Ubisoft's return to the Far Cry series leaves us both impressed and puzzled.

Far Cry 6 Preview | Open World Carnage

The Far Cry series is no stranger to mayhem, and when we previewed some hands-off footage of the upcoming Far Cry 6 earlier this year, we called it “madcap and chaotic”. After a 4-hour hands-on session with the game, I can confirm that it feels like all that and more.

Far Cry 6 is set on the Caribbean island of Yara, a tropical paradise currently under rule by a ruthless dictatorship. You play as Dani Rojas, who works with other guerilla fighters on the island to topple the leadership of Anton Castillo (played by Breaking Bad’s Giancarlo Esposito) to bring peace to the land.

Credit: Ubisoft

WELCOME TO YARA

Ubisoft is attempting to go all-out with this new iteration of the Far Cry formula. In addition to the forests, mountains, and rivers, it features a big city this time. This comes with plenty of tall buildings and narrow streets, in which you can utilise the explosive toys and gimmicky weapons that are usually at your disposal. I didn’t see much of this city during my time with the game, instead being thrown onto a smaller island that acts to teach you the basics.

On first inspection, Yara is massive. It’s most certainly the largest Far Cry playground to date. It features around eight areas split across two islands, each region containing a number of villages, towns and strongholds to find. As is the classic Far Cry formula, many occupied enemy settlements can be liberated by clearing the place of armed assailants. However, some of these places also have objectives tied to them. For example, an early fort had me sneaking in to recover some depleted uranium for another character which allowed them to make a powerful weapon for me.

Credit: Ubisoft

Good latin representation?

One of the biggest questions I still have about Far Cry 6, even after my session, is how it’ll handle its Latin America setting. Although I can see some effort to move away from using stereotypes, the foundations for this kind of writing is still there.

Latino stereotypes often involve men who are seen as either comically unintelligent or aggressive drug dealers and weapons smugglers. Meanwhile, stereotypes of Latina women portray them as being overtly sexual and verbally aggressive. Many of the characters I encountered during my session often fit within these outlines, and it made me feel slightly uncomfortable to see a rich historic culture reduced down under a white gaze. There’s one guy you meet at the very beginning named Juan who pretty much ticks all these boxes.

Of course, I recognise that this is a Far Cry game, where verbally aggressive drug dealers would appear regardless of the setting. But it would have been nice to give characters that don’t fit this stereotypical mould more of the spotlight. There is obviously more to this world than just the violence and explosions, as Far Cry 6 gives you moments of downtime in each of the settlements where you can talk to other characters or even play Dice games with them.

We’ll have to wait for the full release later this year to determine if Ubisoft’s Latin America setting is a step forward or step backward for representation. A big part of me doesn’t feel too confident, especially after hearing about the company’s all-white male editorial department last year [via Kotaku].

Credit: Ubisoft

OUT WITH THE OLD

Far Cry 6 makes efforts to avoid the criticisms that its predecessor gained. Unlike Far Cry 5, which featured a silent protagonist, its sequel features a fully voiced main character. As a result, Dani has much more personality and you feel more involved with the events of the revolution than you would have if they didn’t speak. As is the case with many modern Ubisoft games, you can also choose between male and female versions of Dani. Personally, I preferred Female Dani. She’s the one Ubisoft is heavily marketing, after all, and the voice actor has done a tremendous job at portraying a character with so much wit and focus.

Speaking of other improvements made over Far Cry 5, it looks like the missions actually have more variety to them too. Some involve you liberating different enemy settlements, while others have you defending another character, fighting from Point A to B, or fetching something to bring back to camp. This marks a big change from the repetitive structure of Far Cry 5, in which you were knocked out every couple of missions to participate in some drug-induced hallucinatory fight sequence for one of the game’s big baddies.

Credit: Ubisoft

DRESSED-UP CARNAGE

Now let’s talk about the weapons, because no Far Cry game is complete without a bunch of toys to mess around with, is it?. The game gives you a large number of firearms to use. Everything from handguns, to shotguns, sniper rifles, machine guns and – of course – bows, make appearances.

These weapons can be customised in a variety of different ways using material you’ve found in the world too. Pop a scope on an assault rifle for some long-range action, or go all sneaky-beaky with a silenced light-machine gun (I’m not sure why you’d silence a weapon like that, but who am I to judge?). Far Cry 6 understands that your greatest tool is your imagination, which is why it wants to give you complete control over how you design your arsenal.

But it doesn’t just end there. Far Cry 6 also offers you plenty of backup options to destroy enemy compounds for those moments when a good rifle just won’t cut it. You can mount turrets onto the back of vehicles, or blow things up with the missiles launched from helicopters. You can even use a weapon called a Supremo, a special ability which unleashes hellfire on anyone standing in your path and operates on a cooldown. There are several Supremos to use, but they’re all equally devastating.

Credit: Ubisoft

BETTER WITH A FRIEND

The game also lets you take lovable animal companions (called “Amigos” in-game) to also let loose on enemy factions. While the idea of putting the adorable Chorizo, a small canine friend who uses a wheelchair, into harm’s way fills me with dread, it’s all worth it to see his cute face gnaw on some dude’s leg. And yes, you can indeed ‘Pet The Dog’.

But the sense of camaraderie doesn’t end there, as Far Cry 6 also brings back co-operative gameplay. Thanks to a seamless drop-in, drop-out multiplayer system, two players can take on Yara’s militia using all the tools available to you in the singleplayer campaign. The best part about it is, the entire story is available to play with a buddy!

With the entire game being playable in co-op, you can really feel the mayhem emphasised when you’re blowing up convoys with a friend. It’s great fun to have one person draw enemy fire while the other sneaks in the back and steals a helicopter to blow the whole place sky high. The difficulty adjusts itself too, tweaking enemy damage so playing with another player doesn’t feel too hard or too easy.

Meanwhile, Ubisoft has also made sure to include a wide variety of accessibility features in Far Cry 6. This includes extensive subtitle customisation, colourblind settings, anti-motion sickness options and lots of ways to change the control scheme. We’ll have a full rundown of Far Cry 6’s accessibility features closer to launch, but so far it’s looking pretty good.

Credit: Ubisoft

WHAT TO EXPECT FOR LAUNCH

Will Far Cry 6 be able to break free of the traditional Ubisoft formula and provide us with something new and compelling? I’m yet to be convinced that it’ll live up to the legacy of past favourites like Far Cry 3 and 4. However, I still saw plenty enough in my time with the game that I’m sure it’s a step away from the unpopular repetitive open world structure of Far Cry 5.

Meanwhile, Ubisoft has come out and said that this new entry to the series is ‘political’, which is big considering the company has previously shied away from the P word. With the story exploring hard themes involving the intersection between nationalism and fascism, I’m at least curious to see how it handles that discussion.

Far Cry 6 will release on October 7th for PC, PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, as well as on streaming platforms Amazon Luna and Google Stadia.

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