Goondu review: Far Cry 6 has flaws but is hard to put down

October 25th, 2021 | by Yap Hui Bin
Goondu review: Far Cry 6 has flaws but is hard to put down
Gaming
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Welcome to Yara, an idyllic tropical Caribbean paradise…not! 

Set in the fictitious Cuba-inspired Latin American country of Yara, Far Cry 6 is an open-world, action adventure first person shooter game. You play Dani Rojas, an ex-military turned guerilla, whose gender you can select from the start of the game. 

Yara is governed under the oppressive and cruel regime of Antón Castillo, the villainous dictator played by the brilliant Giancarlo Esposito of Breaking Bad and The Mandalorian fame.

Castillo’s main source of power comes from the production of Viviro, a drug that can cure cancer. Viviro is produced by spraying Yaran tobacco fields with a visually arresting crimson chemical.

However, the chemical is toxic, which means the many slaves who are made to work in the fields are sacrificed in the process.

Far Cry 6’s premise opens up an ethical debate about saving the lives of some at the expense of others, and also gives gamers a first-hand experience in witnessing the horror of this ideology.

The game opens with Dani and her friends attempting to evade Castillo’s soldiers (soldados) after she hatched a plan to escape to the United States to start a new life.

Clearly, circumstances don’t work out that way for Dani and she joins a guerilla group known as Libertad dedicated to overthrow the Castillo regime.

Occasionally, Far Cry 6 attempts to delve into socio-political commentary. Some characters scoff at Dani and others who plan to escape to the United States, stressing that they will never be accepted and will be mistreated or be stuck working in lowly occupations.

Instead, they are persuaded to join the revolution for the liberty of Yara and its people. But the discussion typically doesn’t go very far.  

Sad, silly, mad

Far Cry 6 deals with a serious topic of fighting oppression and dictatorship, and delves into disturbing themes of torture, slavery and inhumanity.

You see Castillo’s soldados killing civilians, experiments performed on slaves and bodies of the dead dumped in rivers, which make for a horrifying and heart-wrenching experience.

However, in the next moment, the game often serves up a silly comical quest or an over-the-top character which forcibly pulls your emotions in the opposite direction.

These moments of conflicting emotions happen quite often in the game and feel like wasted opportunities in building up the tension. It gets the player to be more emotionally engaged with the plight of the victims then spoils the moment with silly and comical antics.

At times, they can even happen concurrently – you can be trying to save the slaves in the tobacco fields with a ridiculous “Macarena”-playing gun that shoots compact discs at soldados while your crazy destructive rooster amigo tears the soldados apart. It just feels very emotionally awkward being in a sad and silly place at the same time.

Maybe Ubisoft didn’t want the game to get too heavy and depressing but I felt a lot of times the powerful moments were ruined by ridiculous mood spoilers.

In addition, the inconsistent and disconnected behaviours of Non Player Characters (NPCs) are just as emotionally jarring.

For instance, after witnessing a brutal genocidal event, one of the characters walked away in grief only to immediately offer you a completely unrelated fetch quest to deliver a love letter to an old flame, totally brushing off what could have been a strong emotional moment for the game. 

There are some memorable characters, chiefly Dani the protagonist and her motivations for eventually joining Libertad, and of course, Antón Castillo, the antagonist powerfully portrayed by Giancarlo Esposito, as well as his son, Diego, who is learning the lessons of being a dictator from his father.

Giancarlo is arguably one of the best actors for villains with his nuanced performance and his trademark chilling transformation from an affable guy to a cold-blooded villain in a split second. It’s always a treat to watch him in the cinematic cutscenes as he imparts lessons to his son. 

Not all characters you encounter are well developed – most are sadly quite forgettable and superficial while others are ridiculously over the top or are truly annoying.

I did enjoy the interactions between the aged guerillas who often hark back to their glory days in ‘67 and the younger guerillas who think the older generation are so out of touch.

There is also a transgender character for inclusivity although more could have been done to delve a bit deeper into his struggles rather than what feels like a “by the way” mention.

When too much is too much

Far Cry 6 is such a huge game with a sprawling map that it’s easy to lose yourself in. Every time I talk to someone, they will give intel on a checkpoint to be taken over, a raid to be conducted, an anti-aircraft site to blow up, a supply drop-off to grab before the enemies arrive, a treasure hunt, a Yaran you need to help out.

Inevitably, I find myself hardly advancing on the main story missions while trying to do everything at once.

Most of Far Cry 6’s main missions and side quests are well varied and enjoyable. These range from spectacular blockbuster-worthy moments to disturbing and heart-breaking investigations to silly slapstick capers to menial fetch quests with a twist.

Some highlights include destroying Castillo’s tobacco fields with a flame-thrower and gunning down enemy soldados while hearing the rousing “Bella Ciao” playing in the background, which Money Heist fans will no doubt find very familiar.

What makes exploring Far Cry 6 really fun are the Treasure Hunts that offer a great variety of exploratory adventures, such as searching for mythical treasures in caves full of traps like in Tomb Raider or Uncharted, or following clues to solve mysteries, as well as climbing and jumping puzzles. How can anyone resist a quest pertaining to a curse of the Emerald Skull?

However, taking over checkpoints and anti-aircraft cannons is a repetitive exercise, so clearing them eventually becomes pretty cut-and-dry.

The advantage of taking over bases and checkpoints is that a lot more fast travel destinations will be opened up, which is very useful for trying to cover as much ground in the shortest time possible.

Maps can also be purchased from the camp scout if the guerilla camps are upgraded, which can be done relatively easily if you are conscientious about looting.

Some of the larger bases offer a bit more challenge, with multiple entry points, strategic spots that Dani can snipe from, as well as props that Dani can use against the soldados. On top of these, there are also Yaran Story quests where you help out certain individuals for rewards and some insight into their lives.

If you need a break from all the violent guerilla activity, there is also fishing and hunting, as well as the cock-fighting and dominos mini-games to help you relax. There are also Gran Premio races where you zip through checkpoints in vehicles to beat the clock and win some rewards.

And if management is more your style, there is also the Los Bandidos text based mini-game where you choose the course of action of your recruited guerillas to complete missions and gain rewards. 

Far Cry 6 offers plenty of options for travelling around Yara. Apart from driving a wide variety of vehicles, you can also ride horses, fly planes and helicopters (only when nearby anti-aircraft cannons are disabled), steer boats, glide around in a wingsuit and parachute, as well as use ziplines to traverse and grappling hooks to descend and ascend, which are the mainstay for climbing puzzles. 

Since Yara is so huge, there’s a lot of driving around especially before fast travel points are unlocked, and so I use the auto-drive mode for vehicles quite a lot.

Unfortunately, the auto-drive is pretty inconsistent, often crashing into obstacles and other vehicles, which may also trigger an attack by the enemy. My advice is don’t be Away From Keyboard (AFK) for too long with the cruise mode on!

In trying to cram so much in a game, Far Cry 6 also lacks focus. With so much to figure out, resources to gather and upgrades to be done for camps, weapons and vehicles, it felt like I needed to come up with a project plan each time I fire up the game. 

Not to mention the mind boggling array of collectibles in the game that I genuinely lose track of. These include rare weapons and vehicles, charms and spray cans for customising weapons, various types of resources, Criptograma charts to unlock chests, Los Bandidos leaders and recruits, Yaran history documents, USB thumb drives containing songs, roosters to be used in cock-fighting, as well as animals and fish for trading. Phew!

If you can take a chill pill and not get stressed about all the things you can do, and just drive around, help people while soaking in the atmosphere (and kill some evil soldados along the way), Far Cry 6 is a very enjoyable and immersive experience.

If you feel lonely, Far Cry 6 also has a co-op option that lets you play the single player missions with a friend, as well as Special Operations which are made just for co-op play.

Amigos Para Siempre 

True to Far Cry tradition, you also have animal companions that will aid you in your battles. In Far Cry 6, amigos are cute pets that accompany Dani and help out in bringing down enemies. There are seven to choose from, each with their unique abilities.

There’s a cute dog Chorizo on a squeaky dog wheelchair who’s more cute than useful, an aggressive and destructive rooster, Chicharron, and my favourite K-9000 cyberdog that can tag all enemy security systems and is available with the Far Cry 6 Season Pass.

Some quests to unlock the amigos involve over the top, crazy antics, such as chaperoning Chicharron on a destructive and murderous rampage.

Their silly antics also brings some levity and humour into the game, although sometimes at rather inappropriate moments.

For instance, I was accompanied by the aggressive Chicarron while investigating a sinister and horrifying site that uses humans as test subjects. And while I felt shocked and sad by what I saw, Chicharron was there squawking, fussing about and destroying stuff in a completely inappropriate and disrespectful way.

It just spoiled what should have been a dramatic and shocking moment, so I dropped Chicharron and picked a more subdued and appropriate amigo for future missions.

That said, amigos are really quite useful especially when I am tired of shooting at an elusive enemy. I just send my amigo over to dispose of them while I go about looting.

Then there is the controversial cock-fighting mini-game that has ruffled the feathers of animal rights groups.

Yes, it is a cruel practice in real life where roosters wear spurs and draw blood and can get mortally wounded, but in the game, the fighting chickens don’t actually die – the loser just looks a little down in the dumps while the winner is paraded around proudly.

I did play it early in the game to get some extra money to buy weapons since the dominos mini-game was way more difficult to win at. Once the pesos started rolling in, I couldn’t be bothered with it.

As a mini-game, it’s rather lame as you only have three different attacks on the opponent. Admittedly, I feel a lot worse having to hunt wild animals, shoot enemy dogs, run over animals on the road and see my pet amigos get hurt than a couple of roosters duking it out Tekken-style.

Speaking of animals, there’s quite a lot of wildlife to see in Far Cry 6, both on land as well as in the water. These range from cute deers, horses and hutias to aggressive mongooses, fierce jaguars and hungry crocodiles and barracuda.

Hunting is fortunately entirely optional although you can trade the meat for resources or cook the animal for Dani’s consumption to provide some buffs. Some animals can also be petted, which is enjoyable, but not all will respond well to such overtures. Here’s a tip – Chicharron doesn’t like to be petted!

Combat and gear

Far Cry 6 starts with Dani without any weapons, but her situation rapidly improves when she arrives at the guerilla camp and builds up her arsenal. The fun really kicks in when Dani gets a Supremo within the first hour of play in the game.

Although it sounds like a tasty pizza, the Supremo is actually a weapon of mass destruction that is worn as a backpack and is great for destroying or disabling enemy helicopters, tanks or masses of enemies, as well as any hope of stealth.

There are different types of Supremos that can be unlocked that bestow Dani with different abilities, such as increased healing, destructive rockets and EMP field generators to disable vehicles and electronics.

Each Supremo has four slots for gadget mods that arm Dani with throwable weapons like knives, Molotov cocktails and dynamite. But the use of the Supremo needs to be sparing and well-timed, since Its long cooldown period limits its frequency of use.

The game’s elaborate weapon system offers plenty of customisations and mods. You can change the type of rounds for different enemy types, add a muzzle for stealth, improve the scope, and even pretty up your weapon with cosmetic upgrades.

These customisations can be performed at workbenches with the use of resources and scraps you collect in enemy facilities and all over the map.

Far Cry 6’s excellent weapons make headshots and dealing destruction so much fun. I also enjoy the ability to mod weapons to change the scope, skins, attachments and even charms to create truly unique weapons that suit your style.

Check out my favourite obiang (Hokkien term for unfashionable or outlandish) rifle complete with tiger stripes, lipstick charm and flamboyant colours. 

Not all weapons can be modded though. These include Resolver weapons, which are unique weapons created with scraps by Juan Cortez, the guerilla Resolver weapon master, as well as certain rare and personalised weapons found in special weapon boxes after completing certain missions.

One such Resolver weapon is the ludicrous Discos Locos that fires compact discs at enemies while playing Macarena. It makes the game feel more like a silly Saints Row game than one dealing with humanitarian issues and liberating the oppressed from a dictator.

To protect Dani from various enemy ordnance and hazards, there are plenty of gear sets that Dani can obtain through equipment crates, mission rewards and merchants, and each has its own defensive abilities.

It’s a good idea to change out the gear depending on the mission and enemy types faced by Dani, such as toxic gas, wild animals, snipers or explosions.

With such a sprawling and intense map, Far Cry 6 can easily stretch beyond 60 hours of gameplay, even more if you intend to complete every single side quest, Yaran Story and Treasure Hunts, capture every enemy location and supply drop, complete every Gran Premio race, catch and hunt all species of fish and animals.

Sight and sound

There’s no doubt that Far Cry 6 is a stunning and amazingly good looking game. With beautifully rendered lush tropical Caribbean vegetation and realistic water bodies, jungles teeming with life, and contrasting day and night cycles overlaid with varied weather conditions,  Yara’s captivating beauty makes exploration so worthwhile. And it’s not just the open environment – Far Cry 6 also has an impressive number of caves, bunkers and buildings that make exploration fun. 

During the game’s most dramatic moments, the toxic red gas sprayed on tobacco plants forms a dramatic yet sinister backdrop for the game, and is visually arresting, fearsome and awesome at the same time. 

Accompanied by the immersive and dramatic soundtrack composed by Pedro Bomfman of Netflix series Narcos fame, key moments of the game are especially poignant and moving, especially the main theme Libertad.

The music also switches up to add to the tense atmosphere during infiltration missions and battles with Castillo’s forces, making the game superbly immersive.

Apart from the soundtrack, you can also hear a great diversity of Latin pop, salsa and Cuban jazz over the radios inside vehicles or around buildings which adds to the atmosphere. 

Voice acting is superb, especially for the female voice for Dani, who rises to the occasion with her ability to be gruff and tough, or warm and comforting when needed. Thanks to Far Cry 6, I have also managed to learn a whole bunch of new swear words in Spanish.

Needless to say, with the violence against humans and animals, liberal swearing and mature themes, Far Cry 6 isn’t a game you want impressionable young children to play or even spectate.

I played Far Cry 6 on my PC with a not-so-cutting edge AMD Radeon RX 580 graphics card on high graphics settings, and the game still looks good and runs smoothly most of the time. Headshots can be performed accurately on moving targets without slowing down.

However, this wasn’t the case when I first started – I got constant stutters and freezes. Things have improved although there were still some gameplay bugs that involve the amigo being stuck on a spot behind an obstacle, as well as some missions being unable to trigger or an NPC being unresponsive.

I also had a huge scare when an error message came up once to say my saved game was corrupted and unable to load – since the game only has an autosave option, I was distraught. Thankfully everything worked out well after verifying the game files and repairing them. 

TL;DR

As an action-adventure, first-person shooter game, Far Cry 6 gets a lot of things right. The main issues are its inconsistent and emotionally awkward tone, weak character development and too much superfluous content which doesn’t really add value. Maybe there’s just a bit too much to do, which can be overwhelming for obsessive completists.

But if you want satisfying shooting, a beautiful exotic environment to explore and loads of activities to partake in, Far Cry 6 is definitely worth your while.

With great weapons, destructive amigo companions and plenty of opportunities to level up your destructive prowess, Far Cry 6 is a thrilling and satisfying game that is incredibly hard to put down.

Just don’t take it too seriously and don’t focus too much on its attempts at socio-political commentary, and distance yourself from the silly elements of the game by picking a more somber amigo and a more serious weapon. You will enjoy it a whole lot more.

Far Cry 6 is available at the Ubisoft store at S$79.90 for the PC (Standard Edition), Xbox store at S$84.75, and the PlayStation Store at S$84.80.

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