With its eerily familiar locations, its plot about freeing an island from brutal dictator, and a casually-murderous villain from the TV show Better Call Saul, Ubisoft’s upcoming Far Cry 6 immediately feels like a knowing throwback to the genre-redefining Far Cry 3. The crucial difference between them, however, lies in the point of view. Where FC3 wanted players to feel baffled and intrigued by the strange new world they were exploring, FC6 puts them in the role of a citizen of Yara, the fictional Carribbean island on which the game is set.

Once players have selected their character’s gender (Dany or Dani), they’re immediately thrown into a nightmare scenario — stormtroopers have arrived to enslave the denizens of the slum the character calls home, and as luck would have it, the date they’ve chosen for their forced recruitment drive is the exact same day the main character was planning to escape on a boat bound for Florida.

In the first hours of the campaign, the player will survive a massacre, explore a jungle, meet some past-their-prime freedom fighters, team up with an alligator, and generally become an absolute terror… And that’s all on the training island before players even get to the areas that the Yaran army controls with an iron fist.

Much like the previous entries in the series, Far Cry 6 is about gradually undercutting an armed force by destroying facilities and taking away their ability to project force around the island. Generally, this is accomplished via base raids, with the player able to approach them any way they see fit, whether that’s sneaking around and stabbing people in the back, blasting their way in with heavy weapons, or the old standby, seting wild animals loose within the facility’s walls and laughing as the guards get munched and clawed.

The first-person gunfighting is, for the most part, beautifully balanced. Clever enemy AI uses teamwork to flank players, forcing them to keep on their toes if they want to maintain situational awareness. This is much easier with a co-op partner, of course, and the drop-in gameplay works quite well. I played a good chunk of the demo with a partner, and it felt like the way it was meant to be played. Vehicles all have driver and gunner seats, and the bases we raided seem to have been built specifically so that pincer attacks will almost always be the most effective tactic.

With its gorgeous setting, fantastic action, and a bunch of vehicle hijacking mechanics, Far Cry 6 is on track to be a new series high point. That said, there’s one new element in the game’s design that prevents me being entirely optimistic.

The issue here is the way the game handles character advancement. Gone are levels and skill trees — now all of the player’s upgrades are handled via the gear they equip. Each costume has multiple pieces that offer a variety of perks, and the player is free to mix and match them. For example, they might want to use gloves that speed reloading, the hoodie that cuts fire damage, and the boots that lower stamina drain from sprinting. Or, they can always put on a full set and get turbo-charged versions of one specific perk. It’s not a terrible system, but the major drawback is that costumes can only be changed at workbenches where players mod and create weaponry. This has the effect of lessening the improvisational aspects of combat, since players have to decide what abilities they want before going on a mission, and unless they’ve scouted every area before heading out, there’s a good chance that conditions will change on the ground, and their loadout — unless it’s extremely versatile — might hamper (or at least fail to support) their efforts.

My other problem is an extremely petty one, but it damaged my experience, so it’s probably worth mentioning. Far Cry 6 has one of the worst flamethrowers I’ve ever seen in a videogame. I received it surprisingly early, which is odd since such kit is usually brutally effective in this series. In fact, fire was so famously potent in Far Cry 2 that a simple flare gun was one of the deadliest weapons in the game should enemies be anywhere near dry brush. However, I quickly learned the reason it showed up so early here — fire is one of the weakest weapons in the game. I hit people with blasts of flame and they didn’t even act like they were hurt.

Despite these issues, Far Cry 6 is incredibly promising. Whether I was sneaking around looking for hidden caches or leading a raid on destroyers to break a naval blockade, the action was always smooth and intuitive. Of course, there’s plenty of time for the developers to make final tweaks, so my issues may not even be present in the finished version. Everything about the presentation suggests that this has the potential to be the series’ most impressive entry, and hopefully the developers can get there — we’ll all find out this October!

Daniel Weissenberger
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