You’ve got to love how some games just manage to become an integral part of the gaming scene.
Back when the original Far Cry arrived on the scene it became a prime example of what could be done with open environments and delivered some truly stunning graphics which were way above what had been delivered elsewhere at the time. While the tropical vistas, glorious sunshine and nice water effects were enough to draw most people in, the open-ended approach to combat was what really stood out above the rest of the crowd. Want to go in all-guns-blazing? Lock-n-load, my friend. Feel like sneaking about in the undergrowth, silently dispatching your enemies one-by-one? Off you creep, ninja toes. Ever wondered how satisfying it would be to unload a thousand rounds of high-velocity ammunition into a passing convoy? No problem, just get stuck in.
It was this sense of choice and freedom that established the series as being a cut-above its competitors. Over the years that followed the formula was revisited, developed and polished to a much higher standard through both Far Cry and Crysis and the subsequent sequels for both games. While there is certainly a lot of similarities between each of the sequels on offer, the sense of wonder that came from being thrust into a brand-new setting helped to keep things fresh and exciting. Sure, it’s easy to criticize these games as essentially being based around objectives that are pretty routine (drive here, shoot enemies, retrieve something and repeat) but that really skips over the joys of that sense of freedom. Add in the fact that each game has its own flavour in terms of subtle gameplay changes (such as the need to treat yourself for Malaria in Far Cry 2) and, of course, the not-so-subtle variations when it comes to the charismatic antagonists of each game (mostly psychopathic but each with a real sense of character and flair) and you can understand why this is one of the most successful franchises out there.
Far Cry 6 takes us south of the US border and into the fictional realms of Yara (a series of islands based on Cuba) which is under the tyrannical grip of Anton Castillo. Castillo is the self-imposed president of Yara and players are tasked with joining a small rebellion in the hope of gaining more followers so that people can rise up and take back control of their once glorious nation. It’s here that the series often hits its step as the brilliantly-realized ‘bad guys’ are played so convincingly that the whole narrative becomes much more believable. Most players still hold a torch for the antagonist of Far Cry 3 (the iconic Vaas) simply because the character was brought to life by a ground-breaking performance by Michael Mando. Vaas walked the thin line between enigmatic and psychotic like few others and while others have tried to ape his style few have ever come close to capturing the same magic. That being said, Castillo is played with incredible prowess and gravitas by none-other than Giancarlo Esposito (most widely recognised as Gustav Fring in Breaking Bad) and his eerie sense of calm manages to seep under your skin as you try not to be swayed by his undeniable charm each time he takes to the screen. Some of the cutscenes are truly breath-taking and he acts as a fitting foil to the rag-tag rebels of the revolution as you start to work your way towards your goal of toppling him and his regime.
In terms of the map, well, it’s big. The first island you start on feels of a reasonable size and as soon as you manage to get past the tutorial section and get a little boat it becomes apparent that this is a game of impressive scale. As you traverse the collection of islands on foot, by road, by boat, on horseback or via a number of airborne options it’s easy to get distracted from your missions and head off to see what you can find. Hidden outposts, weapon caches, Easter eggs and challenging caverns are dotted all over the place and if you play with the HUD turned off it’s a really satisfying experience just to let your wanderlust take hold as you explore at your leisure. The day and night cycle is a joy to behold and I have to admit to cruising about just listening to the music from the in-game radio stations has become a bit of a guilty pleasure (it’s a bit like Forza Horizon 5 but with the added bonus of guns and being able to get out of the car). It may not be the biggest map out there but it feels packed with things to do alongside the main campaign missions.
When it comes to the fighting itself, there’s a nice array of traditional weapons on offer which can be gradually upgraded with scrap and resources you find on your travels and they all feel pretty punchy but there’s a whole host of slightly more off-kilter aspects to the arsenal that you can’t help but fall in love with. From home-made explosives to weapons that look like they were designed by a kid with a big imagination and a rudimentary understanding of engineering to some truly remarkable custom-built death machines, Far Cry 6 throws ample options at you from pretty early on and then lets you play around to your heart’s content. Many of these can be tinkered with further and upgraded to change the types of rounds that they fire or tweaked to your playing preference and it’s easy to get lost in the wilderness as you hunt for more resources in the darkest corners of Yara. It can be a little overwhelming to get your head round all of these different options but it’s well worth your time as you have to know which weapon or ammo type is going to work best in any given situation (and you need to be able to adapt on the fly as things can change pretty quickly). Perhaps the only downside is that choosing the wrong weapons can happen a little too easily and having to then return to outposts to make changes to your gear can be a bit of a pain (especially early on when you’re figuring things out).
Overall, there’s a huge amount of positives here and I have to admit that I much preferred playing through this than I did Far Cry 5 which I felt lacked something in terms of the environment. The enemies are challenging and the balance between all-out-action and thought-out-tactics never really misses the mark, while the bombastic nature of some of the weapons is so gloriously OTT that you can’t help but love it. The cast of characters and supporting roles are played with real conviction and even though the story is not the most original thing you will ever see it is scripted fantastically well and has a surprising amount of depth if you explore the side missions and bonus content. Add in the upcoming DLC for the season pass (which has a focus on the antagonists of the previous games and links in lots of fan favorites) and this has the potential to be a game that keeps on giving. If you like the series then this is a must have and if you are yet to see what all the fuss is about then this is a great time to find out for yourself.