Far Cry 6 hands-on — Don’t cry for me, Yara island

With the world the way it is, it may be a long time before I get to visit an actual Caribbean island. At least Far Cry 6 is here to give us a stunning virtual world to explore, even if it is a tad overrun with fascists.

Far Cry 6 launches on October 7 for PC, PlayStation, Xbox, and Stadia. I played this game for several hours earlier in the month via a hands-on preview done through Parsec, software that uses cloud streaming technology to let you access other computers (in this case, a Ubisoft PC that was running Far Cry 6). Now, this did mean that my experience had some input lag and compromised image quality, but I was able to get a reasonable first impression of the game.

I was a fan of the Far Cry series, particularly enjoying 2012’s Blood Dragon, but I felt burnt out on the familiar Far Cry formula after playing Primal in 2016. That’s why I skipped Far Cry V and its standalone expansion, New Dawn. With Far Cry 6, I was interested to see how the series had progressed without me.

Well, not all that much, it turns out.

Far Cry 6 still has you exploring an open world as you take out enemy bases, either through stealth or the direct, guns-blazing approach. It’s hard to criticize it too much for its lack of innovation. Far Cry 5 managed just fine without my support, becoming the fastest-selling entry in the series. It’s not like the market is demanding a reboot for the franchise.

Welcome to the island

Even if it is just Far Cry in a new setting, that new setting is gorgeous. Far Cry 6 takes place on Yara, a fictional island inspired by Cuba. Here, you join guerilla fighters battling against the dictatorship run by “El Presidente” Antón Castillo, played by Breaking Bad and The Mandalorian star Giancarlo Esposito. He does a great job playing a charismatic-yet-terrifying leader, but even this is familiar territory for the series. Far Cry has put an emphasis on memorable, unstable antagonists since Far Cry 3.

Above: Far Cry 6 can be a gorgeous game.

Image Credit: Ubisoft

Yara makes for a pretty sandbox to play in. It’s a Caribbean island full of green trees and blue skies. It’s the kind of place you’d want to take a vacation if it wasn’t for, you know, the fascist regime. At least you get to have fun taking out all of those fascists, as long as their wonky AI doesn’t hinder you.

When clearing out enemy bases, I often struggled to find the last soldiers. I could hear them spouting their voice lines in the distance, but it would take awhile for me to actually find them. So I’d just start retracing my steps, visiting the same buildings and bunkers in the enemy camp until I happened to run into the last meat bags. This was even a problem when I was playing co-op with another person. Even between the two of us, it took some doing to find those stragglers.

Story-wise, Far Cry 6 also starts off in a familiar fashion. At first you’re just trying to flee the country, but you slowly find yourself joining the resistance. A likeable cast of characters, including a group of ex-revolutionaries that may be past their prime, help keep the narrative engaging. I did have some problems with tonal whiplash. One moment, I watching a vicious firing squad slaughter civilians. Later, I’m watching someone take out an enemy soldier with the help of a pet alligator. Look, maybe it was a crocodile. Those things terrify me. I don’t know the difference, and I don’t care to learn. But my point is that it was a moment played for laughs at a time when I was still trying to process the whole “how I would feel if my government went door-to-door murdering civilians” thing.

Juan Cortez is an interesting character in Far Cry 6.

Above: Juan Cortez is an interesting character in Far Cry 6.

Don’t cry

I’m probably sounding like I’m being pretty tough on Far Cry 6. That’s mostly to do with my own disappointment realizing that it’s not doing much new. Now, this won’t be a problem for the millions of people who still love the series the way it is. But if you’re someone like me, you may not find enough here to bring you back.

I’m still impressed with its scale. Even after a few hours, I only saw a fraction of Yara and experienced a sliver of its story. And if you want to go deep, I imagine that Far Cry 6 can entertain you for months as you hunt down every enemy settlement and try to upgrade every weapon. Co-op also adds some value here. I had a good time flying helicopters with another member of the preview event that I had just met. I’m sure I’d have an even better time in co-op with a friend.

Far Cry 6 looks to be a big, beautiful game. I just wouldn’t expect it to surprise you, unless you’ve never played a Far Cry game before. In that case, Far Cry 6 may be a great entry point for you.

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