We've spent a few hours on the island of Yara to get a grasp of what the next instalment in Ubisoft's long-running series has to offer.
We've seen a lot of Far Cry 6 over the past few months. Ubisoft has been bombarding us with an array of trailers that all give a slightly deeper look into the game, be it the storyline, the world, or the main villain: Giancarlo Esposito's Anton Castillo. But ahead of launch, we've had the chance to get hands-on with the game for ourselves, playing the first few hours where we got to explore the island of Yara, meet the rebels fighting for freedom, and even come face-to-face with Castillo himself.
If you're unaware of the narrative driving Far Cry 6, what this entry into the long-running series offers is similar to previous games, in the aspect that you'll be fighting against a powerful leader who holds dominion over a region. Esposito's Anton Castillo, whose presence fills every room he enters, seeks nothing more than returning Yara to its former glory, even if that means turning the landscape into a military state where the residents fall second to nationwide industrial and economic growth. Where Far Cry 6 differs is in how it tells this narrative, as it takes us away from the typical shoot first, ask questions mentality of the series, and instead tasks us with fighting as a guerrilla - placing particular emphasis on stealth, blending into the world of Yara, and fighting tooth and nail for freedom without the funding or technological support that the military possesses.
You might think that this is pretty much what every Far Cry game has offered up until now, and for the most part you would be right, but Far Cry 6 looks to challenge how we enjoy the series by building Yara to be a guerrilla's paradise. The gorgeous island has been created with an impressive level of detail that elevates the open world we expect. There are typical roads and paths to travel around, but since Yara has been the subject of a guerrilla rebellion for decades, the jungle features hidden beaten paths that serve as ideal ways to navigate the island without drawing the attention of the military. Stack this up with hand-crafted weapons and gear (we'll touch on this more in a moment) and the addition of horses, a new form of transportation to Far Cry that is much more agile and draws far less attention than a motor-based vehicle would, and you get a style of gameplay that is familiar but also unique.
Yara, is quite a big place, and is split into regions, regions that are defined by levels, meaning it's not the best idea to just waltz into the deepest points of the map and gun down anyone who stands in your path. You really should rank-up to stand a chance against the military forces spread throughout the island, and doing so will require helping the rebellion claim checkpoints, eliminate targets, destroy facilities, the typical Far Cry world activities. But then again, there doesn't seem to be anything stopping you from trying to challenge yourself by going there early.
It's different to the system used in Far Cry 5 as you could go anywhere and complete pretty much anything to earn Resistance Points for a shot at one of the leaders in that game. In Far Cry 6, levels act more similarly to Ghost Recon Wildlands/Breakpoint, which both limits your ability to take Yara by storm, but also encourages you to explore and conquer a region before moving onto the next one, albeit without using the typical Ubisoft design of completing a waypoint/outpost to unlock a bunch of side quests on the map - instead Far Cry 6 features a few NPCs who will slowly feed you new quests to help wandering minds stay on track.
While an engaging and packed sandbox is a cornerstone in Far Cry (Yara will even introduce entire living ecosystems to make the island feel more realistic), the performance of the gameplay itself is also crucial. From what we've experienced, Far Cry 6 delivers fluid and responsive movement and shooting systems, and looks to step-up its immersion with a few (that we've spotted) interesting mechanics.
Take the weapons for example. You can modify and upgrade gear at workbenches throughout Yara by using resources you've found over the island. This could mean whacking a handmade silencer on a weapon, or even some new sights to help fight over longer ranges, and while all of these upgrades will change the appearance of the weapon, they'll also add some new mechanics. If you overuse a weapon with a silencer for example, the silencer will overheat and force you to take a moment to cool it down before you can start firing rounds downrange again.
And to build on the guerrilla nature at the core of Far Cry 6, Ubisoft has even added the ability to holster your weapons so that you blend into the locals, which is a particularly handy trick as approaching a guard or government official without a firearm in hand might give you the option to bribe them to learn some new information about nearby military settlements.
But, since Far Cry has often been known to be a 'far cry' from normality with the realism of its gameplay, Ubisoft has also made sure to equip players with a range of systems and tools that give Far Cry 6 some flair. Parachutes and wingsuits are back, so that you can quickly travel around the island in a more incognito fashion (in general, they do feel more grounded and less-overpowered to what was delivered in previous Far Cry games); pets will join the battle and help out in combat (and yes, this does include Guapo, the crocodile with a shirt); and then as the cream of the crop, we have the most eye-catching addition: the Supremo backpacks. These operate alike an ultimate ability and come in different variants. The Exterminator is basically a multi-barrel missile launcher, and the Zona Medicina is more supportive, reviving and healing you and your allies, and each can be used once before being hit with a lengthy cooldown for its next use. They're bizarre and powered by depleted Uranium - so you know they're the real deal.
It's difficult to take our time with Far Cry 6 and not feel excited or anticipated for launch. Sure, you can make the argument that if it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it's probably a duck, if you get what we mean. But, that doesn't take away from the fact that Ubisoft is looking to provide us with a truly engaging and visually-stunning world with plenty to explore, built with a fluid and responsive control system that is never a hassle to operate. We aren't going to tell you that Far Cry 6 reinvents the wheel or anything, but will it offer up a fun, high-quality experience that should entertain for hours? Absolutely.