Far Cry 6 is the latest instalment in Ubisoft’s long running series that inserts hellish violence and mayhem into some of the most scenic environments ever rendered in pixels.
Far Cry 6 possesses the series’ trademark combination of gorgeous scenery and violence. There are some truly spectacular and memorable gameplay passages in the newest entry, and the fact that the developers have managed to add a surprising emotional gravitas to their story of revolution and civil war should be acknowledged.
That said, the game’s juxtaposition of beauty and horror is also the perfect analogy for its biggest problem – a troubled moral centre that doesn’t know what it wants to say.
Far Cry 6 starts with a bang and rarely lets up. The first section of the game provides some much needed narrative thrust, and does a good job introducing the player to the fictional Caribbean island nation of Yara, along with its fascinatingly villainous dictator Anton Castillo.
You play as a young Yaran, Dani Rojas, who plans to escape the troubled country of their birth with their two best friends. Needless to say, that doesn’t quite pan out as planned.
After watching Castillo’s government set the capitol on fire, murdering anyone they deem not to be “true Yarans”, you find yourself sufficiently motivated to abandon your plan to start a new life. Instead you take up a very different mission: righteous revenge via guerrilla warfare.
After this on-rails introduction you’re introduced to the open world gameplay that is typical of a Far Cry title. There is a war to fight, but the way you go about it is largely up to you.
Early missions team you up with a colourful cast of fellow guerrillas. These comrades do a good job of teaching you important strategies and gameplay mechanics such as stealth, crafting, weapons customisation and – wait for it – animal companions.
That’s right, during your quest to topple this dastardly regime, you may find yourself turning into the gun-toting twin of Dr. Doolittle. Far Cry 6 is brimming with gorgeous wildlife; there’s everything from mystical hawks that nest upon scenic mountain ridges, to horses that will dutifully offer you a spot to ride on their study backs.
Although my personal favourite comes in the form of cheeky crocodile companion Guapo, who taught me the primal pleasure of assaulting an enemy stronghold head on. He’s a brave little guy with a real appetite for destruction… and pets.
However, the way that one relates to animals actually serves as a perfect example of what I spoke of before – the confused heart of Far Cry 6. After being introduced to all the gorgeous wildlife, and forming a close bond with a crocodile, you witness one of your human allies brutally provoke and kill another croc. It feels super uncalled for, and out-of-step with everything that came before.
On top of this, there is a bizarre cockfighting minigame which feels extraordinary wrongheaded in 2021. And unfortunately, this wrongheadedness extends to the greater narrative of Far Cry 6.
For a game that purportedly condemns the violent behaviour of its antagonist, it feels curiously smitten by the exact same thing. Fellow guerrillas remark about how fun it is to murder their enemies, and pretty quickly you’ll realise that you’re meant to agree.
And herein lies our problem. Far Cry 6‘s primary objective is fun, and to be clear, it very much is. Its open ended gameplay and chaotic combat combine to create an experience that is addictive, rewarding and surprisingly fresh considering how long the series has been running.
But the longer I spent with the game, the more its central premise got on my nerves. Far Cry 6 attempts to tell a story that requires sensitivity and nuance, and despite a few well executed scenes and strong performances from its cast, it comes across as a little two-faced.
For many gamers, this cognitive dissonance won’t detract from their experience in a meaningful way. Hell, there are plenty that will revel in its lighthearted monstrousness.
But for some, Far Cry 6’s mix of over-the-top violence, silly characters, and mature narrative aspirations will be too much. And honestly that’s a bit of a shame, because at face value, Far Cry 6 is one of the most complete video game experiences of 2021.
Far Cry 6 is out October 7th, 2021 on PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PS4, and PS5. Grab the game here.