One of Ubisoft’s most storied franchises comes back this year with Far Cry 6. Set in the fictional island of Yara, you play as Dani Rojas, an accidental freedom fighter taking on Yara’s El Presidente Anton Castillo (played magnificently by Giancarlo Esposito). As with previous installments, Far Cry 6 is an open-world, action-adventure first-person shooter game, with lots of bases to conquer, areas to explore, weapons to acquire or create, interesting characters to interact with, all while playing as a guerilla fighter aiming to topple the regime.
Before I continue, I must note that while I could be considered a “Ubisoft fanboy” for playing most of the studio’s huge franchises (Assassin’s Creed, Watch Dogs, Ghost Recon, Rainbow Six), I have never picked up a Far Cry game. It is not because the popular franchise wasn’t to my liking, but because I wasn’t too crazy about first-person open-world games in general. I have played first-person shooters like Call of Duty, and Rainbow Six, but their levels are usually objective-focused, and don’t require me to run from one end of an island to another. So I am entering the world of Far Cry from this perspective, and I apologize in advance if some of my impressions seem trivial to long-time fans.
Playing an Ubisoft game in first person felt weird. I am no stranger to first person shooters, but Far Cry 6 felt very different, also very familiar. Most Ubisoft games share mechanics and visual cues that I immediately felt at home in Yara. Yet, moving in first person felt awkward at first, most especially when I was trying to be stealthy.
The controls are not complicated. In fact, I had a relatively easier time with the controls of this game than with Last of Us Part II. My issues with the gameplay are mostly related with my issues with first-person view in general: I am not used to navigating and going stealth in first-person mode. It’s not even the fault of the game since Far Cry has been a first-person shooter ever since. The control scheme is convenient and easy to memorize, and for a first-timer to the franchise, I am amazed by how quickly I settled in.
Once my brain had adjusted to the first-person view, it is pretty much smooth sailing. The only other gameplay “issue” I had was the combat: the enemies felt just a bit bullet-spongey than what I am used to. I’m not saying they’re bullet sponges, but it felt that way to me. A head-shot is still a head-shot, and weapon modifications allowed for various bullet types which likely explained why some enemies absorb point-blank shots to the body. Sort of like Ghost Recon Breakpoint before the Immersive Mode was added or The Division to some extent.
This is not a point against the game, and I haven’t played a Far Cry game before so my brain was probably still adjusting, which is why I felt that way. It’s not really a big deal since I actually enjoyed The Division. Plus, I don’t recall Far Cry ever advertising its combat as realistic. It’s theme doesn’t really suggest it anyway.
One last thing about the combat, there are certain areas or bases where it felt like the enemy kept spawning. It usually happens on certain areas that you cannot take-over. I am not sure if this is normal in the Far Cry series (I am betting it isn’t) so I don’t know if this will annoy other players, but since my modus operandi is usually “clear the base”, it frustrated me at first. Eventually I learned to be a “guerilla” and strike only when I needed to, and not to treat every base as a conquerable area.
In other Ubisoft games, once an area is cleared (and assuming control of the area doesn’t go to you or your allies), it would take a certain amount of time before enemies re-spawn. In Far Cry 6, I noticed that they re-spawn quite quickly (as in, I was still on the base doing my thing), which made for some really wild gun-battles, but also got to my skin more than a few times.
Travel is also pretty convenient once you unlock those Guerilla Hideouts or conquer checkpoints for Fast Travel locations. There are also plenty of transportation modes to choose from: boats, trucks, cars, tanks, buggies, a wing-suit, and a parachute. But my all-time favorite is the horse because it can get you anywhere: it can run almost as fast as any vehicle, and it is easy to hijack vehicles using it. They’re also free and everywhere.
One thing I really appreciate with the first-person view is that walking around feels really immersive. Unlike the third-person view, travelling doesn’t get old as quickly. Sure, I got the occassional spatial-awareness problems, but walking around villages felt more fun than I was used to. I guess this is why a lot of gamers prefer the first-person view: the immersion is pretty hard to beat. With this view I was able to truly appreciate the landscape of Yara through Dani’s eyes. The towns do feel a bit underpopulated, but since I was playing on the PS4, that might have been on purpose. We’re simply at that point in time where the limitations of the old generation of consoles are getting more and more apparent with each cross-generation release.
The FPS Drops
I encountered two technical hiccups in this game: the first is that the game refused to load when I fast-traveled. It happened less than ten times during my whole playthrough but it was quite annoying nonetheless. But the second technical hiccup though, is pretty bad: an extreme frame-rate drop.
As a gamer, I’m not a totally crazy about high frame-rates. Having a consistent frame-rate between 30 to 60 FPS is much more important to me personally. But in Far Cry 6, the FPS drop during cut-scenes is very jarring. Boss Mac, I believe, would be doing an FPS test using the PC version of the game, but he did tell me that he experienced a frame-rate drop to 4 FPS during one cut-scene. That’s pretty bad, and extremely unfortunate because this game has one of the best cut-scenes I ever watched in an Ubisoft game in recent memory. Especially when Giancarlo Esposito’s Anton Castillo is onscreen, the FPS drop can severely disrupt the mood of the scene. And as a fan of the guy, I felt a bit of an outrage at that. Hopefully Ubisoft can get a patch out to fix that soon.
An “Honest” Revolution
In Far Cry 6, you will encounter the words “hero”, “freedom fighter” and “guerilla” often, and it reminded me of how these terms form the back-bone of every action-adventure game ever made. Just look at the Just Cause franchise which isn’t shy about calling protagonist Rico Rodriguez a “regime change specialist”; both Homefront games where you try to overthrow a North Korean invasion of the United States; and Freedom Fighters, an old game that sees you go against the Soviet invasion of America.
Even within the Ubisoft family of games, you have Ghost Recon Wildlands where you overthrew the Santa Blanca drug cartel which had permeated a fictional Bolivian society, only to find out during the epilogue that successor and rival cartels are killing each other for total control. Or just look at its immediate sequel Ghost Recon Breakpoint that sees you going against the private military company who took over the fictional island of Auroa, though after defeating it, other new factions just came in yo continue making your life hard. People just love playing the hero, as well as a ready justification of the wanton destruction you are doing.
Which is why I find it refreshing that early in the game, the Libertad faction readily concedes that the revolution they are fighting for will not magically solve Yara’s problems. For all the game’s talk and advertising, the characters in its own story do not have any illusions about what might happen should they win. As Dani, you have to go meet up with various factions with their own version of what a free Yara should be, with their own ideas and methods on how to achieve that aim. Each group has leaders who would probably not want to work with others, and whose relevance in Libertad’s mission begins and ends with their mutual hatred of Anton Castillo.
But for me, the story of Far Cry 6 is anchored, not on the various personalities and factions trying to overthrow El Presidente, but on the man himself. Even though on the surface it would seem that Giancarlo Esposito lent his personality and charisma to Anton Castillo (and that’s not a bad thing. Esposito makes for an exquisitely detestable villain), it is actually the character’s complex personality and background that made him who he is. Himself the son of a former President, you will find out how his father shaped him into the man that he is, and how he is attempting to do the same for his son, Diego. His experiences in the revolution that ousted his father shaped his opinion on how Yara should run and who should share in its success, even as he himself has to struggle against forces wishing to overthrow him.
In other words, despite the game consistently showing you how irredeemably evil Anton Castillo is, it also shows you his humanity. He is like the rest of us: flawed, shaped by his experiences, but steadfast in his beliefs. He wasn’t evil for the sake of being evil though it can sometimes feel cartoonish. It just so happens that his world view has been twisted by his experiences and his confidence that his view is right. After all, since when did bad guys ever saw themselves as bad?
In contrast, Dani Rojas just felt like an avatar to me. Even though the character has its own personality, with quirks such as singing along when a familiar song on the radio, it felt rather empty without my input. She (I chose the female version) is OK as a character, but maybe not as the protagonist. Maybe it was made that way by design. Or maybe, as far as action heroes go, she felt more random. She eventually grew on me though, as the story progresses in a much better pace than the last two Ghost Recon games combined, even though the mission structure is similar (go to one location, finish the story missions, go to another location, rinse, repeat).
I really love Far Cry 6. It felt very contemporary, very insightful, and at the same time, another one of those “punish the evil dictator” games that, admittedly, can be really fun. There were a few hiccups, but only the frame-rate drop is the one I consider as bad. The story progresses at a nice pace, and the first-person view helps keep travelling from quickly becoming old.
This is a really good game, and I’m happy I still got to play it with my trusty but old PlayStation 4. Now I’m seriously questioning myself why I didn’t hop on the franchise train before. Some technical bumps aside, this is a title that I feel is definitely worth your money.