Less than five minutes into Far Cry 6, I was iffy about it.
The game opens with dictatorial President Antón Castillo delivering a televised address to Yara, a faux-Cuban paradise saddled with a history of political upheaval. Castillo has reinstated a citizen draft for the ongoing cultivation of Viviro, a homegrown wonder drug that cures cancer. Made by fertilizing Yara’s tobacco crops with a chemical gas, this magic medicine is the key, the president declares, to lifting his broken-down island into the upper echelons of the world economic stage.
But this is Far Cry, well-known for its love of open-world war games, destabilized nation-states, and crackpot despots. And Castillo, played with gusto by Giancarlo Esposito (Breaking Bad), is certainly a tyrant. The truth we’re shown during his address—of citizens being shipped off to the fields as forced slave labor or gunned down for resisting—is a non-revelation given the series’ touchstones.
It’s when the president’s forces then march into Yara’s capital of Esperanza and begin indiscriminately slaughtering everyone on the “draft” list that I first raised an eyebrow. Though this series has made its cartoonishly warped sociopaths the stars of their respective games for some time, the game-y nonsense of making your fascist regime an inhuman death squad before it’s had time to carry out the vile plan your antagonist just finished explaining is beyond ridiculous. It also feels like peak Far Cry—and maybe says a lot about where these games are today.
Two sides of the same coin
You can’t really say Far Cry isn’t aware of its own idiocy; starting with 2012’s Far Cry 3, the order of the day has been breezy, stupid, free-form fun. The franchise has incentivized running riot through typically exoticized locales by enticing you with truckloads of guns and gimmicky death toys to inflict maximum mayhem. That is, if you’re not already distracted by setting things on fire; hunting wildlife (or otherwise unleashing it on hapless goons); capturing occupied strongholds and points of interest; tearing around air, sea, and sky in all kinds of vehicles with and without mounted weaponry; or engaging in any of the other myriad activities that have become staples of the series.
And so it goes with Far Cry 6. You play as Yaran ex-soldier Dani Rojas, who has just escaped Castillo’s draft in Esperanza and has become a member of Libertad, a revolutionary group with plans to overthrow Castillo’s rule and free Yara. To do that, the band of guerrilla fighters needs the support of a number of allies spread across the western, central, and eastern parts of the massive country.
In practice, earning their pledges boils down to familiar territory for longtime players. You’re given the option to take on bigger, set piece-type missions at your leisure, or just screw with side distractions like pursuing a homing-beacon pelican across the sky to hidden caches of “treasure” (loot and gear) and chasing a geriatric guerrilla through a carnival of explosive traps to deliver a love letter.
To its credit, Ubisoft has gradually made each passing entry in this series increasingly frictionless. Getting around and terrorizing Castillo’s troops in whatever ways you feel like is straightforward from the get-go—even momentum-destroying enemy checkpoints, a sticking point to greater or lesser degrees in earlier entries—don’t pose much of an impediment this time around.
To my point: early on, I was easily able to gain access to an enemy base with some parked tanks and only a handful of guards on duty. A few messy machete stealth kills later, I stole a tank and wreaked explosive havoc for almost an hour, turning hostile jeeps into hunks of twisted metal, sending soldiers comically ragdolling, and otherwise bulldozing through everything destructible that got in my way.
I have to admit, there’s some brainless fun to be had here.