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Far Cry 6 (XBox) Review

October 6, 2021 | Posted by Paul Meekin
Far Cry 6
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Far Cry 6 (XBox) Review  

What an album cover!

Despite quite a few narrative reservations, Far Cry 6 has already delivered on its asking price and I have well over half the game left to go. I’ve just now polished off the first of three major regions in what feels like 24 or so hours of gameplay.

In my time, I poked my nose in multiple side missions including excellent puzzle-heavy “treasure hunts” and Far Cry’s famed base take over missions that escalate as beautifully and wonderfully as they always have. I’ve fought the establishment, burned more tobacco than Don Draper waiting on a paternity test, worn an alligator mask, adjusted my car’s decals, won cock fights and games of dominos, stole a unicorn from an abandoned quinceanera…and don’t even get me started on the mutant chickens…

Chicken Fried Revolution. Now only 9.99 at your local KFC.

Okay, you can get me started on the mutant chickens.

Narratively, if you thought Far Cry 6 would be a deeply political game with a lot on its mind – as advertised – you’re likely to be disappointed – at least in the parts of the story I’ve experienced.

The problem? Far Cry 6’s tone could be described with an arrhythmic EKG chart. Ups and downs all over the place and lacking in blood flow. One mission you’re photographing dead, nearly naked bodies in a mass grave at the bottom of a drained lake. The next, you’re, well, stealing a horse made up to look like a unicorn from a birthday party.

At the end of one mission, an enemy threatened the resistance (La Libertad!) with sexual assault. Their leader stuffs a grenade in his mouth and his head explodes gloriously as our heroes saunter out of frame, movie-poster style. This was followed by a mission requiring the burning of 49 mutant eggs to prevent an epidemic of genetically enhanced carnivorous super chickens…and that’s not even the craziest mission involving poultry.

Some of this tonal shifting is expected in an open-world first-person tactical mass murder simulator, but there’s a difference between suspending disbelief for gameplay, and suspending narrative cohesion for silliness and yucks. Far Cry 6 borrows the tropes and ideas and emotional real estate occupied by the *real* Cuban revolution and opts to ‘have fun with it’, providing an exotic playground for dorks like me to go pew-pew in. Going from mass graves to mutant chickens to gruesome human experimentation to packing peanut napalm and firework launchers can feel either wildly inauthentic or disrespectful depending on who you ask. It’s not to have real revolutions in mind as you play, making the one you’re participating in feel silly by comparison.

But yes, so far, Far Cry 6’s story is “political” the same way those “In this house we believe…” lawn signs are political. It says all the right things, respects people of color, presents numerous strong female characters, represents the LGBTQ community well, and champions things like freedom, liberty, expression, and elections.

But what good is representation and political ideology if not challenged or articulated. Characters in this revolution laugh, smile, drink, and celebrate with little regard for reality. They…they saw all the dead bodies, too, right? They saw the slave camps and that old lady get shot in the f*cking face by Gus f*cking Fring right? Is now really the best time for gin and a song around a campfire guys? Guys? Stop having fun!

It’s one thing to take a dire theme or setting or time and play it humorously. Jo Jo Rabbit and M.A.S.H both found success in the lighter side of War – so did Woody Allen’s Bananas for that matter. But Far Cry 6 feels like someone inserted episodes of Hogan’s Heroes into Platoon. And while there’s genuinely wonderful character moments thanks to tremendous acting by the cast and animation by the developers, you can’t help but feel the revolution is a tad…bloodless simply because the silliness infects and ruins whatever the game was trying to say.

As I progress, It’s entirely possible things could take a shift, and I’ll be eating crow. Perhaps I’m being set up for a big failure, and things ‘get real’. If so, well, keep an eye out here. Then again I just picked up a mission where I need to deliver apology letters to an older revolutionary’s many illegitimate children so I’m not particularly optimistic.

The premise is too real for a game that’s always prioritized gameplay, style, and psychedelia. The story of Far Cry 3 was so memorable because it was about how seductive its gameplay was. Your primary verbs in Far Cry are scout, stalk, shoot, stab, glide, and climb. There is no “Push F to consider the human toll of your actions” button.

Talk about having it ruff!

And there should be such a button because Far Cry 6’s gameplay is delicious and overflowing with options to deliver any kind of mayhem you desire. Describing the little details that make the gameplay so wonderful, also makes you feel a bit like a sociopath. Stalking enemies, avoiding detection, and pulling the trigger on a silenced, customized rifle aimed directly at the head of a bad guy is rewarded with a scrumptious, disturbingly fleshy popping sound effect. Target down. Dopamine up. More of this, all the time, please.

This loop, for most players, is what we’re here for. Taking a base, establishing a new fast-travel location, obtaining recon from said base for another side mission – a player can do this for hours and hours and marvel at the ingenious level design and challenges these places present. Toss in the set pieces of the main story mission (including a sojourn to a private island, a prison breakout, and adventures with an activist rap group) and you got yourself a stew going.

Plus it’s always fun to change things up with a bit of explosive ordinance, right?

But what’s new this time? Some small things; like the ability to air-drop from almost any fast-travel location to speed up traversal time. Human companions have been replaced by less invasive animal ‘amigos’ that provide support and distraction. Your favorite is Chorizo, the legless dachshund that’ll drink your blood and he won’t think twice about it.

There’s a small base building component, where you craft shops and stations that serve as hunting lodges, multiplayer hubs, etc, and a cooking component that rewards you with buffs when you eat a given recipe. This feels a bit (ha) undercooked but it does give the player a sense of ‘home’ which is nice.

Also new is a weapon customization system and over-the-top makeshift weapons both referred to as “Resolvers”.You can customize weapons with ammo types (armor piercing, soft target), mods for the scope and muzzle, change the appearance, add a collectible charm (I use a baseball) and you truly feel like your arsenal is your own. Though this can engender a situation where you’re rarely checking out the new (and ‘unique’) weapons you acquire once you’ve kitted out a gun to your particular liking.

Resolver also allows you to purchase Dead Rising 4 style super weapons, crafted from depleted uranium you obtain from taking out anti-air cannons on the map, and any old shit you have lying around the house. Thus you end up with weapons like a compact disc launcher, flame thrower, a delightfully silly, but wonderfully effective fireworks cannon and more.

There’s also a new backpack system, where you equip a “Supremo” with its own set of mods and abilities, including a special attack you need to charge up before unleashing.

Who ya gonna call? Legally distinct science backpack busters!

If you’re worried these additions make Far Cry 6 sound a touch over the top, betraying its guerilla warfare roots in the process, you’d be within your rights. At first I hated all of this. I thought Far Cry had gone full arcade, and all the things I loved about the series would be backgrounded in favor of a more wide-open combat model (see also: Assassins Creed: Valhalla).

But, so far, it hasn’t betrayed anything. While some missions encourage an all-out explosive assault, Supremo special attacks and those Resolver weapons have come up big in tough spots, their limited ammo and charging requirements preventing abuse.

The biggest change this time around is that skills and progression appear tied to your gear. Like Assassin’s Creed gear comes with perks that grant you better damage, faster speed, better poison resistance, and so on. For certain missions you’ll want to flip to your flame protection gear. If you’re going sniping, perhaps the gear that boosts damage to enemies below you.

It’s pretty intuitive, though this system seems to de-emphasize the hunting aspects of the previous games, where you’d need certain animal skins or fish parts in order to craft equipment that granted more ammo or weapon slots. And any time a Far Cry title de-incentivizes time spent in its chaotic settings, is a net negative even if I look super stupid fly in my current duds.

And you’ll look fly, just not that fly. As a heavily promoted Next Gen Title, Far Cry 6 is locked at 4K 60FPS on the Xbox Series X, looks solid, and performs fantastically. I experienced no slow down during even the most chaotic of moments, and only occasional open-world bugs involving flickering terrain, missing shadow or lighting patterns, and NPC pathfinding errors. Before the “Day 1” patch even, It’s clear Ubisoft prioritized performance and stability.

Perhaps as a trade off, the graphics aren’t particularly awe inspiring. It’s clear this is the super-charged version of the same engine that’s powered Far Cry since 2012. Sure, there are stunning sunsets, gorgeous vistas, epic set pieces, and numerous “Oh shit!” moments when the game’s intersecting factions, fauna, and weaponry generate explosive madness out of thin air. And the facial animation expertly captures Giancarlo Esposito’s particularly wonderful brand of simmering menace. The entirety of the cast is captured excellently and in many ways they feel alive. The performances of the game’s key players are a graphical highlight.

But there’s very little ‘next gen’ smell here. Far Cry 6 seems to cut corners in the nooks and crannies curious gamers are likely to poke around in most. Many in-game items and props remain stationary after explosions. Sandbags, flag poles, smaller buildings, many things you wish would fall down and go boom, do not. Scenery items like fruit, tools, mirrors, are rarely breakable or not even coded to react to a hit at all – try and pick an apple, I dare you.

That fellow NPC rebels seem to come from a pool of about 6-7 standard character models, especially after Watch Dogs: Legion’s wonderful generation system, doesn’t help immersion either.

But man the frame rate and resolution. Sliding, shooting, exploding, hiding, if you’re playing Far Cry 6 for its particular brand of stealth-action gameplay, you’ll agree Ubisoft made the right call regarding graphics over performance. It is the best the series has ever felt.

It may not look next gen, but it ain't that hard on the eyes either.

The final score: review Very Good
The 411
Ultimately, Far Cry 6 is a joyous, adolescent celebration of tactical hyper violence featuring excellent gameplay told through shockingly incongruous story missions and side content that demand you refuse to take any of it very seriously...because this game is seriously fun. If you’re new to Far Cry, it’s a great place to jump in. If you’re returning and seeking validation regarding concerns about the story, you’re not alone. If you’re on the fence, jump on down, I’ll catch you. Far Cry 6 gives players what they want from this franchise in spades, even if the story and graphics leave players feeling a bit needy. But what is life if not struggle, and what is need if not desire to see a better way? Maybe one day, we will. Viva La Resistance!