clock menu more-arrow no yes
The dictator Antón Castillo and his son Diego Image: Ubisoft Toronto/Ubisoft via Polygon

Filed under:

Far Cry 6 is a waste of potential

Ubisoft’s newest open world is frozen in time

Yara, the Cuba-inspired region in which Far Cry 6 takes place, is introduced as a “tropical paradise frozen in time.” Its people once raised arms to overthrow a dictator, but now, his son Antón Castillo (voiced by Afro-Italian actor Giancarlo Esposito) is following in his footsteps, deploying the military in every corner and disposing of anyone who isn’t what he calls a “True Yaran.” History begins to repeat itself through abusive and exploitative practices, while the country burns and progress is measured in blood. And like its island setting, Far Cry 6 feels like history repeating itself — a perfect showcase for how Far Cry as a whole is frozen in time.

Through the eyes of Dani Rojas (a character that can be either male or female), you take part in the fight against this new dictatorship, after Castillo apprehends and executes a group of Yarans fleeing for Miami. You survive, and agree to help the revolutionary group Libertad in exchange for another boat to the United States. But once the moment comes, you decide to stay and help, accepting the task of convincing three factions to join forces and take down Castillo.

In classic Far Cry fashion, this means traveling through a massive open-world setting, taking on missions from each of these groups with objectives that Far Cry has leaned on hundreds of times before. You’ll infiltrate camps and outposts, either by going full throttle or taking a stealthy approach; you’ll use a flamethrower to burn down a plantation; you’ll face waves of enemies as you wait for a progress bar to fill.

Dani fires armor-piercing rounds at FND enemies Image: Ubisoft Toronto/Ubisoft via Polygon

It’s a cycle that is entertaining to take part in during the first few hours. It’s a foundation that has worked well ever since its implementation in Far Cry 3. But it gets old quickly. Enemies don’t offer much variety, and encounters almost always end up with you destroying a tank or a helicopter as a climax.

Past crafting-related activities, such as hunting animals, are still present, but they no longer feel like the central focus. Most of the crafting is done with materials lying around the world. They can be turned into weapon suppressors, sights, and different ammo types that dispatch certain enemies more easily. In practice, though, not having piercing rounds for an armored enemy isn’t the end of the world, when explosives and other bombastic tools exist.

Two such tools are the Supremo and your Amigos. The first is a backpack that deals an ultimate attack of sorts, ranging from EMP shockwaves to a flurry of rockets. The second is companions, another element we’ve seen in previous Far Cry games. The crocodile Guapo is great for a full throttle approach, while the dog Chorizo will gladly distract enemies so you can finish them off with your machete. In my experience, however, combat scenarios are recycled so often that I was rarely challenged to change my tools and play style.

So if these few additions don’t do much, and the combat quickly falls into a repetitive cycle, what exactly is the main draw of Far Cry 6? The answer is Yara, for better or worse.

A panoramic view of the coast of Yara Image: Ubisoft Toronto/Ubisoft via Polygon

As someone born in Argentina, I was intrigued, if not slightly worried, about how the game would portray a Latin American setting — specifically, one with a military dictatorship put front and center. Many countries, including Argentina and Cuba, have endured them in the past, and the scars exist to this day. Seeing Yarans under curfew, stopped on the roadside to show their papers, or even imprisoned in torture camps, hits close to home.

I wasn’t alive during the last dictatorship, which lasted from 1976 to 1983, but everyone from that time that I know personally, including my parents, has stories akin to these scenarios. My mom used to tell me about the military stopping my grandparents in the middle of the street to check their IDs, or the constant worry that soldiers could knock on anybody’s door at any time looking for so-called subversives — anyone suspected of thinking differently from the military. University students and young people, in particular, were some of the main targets. Journalists were in the spotlight as well, and often “silenced,” a fact that’s briefly touched upon during an early sequence in Far Cry 6.

Unfortunately, Far Cry 6 continues the series’ tiring tradition of presenting itself as political, on the surface, while fumbling any attempts at meaningful critique. Like Far Cry 5, which postured itself as an exploration of white supremacy in the U.S. but fell flat in execution, Far Cry 6 is a game in which you rescue refugees by using a weapon that plays “Macarena” while you’re aiming down its sights.

Dani crouches, wearing a crocodile equipment item Image: Ubisoft Toronto/Ubisoft via Polygon

The portrayal of Far Cry 6’s guerrillas is similarly conflicting. The term guerrilla in itself is so overused between the characters in the game (“once a guerrilla, always a guerrilla”) that it becomes a catchphrase. The people you help also fall into tropes of Latin American characters: the sassy alcoholic know-it-all; a couple obsessed with sex (who are jokingly called “animals”); the veteran guerrillero who is constantly chanting “viva la libertad.” The bad stereotypes are abundant, and although I tried to overlook them, the game’s dialogue does not help.

Speaking of tropes (as I and other Latin American folks saw coming, since the game’s reveal), Yara is a Spanish-native region that defaults to the English language, and more often than not, characters remind you of their nationality by switching between languages without any consistency. There are sequences where two characters speak entirely in Spanish for a few seconds (one standout being a song that is fully captioned in English during a cutscene), then quickly go back to a mashup — the same ones seen recently in other AAA games such as The Last of Us: Part 2 and Cyberpunk 2077.

It’s been said a number of times, but when Spanish-speaking people are talking in English, we’re not constantly cambiando a Español mid-sentence. Far Cry 6 is obsessed with this fallacy. It comes across as parody at best, and utterly disrespectful at worst. Castillo quotes his father at one point, saying, “Jesús would make an amazing Yaran presidente.” When I heard that, I got fairly close to putting the controller down and calling it a day. I stuck with the game long enough to see the end credits, but unfortunately, the rest of the game did not remedy any of this.

Antón Castillo speaks to his son, Diego Image: Ubisoft Toronto/Ubisoft via Polygon

What bothers me the most is the wasted potential to do it right. Proper Latin American representation in games is severely lacking, but 2021 in particular has been a standout in both extremes. I found Hitman 3’s representation of Mendoza to be a pleasant surprise on almost every front, while the first Argentine operator in Rainbow Six Siege sounded nothing like us. Far Cry 6 paints a hopeful picture at times, as every sign in the game — and all of the graffiti — is written in Spanish. Recognizing songs on the radio, and even hearing Dani sing over them, made me stop for a second in delight and surprise. But as soon as a character began speaking, the moment was ruined.

For a Spanish-native setting, Yara is a vast, sprawling, beautiful island, and on more than one occasion, I parked my car to take a screenshot of the sunset illuminating a nearby coast. Yet it is a world built by a conglomeration of studios at which workers have described experiencing abuse, harassment, workplace misconduct, toxic leaders, and racial pay disparities, and neither empty promises nor leadership changes seem likely to fix those systemic problems. As Castillo himself says, if the guerrillas manage to reclaim Yara, what will they do with an island already set in flames?

Far Cry as a whole is frozen in time. The few mechanical additions in the series’ latest entry don’t show much improvement over what Far Cry 5 or Far Cry New Dawn have already explored. And if your interest lies in the search for any semblance of proper representation, you’re better off looking elsewhere. Very few examples, in recent years, have been able to shake the norm. And if Far Cry 6 is any indication of what AAA publishers can do with a Latin American setting — painting it more as window dressing than an actual picture worth celebrating — I would rather not see another one try.

Far Cry 6 will be released on Oct. 7 on Windows PC, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Stadia, Xbox Series X, and Xbox One. The game was reviewed on PlayStation 5 using a pre-release download code provided by Ubisoft. Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content, though Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links. You can find additional information about Polygon’s ethics policy here.