Far Cry 6 is a massive game with multiple personality disorder, ready to suck you into its chaotic world of tank battles and stealth machete kills and cockfighting, and then shotgun blast you in the guts with its attempts to tackle serious issues with its story.
Release Date: October 7, 2021
Platform(s): PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X, Xbox One and PC
It might have changed its tone and a few of its mechanics, but the series' delight in total chaos is still front and center. The first four or so hours of the game were a baffling thrillride, it seemed no matter what I did every mission descended into an all-out brawl, with stealth attempts scuppered by mongoose attacks, enemy tank patrols popping up with alarming regularity, and in a weird bit of emergent narrative, I saw more NPC horses and dogs hit by cars than I care to remember. Every mission I scraped through felt rough and ready, and like there had to be a better way, or I just hadn't quite unlocked the right equipment yet - the wingsuit, a rocket launcher, a sniper rifle…? It was as if that trademark Far Cry power fantasy feeling was always just out of reach. Once I had made it through that early stage though, and onto the main map of the Yaran mainland, it all clicked back into place.
Children of the revolution
This time around it isn't about vacationing dude bros, a trip to dump some cremation ashes, or a weird cult. Far Cry 6 wants to tackle the much more realistic storyline of a country ruled by brutal dictator Anton Castillo and everything that entails, from slavery to LGBTQ+ rights. You play as a male or female version of Dani Rojas, would-be regime escapee turned guerrilla revolutionary. To put it simply, your job is to eff up as much of Castillo's bag as possible with violence, stealth, and explosives, taking out anti-craft guns, sabotaging his factories, and murdering his powerful supporters.
As the story progresses you'll team up with other pockets of resistance, winning them over with your own personal brand of death and destruction to help their causes, and freeing up different provinces along the way. Your guerilla starter kit includes a crocodile companion 'Amigo' called Guapo, a Supremo backpack that is essentially a wearable ultimate ability, and a mix of standard and improvised weapons from shotguns to things that shoot CDs. Follow the story and sidequests and you'll unlock more of all of the above, and your inventory will soon look like the attic of a very unstable, weaponized hoarder.
Far Cry 6 definitely feels like the turning point for a series in transition. Everything you know and love about it is still there - crazy weapons, clearing checkpoints, murderous wildlife, climbing to obscure locations - but the small changes that have been made have a big impact on the overall experience. Most notable at first is actually seeing Dani, your character is now more than just some eyeballs you stare through. When you reach a guerilla camp or hit a cutscene the game swaps from first-person to third-person, letting you see your character - and whatever terrible outfit you've chosen for them - with friends, foes, and the events of the storyline. The facial expressions are well done, and seeing Dani actually react to the world and its terrors makes for a more compelling cutscene every time.
On the game mechanics side, there are big changes under the hood. Someone chopped down the skill trees and made a wardrobe with the wood. Now instead of using skill points to purchase perks or abilities, any changes to Dani's base stats come from the kit they equip in the form of headwear, shirts, trousers, shoes, and gloves. A particular watch ups your defense stats against blast rounds, a safari hat tags animals around you automatically for easy tracking, the Fuego gloves mean when you're on fire you put yourself out automatically, rather than needing to mash a button. It's a nice idea, suiting up before a hunt with animal protection buffing clothes, stealth-friendly outfits for assassinations, but in big battles, the reality is pausing the action to quickly change Dani's trousers in a menu - which is quite the mental image. I missed the simplicity of purchasing perks and never having to think about them again, but the ability to tailor will appeal to anyone that feels at home in anything like Destiny menu. I started out hating it, by the end of the game, me and Far Cry 6 had come to a respectful if uneasy truce - one where I tried to face a tank dressed in fishing gear at least twice before spotting my mistake in a cutscene. In a nice touch for fashionistas, you can transmog each item of kit so even if you need some ugly sneakers that help with tripwires, you can make them look like anything else from the same category that you have in your collection. You too can know the thrill of wearing a fishing vest disguised as body armor.
The new Supremo Backpacks also come in a range of flavors - stealth, explosives, hunting - each packing a super ability that recharges over time and can turn the tide of an encounter in seconds. As with your more traditional weapons, they can be upgraded with mod slots, purchased at vendors, and swapped at will. Your Supremo also dictates which gadgets - grenades, healing syringes, EMPs - appear in your weapon wheel. As a lazy ass tank with very little nuance to my playstyle, I faced most of the game with the same explosive Supremo you get at the beginning, finding it just too much of a lifesaver when taking out tanks and helicopters with a single hit to ever really let it go.
For the first few hours, even if you're one of the Far Cry faithful, you should expect to feel a little bit lost as you master these tweaks to the system. It's like coming back into the office to find someone has moved all your stuff around, only rather than misplacing your favorite mug, here you're not sure why your molotovs aren't appearing in your weapon wheel.
One controversial question, though - has Far Cry 6 made its Amigo animal companions too damn adorable this time around? Between a tiny dog in a wheelchair and customizable outfits, I was maybe too emotionally invested in their welfare. Whole missions were absolutely banjaxed by my crocodile or dog or panther getting themselves in trouble and me dropping absolutely every objective and any concern for my own health meter to go and help them. It wasn't even a gameplay consideration, they can be revived or at worse resummoned after a short wait - I just couldn't bear seeing anyone hurt them. It's not a real complaint, more a warning for anyone with a soul who doesn't like seeing a puppy getting kicked. You’re going to mess up a lot of encounters.
There was also a lot more cock than I was expecting in my Far Cry 6. Roosters are a recurring theme to the point where I'm wondering if someone on the Ubisoft team had a particularly traumatic experience with chickens at an early age. You can collect roosters, play as a rooster in a cockfighting side game that PETA is absolutely going to lose its mind over, gain a punk rooster Amigo and even some of the Stories of Yara side quests revolve around eggs and birds and rooster spurs. One for someone's psychoanalyst to ponder for sure.
Despite the cute animals in all the trailers, Far Cry 6 should come with a massive trigger warning for a lot of reasons. It's not just the violence - though the close-up machete kills that see you ram the blade right into the skull of your victim are pretty brutal - it's the way the story really wants you to know that Castillo is a villain by showing, not telling. The game opens with mass murder and cracks on at the same pace from there, so expect to see corpses - so many corpses - medical experimentation on live subjects, some very clumsy handling of a trans rights storyline, human trafficking, torture, and more. It's not that games shouldn't tackle this stuff, it's just hard to make the tonal switch from the absolute degradation of humanity to "look, we made a minigame that looks like Street Fighter, but with chickens!" It's like the writing team sat in one room, researching political history and watching prestige HBO dramas like Chernobyl and the gameplay team sat way over the other side of the studio adding unicorns, firework guns, and crocodile helmets for 90% of development, and then the two came together at the end and tried to duct tape their ideas together.
Aside from that, I was grateful that this Far Cry went easy on the woo-woo hallucinogenic scenes it's been such a big fan of in the past. There were no spirit quests or magical adventures, just a few missions that involved being super drunk or driving a car while off your nut on poison gas.
After all the horror and roosters, the ending to the Far Cry main campaign felt rushed and too simple, leaving me emotionally unsatisfied. It’s a shame, because Giancarlo Esposito isn't someone you encounter much beyond some cutscenes and in-game TV screens but when he does appear he's electric and truly intimidating, and more than earning his fee. The final stumble wasn’t one that put me off going past the credits and straight back into Yara to see what I'd missed.
Every treasure hunt and side mission was still there for me to work my way through, something that feels like it could take weeks, and there was even a new Insurgency system that adds new area leaders for me to kill. Then there’s the hunting I need to do to make new recipes at the guerrilla camps, the missions I can send my bandito crew on for extra rewards, the fishing, the car races, and a staggering number of collectibles to find. Even after hours and hours I just want to go back in, and I know the game will reward me for doing it.
Whatever the pimples and mood swings of Far Cry 6’s move into the next stage of maturity, all the important things you love about Far Cry are still there, and there’s more of it than ever. It’s a supersized playground of chaos and helicopters and unexpected rooster content and things that explode and will last you well into 2022.
Far Cry 6 was reviewed on PS5 with code provided by the publisher.