Far Cry 6 is out now, and it sure is another Far Cry. Looking at the critical response, including our own Far Cry 6 review from Lauren, there's a sense of increased apathy despite it being pretty damn fun. The consensus seems to be that it's what we've come to expect from the series, at least since Far Cry 3—decent combat and a gorgeous open world, stuck with repetitive side tasks and a half-baked story that treats revolution like an aesthetic rather than a theme. Last time it was cults. Before that it was a revolution—again. While that's worked before, it's clearly having diminishing returns.
There's a certain irony to be had in a game with revolution at its forefront doing absolutely nothing of the sort in its formula. “Far Cry as a whole is frozen in time,” Polygon's Diego Arguello writes in his review. “The few mechanical additions in the series’ latest entry don’t show much improvement over what Far Cry 5 or Far Cry New Dawn have already explored.” In his VGC review, Jordan Miller goes even further: “The island of Yara is a visual treat, but it’s a facade that barely disguises a game that feels, from a gameplay perspective, like it could have been released nearly a decade ago.”
Lauren shared similar feelings in our review, saying “Yara is super lush and wonderful to explore, but the story and main villain are predictable.” It's a wonderful setting for taking lovely screenshots and causing all sorts of chaos, but scrape beneath the surface and there aren't any surprises.
You might be jumping off cliffs and commanding an alligator to murder your enemies, but Far Cry 6 lacks its protagonist's adventurous spirit. Far Cry 3 established the formula, and since then the series has just been doing an encore. In attempting to nail that magic again, Ubisoft has made plenty of entertaining games, but exhaustion for this blueprint is starting to show.
Eurogamer's Ian Higton puts it well: “It's probably wise to bear in mind the words of Far Cry 3's Vaas when he attempted to explain the definition of insanity. 'Insanity,' he said 'is doing the exact same fucking thing, over and over again, expecting shit to change,' and I'd say that statement rings true here.”
There has, however, been some effort made to ground Far Cry 6. Compared to the series' other antagonists, Giancarlo Esposito's portrayal of Anton Castillo is a bit less theatrical, even though he's still an evil dictator with some ridiculous plans, and accompanying this more realistic villain are plot points that tackle real-world problems. There are times when it's a game with something to say, which does feel like an improvement from a publisher that often tries to distance itself from the political scenarios it's exploiting. Unfortunately, its critiques leave a lot to be desired.
In Rachel Weber's GamesRadar review, she describes the tonal whiplash of going from explosive hijinks to watching executions, medical experiments, torture and “some very clumsy handling of a trans rights storyline,” adding that it feels like the writers and gameplay designers were trying to make two very different games. There were also concerns about how Far Cry 6 would represent Latin American culture and politics, and it looks like the end result shows that there's still a lot of work to be done. “Like Far Cry 5, which postured itself as an exploration of white supremacy in the U.S. but fell flat in execution,” Arguello says in his Polygon review, “Far Cry 6 is a game in which you rescue refugees by using a weapon that plays 'Macarena' while you’re aiming down its sights.”
Far Cry 6 is currently the lowest-rated mainline game in the series on Metacritic, albeit only by a few points. It's still sitting at a respectable 76 on PC, but even with a good aggregated score, there just seems to be a dip in enthusiasm. This is a big game from a popular, well-established series, but the buzz has been surprisingly muted. Especially when compared to Assassin's Creed Valhalla. The pair make for an interesting comparison. We know Ubisoft can innovate without diverting too much from its tried-and-true open-world model because we've seen it in Assassin's Creed.
What started as a city-bound stealth game has transformed into a gargantuan series of open-world RPGs that span entire countries. There are nods to survival games, sailing, town management—it's a series that's grown and adapted. And it's cut basically nothing. When you can easily storm a castle and kill everything with a big axe, things like stealth feel a bit extraneous, and there's a problem with bloat, but at least it isn't static.
If innovation was the end-goal of game development, the scores might be quite a bit lower, but games don't always need to innovate to justify their existence. Sometimes being a hoot is enough. On Twitter, IGN's Brian Altano expresses why Far Cry remains popular despite a lack of meaningful changes. “I get why some folks are over Far Cry games or why others ignore them,” he writes, “but they're total comfort food for me.”
I’m about 15 hours into Far Cry 6 and I’m having a fucking blast with it. It’s a gigantic open world playground with tons of fun weapons, vehicles, animals, and nonsense. I get why some folks are over Far Cry games or why others ignore them but they’re total comfort food for me. pic.twitter.com/5DXupGFc8AOctober 6, 2021
Sometimes you just want to blow up a drug farm with a tiny dog. Lauren called the combat “as good as it's ever been,” and had more than a few nice words to say about the various animal companions that you can take along with you. The new weapons, like the Supremo, are also a treat, letting you rain down carnage like a vengeful god. It's impressive. So yeah, if you just want to cause a mess while exploring picturesque beaches and forests—a seductive prospect—you'll have plenty to keep you occupied.
But it's hard not to dream about what the talented and overworked developers could do with Far Cry if it wasn't shackled to a blueprint that was designed nearly a decade ago.