At its heart, it is more "Far Cry." And that is unequivocally a great thing.
Except for "Far Cry 6," Ubisoft’s tropical open-world action/adventure/shooter franchise seems in the midst of a dual-makeover. On the one hand, it chases an even more serious tone than previous "Far Cry" games, underscored by the presence of the brilliant Giancarlo Esposito voicing villainous dictator Anton Castillo. Simultaneously, the game wants to give you new and zany ways to wreak mayhem across the imaginary island of Yara.
The end result is plenty of fun (because hey, the mayhem is an absolute blast), even if it does mess with your mind. "Far Cry 6" is both a well-crafted blast and a tonally inconsistent game, and that second characteristic never ceases to be noticeable. Previous "Far Cry" games have always had just a hint of "Just Cause" in them, offering you helicopters and wingsuits and arming you with potent weapons that allowed you to wreak havoc on countrysides on whatever island you were battling through.
But "Far Cry 6" seems intent on arming you with more than you’ve ever had — and on doing it from the near-get-go. You’ll craft your first few weapons from basics, but barely an hour into the action, you’ll find yourself with a missile-launching pack (which can be upgraded, by the way) and an annoying crocodile tagalong who always seems to know how to blow your cover (pro-tip: Leave him somewhere. It’s better). That crocodile, Guapo, is a constant reminder of the “game-y” side of "Far Cry 6," a side that wants to give you tools of destruction and let you have an unremorseful blast.
That side of the game controls exceptionally well, too. After six games, "Far Cry" has its mechanics down, and in many ways, this game manages to feel like a continuation of the action from "Far Cry 5." Shooting and stealth, the two backbones of gameplay you’ll need as you take down enemy bases and help restore Yara to a world without Castillo, are fluid and easy to get into, although the stealth needs a hair of tuning.
All that action, however, gives the game an air of freedom and carefree frivolity: Kill, because it’s what you want to do, dear gamer. And the mayhem you can create is extreme and fun. But it grows hard to reconcile that with the presence of the serious Castillo, masterfully played by Esposito, and the seemingly serious tale that the game is trying to tell you.
Castillo looms as one of the finest villains in "Far Cry"’s history, and he’s built to be more than a dictator. Yara, you see, is modeled heavily after Cuba, and Castillo is its unique leader. He’s grooming his son to be his successor while simultaneously captaining a nation that’s producing a cancer wonder drug, a drug that’s harvested on Yara but kills Yarans in the process. And naturally, he’s being exposed by a resistance that has you, playing the role of Dani (a male or female role in the game, by the way) as the tip of its spear.
You bring Esposito in to tell a serious story, and that’s certainly what the dialogue aims to convey. Cutscenes set the tone early; this is a country that’s collapsing. And you’ll eventually meet the leader of the resistance, who consistently explains that all this brawling is only the beginning; the war for Yara’s soul will continue long after Castillo is deposed. It’s a smart and deep reminder from Ubisoft that it takes more than shooting to win these conflicts in real life.
But in the game, all there is is shooting, because mechanically, that’s how "Far Cry" is built. It’s meant to give you a wild open world to have fun in, and the gameplay stays true to that. A few new mechanics do introduce themselves; you can bribe certain guards for information, and you can build guerilla troops to send in to crush bases. But by and large, this is a game where you’re meant to settle conflicts with your fists and guns, not with diplomacy.
None of this makes "Far Cry 6" a bad game, though, in part because the gameplay is so fun, especially when you have a cooperative play partner. Here, the gameplay shines, and the vast areas allow for even more creative ways to down your opponents and overthrow Castillo.
And from a gameplay enjoyment perspective, this final calculus, that of having fun options to crush the bad guys, is the one that matters. "Far Cry 6" wants to rise above this at times, telling a more complex story and delivering deeper messages on war and revolution and how nations can break vicious cycles of violence and inequity, but it’s gameplay hasn’t quite caught up to that.
At the moment, it’s still more "Far Cry." The upside of that: It’s loads and loads of fun, story be damned.
'FAR CRY 6'
3 out of 5 stars
Reviewed on Xbox Series X
Available on Xbox platforms, PlayStation platforms, PC