game’s systems, with gear upgrades, crafting and companion pets. The latter is a treat – you’ll get access to a series of helpful creatures known as “Amigos” as the game progresses, but you get your first right at the start. He’s a cuddly killer crocodile named Guapo, and he’s adorable (in a deadly way, of course).
The FPS gameplay feels visceral and exciting – and is just on the right side of challenging without being obnoxious. Of course, you can drop the overall difficulty down if you like, but this game goes way, way beyond that in terms of making itself accessible to a wide audience. The customisation options letting you tweak the game to be more friendly to anyone with accessibility issues go above and beyond anything we’ve seen before. A lot of thought and care clearly went into this feature, and It’s absolutely brilliant to see.
Far Cry 6 manages to shrug off the problems and pitfalls of “sequel-itis” to deliver an open-world shooty adventure that’s immaculately designed, visually stunning, sprawling and complex enough to satisfy RPG and MMO fans… and it comes with your own personal killer croc!
Far Cry 6 is available now on PS5, Xbox, Switch and PC.