Far Cry 6 puts you right in the middle of a powder keg – Hands-on preview impressions

What will you do for your freedom?

Far Cry 6 arrives at a very interesting time for Ubisoft’s long-running shooter series. Coming up on nearly 20 years since the original game’s launch, it’s a series that, like all franchises, has become somewhat formulaic. Settings, protagonists, and antagonists have changed, but the basic premise of one person taking on a much larger force in an open world has become the core experience of Far Cry games.

The good news is that this means even small changes can feel very refreshing, and Far Cry 6 brings enough change to add subtle layers to the gameplay experience in a way that actually matters. Earlier this month, I got to spend a little under 6 hours playing Far Cry 6, and all I could think about in the days after was playing it some more. 

Far Cry 6 is set on Yara, an island nation that is heavily inspired by Cuba. Yara is ruled by the dictator Anton Castillo, a man who intends to return Yara to glory and ensure that the island’s rulership passes to his son, Diego. 

Rather than a blow-in or visitor to the island, players will be stepping into the role of a native soldier, someone who has been trained to fight but had their own reasons to step away from the military. The game will begin with players deciding if they want to play as a male or female character, and the action will then rapidly get underway. Players quickly find themselves neck-deep in a guerilla war for the revolutionary forces that are trying to liberate Yara. You will be looking to unite various groups of fighters, guerillas, and legends, in an attempt to mount a unified defense against Castillo. 

The characters I met during the playthrough were quite interesting. There were some large and dramatic personalities, but everyone managed to feel somewhat grounded and realistic, as if the looming doom of Castillo’s rule allowed everyone to be the most dramatic version of themselves. 

Two of the most important things about any Far Cry game are the main antagonist and the forces that they control. Castillo, perfectly portrayed by Giancarlo Esposito, whom most players will recognize for his performance as Gus Fring from Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul, is a chilling enemy. No price is too much to pay for his vision of Yara’s future, and he is happy to build it upon the broken backs and shattered dreams of his people.

Even better, Castillo is in command of an actual army, and it is that army that you will be clashing with repeatedly during the campaign. Far Cry 6 is a great step up in the oppressive nature of the enemy that you take on, as Castillo’s force feels like a proper military. They have helicopters that will mercilessly hunt you down and prove challenging to deal with if you don’t have the correct weapons. Tanks are nightmarish enemies, but if you manage to get one yourself, it’s a destructive thrill ride that is unmatched in series history. 

One of my favorite moments in the hands-on session came during cooperative play when my partner and I managed to take control of a tank, then used it to shoot down a helicopter that had been harrying us. It felt like a wonderfully emergent gameplay moment, not something that had been scripted. Both vehicles were only there because of our actions and using one problem to solve another was extremely rewarding. 

Another meaningful change is the player’s arsenal of weapons. They can be upgraded using resources that you find around the island or built wholesale from pieces of scrap. In a guerilla war, you cannot always rely on conventional weapons, after all. Your equipment also matters, and players can outfit themselves in different gear that will provide buffs and benefits. Will you be heading into a compound that produces toxic gases? Then wearing a helmet that protects against them is a solid plan.

Crafting, customization, and situational armor and gear all add a nice layer of choice to the game without burying the player in an overwhelming number of options.

What I’ve seen of the island is also superb. Deep forests, sheer cliffs, and pristine beaches abound, and deep within the heart of the island is a network of paths that only the Guerrillas know. This allows you to effectively move in secret, or you can travel by car, foot, plane, or helicopter. 

The island is also filled with secrets. We found unique versions of weapons, treasure, and complex puzzles to solve, and like all Far Cry games, there is much to do outside of the primary campaign experience. 
The best thing about my time with Far Cry 6 is that it left me hungry for more. I want to jump back in and explore the island, take on the forces of Anto Castillo and experiment with as many different weapons as I can find. I’ll be waiting until the game releases on October 7 before I can journey back to Yara, but until then, viva la revolution.