I Played Far Cry 6.
Over the past few years, I’ve spent December writing about my favorite records that had come out over the last twelve months. During that final month of the year as I listen, I like to take on a huge open-world game while I go back over every album, every song. The tradition began in 2018 with Fallout 3, went to Death Stranding in 2019, to Borderlands 3 in 2020, and in 2021 an entry in one of my favorite series of all, Far Cry 6.
I’ve been a huge fan of the series since Far Cry 3’s open island adventure, and as the series has progressed, many of the hallmarks that the games have boasted were all present in that very entry. These are open-world, hyper-aggressive power fantasies that lean heavily on opening up portions of the map in order to find more beacons so you can chase down more ways to reveal more beacons, to spend time chasing down more collectibles and so on. Highly memorable villains are the norm, with Vaas kicking it off in FC3, through Pagan Min, to Joseph Seed in 5, and now in the latest entry, we see Giancarlo Esposito’s take on the dictator Anton Castillo.
This game, as can be expected in the sixth entry in a series, is no different than any of its predecessors. Where the previous 3 have all felt incredibly similar, each successive entry felt like they were at least trying to grow in some new direction. While 3 was the most distinctly unique of them all, Far Cry 4 added a lot more collectibles and an interesting upgrade system, while Far Cry 5 showed off a more regional break up of the areas that they expected the player to take on and also gave a bit more customization options for the main character. This 6th game, while larger in almost every aspect, was a buffet to be sure, but with little in the way of personality, innovation or likable/hateable cast. For what it’s worth, I spent three and a half days of game time (80+ hours) in this vast recreation of Cuba (this falsified version is named Yara) and for all its worth, came away feeling that I may have played my final entry in this version of what I now recognize as a Far Cry.
In a game that is meant to take place amidst a revolution, all that we are meant to revolt against seems to be placed in our mind via a slow drip of implication, hoping that you know that Cuba is in a state of disrepair and is criminally corrupt and horrifyingly underprepared for the future. Leaning heavily and lazily on the analog, the writers of the game let the player’s understanding of the modern world fill in so many of the gaping blanks, using cutscenes to stuff “hilarious” hijinks and American Pie caliber side characters, cohorts and protagonists. Esposito’s Anton Castillo is nowhere outside of his strength, reflecting (damn near photocopying) his performance as “The Chicken Man” Gus Fring in Breaking Bad. It’s an okay turn, and I think he did deliver what was expected of him, however with lazy writing and uninspired narrative building, the character is merely an echo and a consistent reminder of Esposito’s legendary television role. It feels no better (and admittedly, no worse) than seeing your favorite athlete in a commercial for your favorite fast food joint.
In a game that’s meant to feel like you are a guerilla, attacking from the brush, securing small victories by way of ambush, predatory stalking, flashbang attacks and terroristic means, the missions are instead phoned to you as you traverse its million mile map, telling you that [a person or a thing] is holed up inside of [a place] and [the outfit] needs you (and only you, apparently) to get in there and shoot everyone until they are all dead [and sometimes until all the Things are destroyed]. Helicopters will always be deployed. Tanks will be sent 25% of the time. While they know a terrorist organization knocks on the doorstep of their regime, they maintain a force of 6–12 people at every stronghold, no matter how important or crucial it is to their house of cards. In fact, more so than the armaments and armored units, the biggest obstacle to many of your assaults will be the fact that not all surfaces are able to be scaled or climbed. Had they given a grappling hook that worked in more places than just those marked with the blue smear of Libertad, this game would have taken 40 hours instead of twice that.
Completionists will be pushed to the very limit, to the very brink of sanity in trying to collect myriad boxes (FND, Libertad, jewelry), and honoring shrines on top of taking over outposts and checkpoints, destroying anti-aircraft guns and overthrowing “military targets”. All of this does not go without saying that these objectives do not make any effort to shuffle their deck nor hide their hand, only dealing round after round of the same flush which you can choose to bluff your way over and out of, to go all in, or simply to fold. Very rarely will you be met with a challenge. Many of my deaths came at the hands of my wingsuit or parachute not working the way I wanted to, mostly due to the fact that I was dashing from point to point as fast as I possibly could manage.
The game’s ending provides no resolution. And I think they attempt to drive home the idea that an aforementioned game, Fallout 3, tried to insist upon at its open: War. War Never Changes. But it’s this same affectless, droning and presupposed writing that simply hands us a pamphlet with a catchphrase that we’re meant to connect with out of our hunger for indoctrination and the trust that we are the horse led to water and we will fight against the adage simply out of attrition and drink the goddamn water from the well.
I didn’t. I wouldn’t.
I spent 80 hours on this game, giving it the benefit of every doubt, putting it on my back and letting it be my eye decoy while I listened to my favorite records. If this had come out any other time of the year, I’d have hardly spent a quarter of the time with it. My hope for the future of the series is that they figure out a way to either recapture the magic of what they set out to do with the Far Cry series or reinvent it in a way that still holds true to some semblace of what makes the series hold its title. This game is gorgeous and Ubisoft makes gorgeous open worlds that are capable of being captivating and engaging. Look at some of the treasure hunts and the way they challenge the notions of parkour and traversal and platforming. I don’t believe this game works without procedurally generated “bases”, without smarter and more diverse AI and more functional and living world maps. There can be a brilliant villain written with sinister intentions, but the only way I’ll believe it will be if they show more conviction to the vitae of the character itself as opposed to the contract negotiations with whichever actor/actress they deem a worthy draw. I would like to say that this Far Cry is the last of its kind that I recognize.
Skip this one, whether or not you are a fan of the series. I think the homage to Cuba and the plight of its people are done no justice whatever, and the gameplay is no different than the more interesting previous entries in the series.