In Ubisoft’s newest entry to the Far Cry franchise, players are unleashed on the island paradise of Yara, a thinly veiled analogue to Cuba. The island, having undergone a series of revolutions and crises, exists in a state of enforced calm under the dictator Antón Castillo. Yaran tobacco, produced by the labor of enslaved people and fertilized with a highly toxic chemical, is a key ingredient in “Viviro,” a miracle cure for cancer. Under Castillo, the manufacturing of Viviro has led to newfound prosperity (for some) and an opportunity for the nation to vault back onto the global stage.
In the game’s opening hour, however, the protagonist witnesses — as if passing through a haunted house — a parade of the evils that prop up Castillo’s rule. Shaken, she commits to a group of guerrillas named Libertad, who hope to rid the island of the Castillo family and introduce liberal democratic values. But “Far Cry 6” is also, par for the course for this franchise, an exotic vacation. The revolution will wait patiently as you pause to feed pelicans, race assorted vehicles, befriend dogs and crocodiles, get drunk, look for treasure, fight sharks and, most importantly, pick up glowing “materials” scattered across the map.
I’ve cleared approximately one-third of Yara’s map, making inroads into the heart of the island and its capital city. At this stage, I feel comfortable opining on the game’s basic systems — which will feel familiar to anyone who is even ambiently aware of how Far Cry games work. These are, I predict, unlikely to change radically as the game goes on.
Despite its attempts at mirroring a real place, Yara, as a simulation of an island, falls squarely in the uncanny valley. Your enjoyment of the gameplay is likely to hinge on how much this bothers you. My first few hours with the game, as I acquainted myself with the brain-dead virtual denizens of Yara, felt awful. I watched AI drivers, honking, run over their fellow Yarans in the streets. In one mission, all of my opponents marched, single file, past me out of the military base I was sent to infiltrate, leaving it ripe for (an anticlimactic) plundering.
Eventually, though, I settled into a routine that felt at least modestly pleasant. Before any engagement, I’d scope out my opponents, marking them on the map. After picking off those on the periphery with a silenced rifle, I’d duckwalk in for close-quarters engagements, which I’d also complete with the silenced rifle. A friendly character you meet early on entreats you to find the right tool for the right job, but in practice, I didn’t find that advice useful. A headshot is usually the right tool for just about any job on Yara.
Early on, it also became apparent that the guns-blazing approach yielded an unsatisfying rate of return. Sometimes, missions became laughably easy; other times, frustratingly impenetrable. This was a ratio I was not interested in wasting my time to improve. My silent approach, by contrast, turned encounters into enjoyable little puzzles precisely because they always teetered on the edge of chaos — without ever quite tipping over.
And why fix what isn’t broken? Throughout the game, you’ll add a raft of new weapons to your arsenal. But the resource system discouraged me from spending time with those new guns. Across Yara, you’ll find materials for upgrades like scopes, suppressors — standard, modern military shooter weapon upgrade fare. Some of these materials, however, are rarer than others, and shockingly so. I found myself sticking with guns I had grown accustomed to because I didn’t want to injudiciously spend those rarer materials just to experiment with a gun I’d come to learn I hated.
The broader issue, as with these materials — some insignificant but plentiful, others useful but rare — is that in a game of this size, there’s way too much to sift through in terms of “Far Cry 6′s” gameplay, politics and narrative. In 2019, Richard Brody, a movie critic for the New Yorker, wrote that streaming services were turning writers into connoisseurs of stuff (using a more foul word), “comparing one mediocrity against another to be able to assemble a list of what’s barely recommendable with a straight face by contrast with what’s even worse.”
And in “Far Cry 6,” there’s a lot of “stuff” of wildly varying quality. Reviewers were granted a mere week to play a title most players will enjoy over the course of several weeks if not months. That’s not a good way to assess a title of this scope. You might overhear a piece of dialogue or find a handwritten note that changes your read on the game’s political valence, for better or worse. You might love how the cars handle, or playing the fishing minigame or hunting for treasure. But these are all obstacles to reviewing a game that could take 40-plus hours to beat. They aren’t relevant to the core Far Cry experience that people care or are curious about — if you can believe that a game with activities ranging from gas siphoning to pelican feeding has a discernible “core.” It’s like being blasted by a fire hose, only to be asked, “How’d the water taste?”
The statistics around how many players actually finish a game are dismal. If you play the same third of the game I’ve played in the exact way I did (I prioritized the Máximas Matanzas missions) you might come away pleased. I am, too, so far — cautiously. And yet, it’s also very possible that Ubisoft stumbles on the dismount. There are so many complicated themes at play: whitewashing, whataboutism, colonialism — you name it. And yet, based on early in-game conversations, it would not be too bold to predict that the game might be setting up a tired, endgame binary choice between the chaos of freedom and liberal democracy or the order of benevolent dictatorship.
I can’t speak to the game’s authenticity to its sources of inspiration. The Argentine critic Diego Argüello (who has written for this site before) found the game’s indulgence in tropes about Latin America bothersome and disappointing. And Moises Taveras, writing for Fanbyte, took umbrage — in an amusing and thoughtful critique — with the game’s casting of Giancarlo Esposito, who is Afro-Italian, as the dictator of a Latin American island nation.
So inasmuch as I’m certain of my opinion of “Far Cry 6′s” gameplay, I am not confident at all when it comes to the game’s story, of which, coincidentally, the franchise has repeatedly invited scrutiny. There are good performances and narrative beats that are compelling and trenchant. But less charitably, some of these moments evoke conversations you might find if you poke around on Twitter for a few minutes. The story invites reflection on questions that are unresolvable — and are likely to remain that way, “Far Cry 6′s” effort notwithstanding.