If you've kept up with the recent gaming landscape, it feels like we've seen Far Cry 6 again and again at every event to the point where Ubisoft might be oversharing a bit. So it was kind of relieving to get my hands on the game instead of passively observing. And after playing about five hours, let me tell you, this sure is a Far Cry game.
A huge open world, missions spread across a wide map, explosions and firefights, camps to clear out, weapons to unlock and upgrade, you name it. I have a bit of a "been there done that" feeling, albeit with some legitimately fun moments in between. It's a variation on a formula from a gameplay perspective, but there are ways in which it seems to be forming its own identity. That's primarily because of its setting, Yara.
The team behind Far Cry 6 has been trying to make Yara as much a character as Anton Castillo, the main villain played by famed actor Giancarlo Espositio. The easy parallel for Yara would be real-life Cuba--it's a Latin American country composed of islands in the Caribbean West Indies in the midst of an armed revolution.
Its people are being crushed under the weight of a violent dictatorship, and you see this in explicit detail in just the opening hours. You, playing as a woman or man named Dani Rojas, get rolled into a larger Guerilla movement called Libertad, and they gradually buy into this revolution and the means necessary to carry it out. Gameplay-wise, this means seizing checkpoints and territories, gunning down Castillo's army and cronies, and carrying out missions for various leaders across Yara's islands. Narratively, it means taking control of the resources that turn the tides of conflict and understanding why this collective effort is worth the struggle.
The hesitation with Far Cry is that Ubisoft games often tip-toe around its thematic backdrops or settle for generic political tales for set dressing, simply using them as playgrounds for wild open world action. I had the same reservations previewing Watch Dogs: Legion last year. I suppose Far Cry 6 could get away with that, but drawing inspiration directly from a real-world revolution, only a few generations removed, comes with the expectation of a somewhat earnest portrayal. Its narrative director Navid Khavari has said as much and that this game is embracing its political themes.
Five hours with what's presumably a game that could take upwards of 50 hours to reasonably complete isn't going to show you every facet of its narrative. But I will say that it sets a strong tone from the start and has moments that show promise. When character dialogue in the main story isn't leaning into goofiness or simple platitudes, it seems to be genuinely laying the groundwork for understanding the intricacies of what Yarans are really fighting for and why it's important to the larger revolutionary group.
A conversation emblematic of this takes place as you finish the mission to leave the first island. After sabotaging two of Castillo's warships, you take a speedboat with Clara, Libertad's leader, and have a brief, affecting exchange asking: what now?
Clara: What's your plan when you reach America?
Dani: Me and my friend Alejo were going to work shit jobs until we could scrape up some money. Open a body shop. If the Yanqui blockade taught us anything, it's how to keep things running when you got nothing.
Clara: That's the dream? Sure, Yanquis might pay you to park their cars or pick their fruit, but you'll never be one of them. The American Dream doesn't come in our color.
Dani: Okay, if we're shitting on dreams, what are you going to do if you win, "Presidente Garcia?"
Clara: The next president won't last six months before they are assassinated.
Dani: Wait, what?
Clara: It's the truth.
Dani: Won't free elections solve that? What happened to your list?
Clara: It's a vision, Dani. But I'm not as naive as you think. This revolution will free Yara, but won't fix it. When we take the capital, Yara will be burning. Could be civil war, factions, warlords, foreign-backed coups. Take your pick.
Dani: Yarans will be killing Yarans for a generation.
Clara: Aja. This fight will take the rest of my life. Yara is stuck in a cycle of tyranny and revolution. My job is to show us how to break it.
This sets a bold tone, but also the expectation for Far Cry 6 to follow through on what's distinctly a Latin American story. It's not a throwaway conversation in a side quest or one that's happening in the background of a mission. It paints a picture of the rebel group you're fighting for. It establishes a basic but clear understanding that America isn't the answer. Rather, it's often part of the problem, and that liberation is much more than taking up arms and killing tyrants--although that is primarily what you're doing as a player.
Anton Castillo looms over the main story beats, and his violent, imposing presence fills each scene. Alongside his reluctant 13 year-old son Diego, who still has a moral compass, it creates an uneasy tension. However, I don't think there's a clear understanding of Castillo's motivations or any particular depth in the early hours. He has complete control of the workforce and production of a potential cure for cancer called Viviro, enforced through violence and oppression, and is manipulative in using his "love for Yara" to excuse everything. The hope is that there's more to his deal than evil for evil's sake. If anything, Diego seems more intriguing from a narrative perspective.
Some scenes aren't for the faint of heart, as they can be quite gruesome. But Far Cry is also goofy in its open-world action hijinx. The inherent bombast that comes with the series doesn't necessarily preclude it from featuring more poignant moments of storytelling. When done right, a dash of levity can help personify its world and characters. The "legends" who fought Yara's previous regime are an interesting bunch with their ability to influence the movement and their tendency to just be washed up old timers. But then there's this oddball farmer who has a superpowered chicken named Chiccharon who you chase around in a series of side quests, and it's all rather annoying and grating--and uhh, yeah, I'm not a fan of shooting dogs like fish in a barrel, no matter how rabit they may be. On the flip side, there's an upbeat but careless loose cannon Jonrón, whose fiery edge brings some attitude to the cast. This is scratching the surface considering the size of the game, but I've found supporting characters to be hit or miss in this brief play session, so your mileage may vary.
As it comes with the territory, Far Cry 6 has its wild gameplay shenanigans like summoning planes and helicopters to drop into a base and go in guns blazing before fending off waves of soldiers. Or burning down a whole farm that's producing Viviro with a flamethrower to the tune of a Spanish rendition of the Italian revolutionary song "Bella Ciao" (a la Far Cry 3's infamous level with a Skrillex beat drop). Companions in combat, called Amigos, basically function like Guns For Hire from the previous game, except now they're animals that await your command like the gator Guapo or the little pup-that-could Chorizo. All the while you have NPCs shouting "Coño! Coño!" more times than The Kid Mero's AKAs at the end of a Bodega Boys episode.
Overall, the game uses its familiar design philosophies and typical open world shooter conventions. And if you've played the modern entries of Far Cry, you'll know what to expect: solid gunplay, the ability to mix stealth and action, and a bunch of conventional and unconventional weapons to toy with. At workbenches, you'll craft mods and upgrades, customize your loadout and perks, and tinker with Supremos which are your various super-abilities strapped onto you like a backpack. And it's imperative you keep up with this since parts of Yara aren't very friendly to the ill-equipped.
It's a formula that seems to still be working for those who aren't burnt out on these types of games. Whether or not the formula can evolve throughout the game's runtime and hold your interest is always the question, though. Yara is huge and there's a lot of open space, we'll see if it makes the most of it.
Armed rebellion in a country plunged into chaos under a ruthless dictator? Yeah, I can believe a band of guerillas would pull up guns blazing. But I think Far Cry 6 is more promising if and when it gives you a reason to fight. A compelling narrative can help carry you through the mundanity or repetition that tends to creep up the deeper you get in a game like this.
Stories of revolution are infinitely more complex and nuanced than what can be packed into a Far Cry, let alone any video game. And some of us come from countries shaped by Spanish colonization and more recent histories of revolutionary movements have grown up aware of it. For me, it's at least enticing that Far Cry 6's story is trying to be more than a veneer for a spicy shooting gallery. That much I can appreciate.
More importantly: remember that people make games. If you believe that basic fact, then you owe it to yourself to at least be informed about Ubisoft's employees taking action for changes to company culture in response to hostile work environments, abuse, and sexual harassment that's been documented across Ubisoft's various studios. Open letters and signatures in solidarity with the workers of Activision-Blizzard are also indicative of how Ubisoft's leadership has failed to respond accordingly. How lawsuits and movements affect the way you engage with Ubisoft games, that's your choice. But to ignore it is to deny that the people who make these games deserve a stable workplace free of hostility.
It's the more important revolution happening in video games with actual, tangible effects on people's lives. And it's showing the very real effect of collective action. Far Cry 6 is only a video game, but understand that taking action to make the world around you a better place is always the move.
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