The Far Cry series, originally notable for more or less reinventing itself with each new game, has settled into a bit of a formula for, jeez, nearly a decade now—Far Cry 3 came out in 2012. There have been a few curious diversions like Far Cry Primal, which threw players into the stone age, and there was that expansion where we went to Mars. But the major games in the series haven't been all that different from one another. They've mostly been fun, but it feels like Ubisoft found a groove for Far Cry and kept the needle buried in it.
So it's exciting to see a few new features in today's Far Cry 6 gameplay trailer. (I also got to attend a briefing last week, which included additional gameplay footage and a chat with one of the developers.) While Far Cry 6 definitely doesn't look like a complete reinvention of the series, there are a few new features that really stand out. Here they are, in order of how much I'm excited for them:
You can holster your weapon to blend in
This is a first for the series, and feels long overdue. Far Cry has always had stealth options (except maybe the original, where sneaking effectively seemed incredibly difficult), and hiding from enemies is handy when taking down strongholds and outposts. But when an enemy does see you in Far Cry games, no matter where you are and even if you're not actively engaging them, they immediately aggro.
It never really made sense that every single enemy in the game would instantly recognize you. Are they all carrying your picture around in their wallets, or what? And it could be pretty irritating when you'd simply be driving through the world to get to your next mission and have to deal with aggroed enemies who happened to drive by in the other direction and immediately recognized you.
In Far Cry 6, you can blend in with the rest of the citizens of Yara. All you have to do is holster your weapon. You still can't get too close to enemies or they'll know something's up, and this won't carry over into restricted areas like enemy bases. But when you're out in the world, and you see some enemy soldiers approaching, you can holster your weapon and they'll assume you're just another citizen. You can even drive through guarded checkpoints instead of automatically being shredded by gunfire. Revolutionary!
"You can initiate combat, you can initiate conflict," said David Grivel, lead game designer of Far Cry 6 at Ubisoft Toronto. Grivel gave me one example of using it while playing. "I was driving my car, and driving it up to a military truck," he said. "And I wanted to get that truck. So I drove up to the driver, I had my gun holstered. And at the last second I just pull out the gun, boom, shoot the driver, and then hijack the vehicle, all in one go."
This is pretty exciting. It means you'll be able to explore freely, drive without instantly getting rammed by an enemy vehicle, scout locations, walk around populated areas, and dictate when the action starts instead of just having to react when you become a target.
You can ride horses
It's a bit weird that in Far Cry 5's Montana, a state known for having a horse or two, you never got to actually ride one. Far Cry 6 solves that bit of weirdness, and horses are now rideable.
Most of the attention in Far Cry 6 seems to be on cars, which can be souped up, modified, and delivered right to your location for a convenient getaway. But the ability to ride horses, especially in the wild and mountainous terrain of Yara, has me more excited than driving a car with a snowplow welded on the front and rocket engines bolted to the back. (Though I'm sure I'll be doing plenty of that, too.)
You can use photos to find mission locations
The gameplay footage we saw showed a few scenes that caught my eye, and it had nothing to do with shooting down helicopters or blowing up gas stations. We see Dani walking through a town and a wooded area holding her phone up in front of her. On her screen is a photo of a building with graffiti on the walls, and another shows a hand-drawn picture of a trail and some palm trees. Rather than simply following a quest marker on a map, Dani can use the photos on her phone to find the location she's looking for.
That strikes a big chord for me, like the treasure hunts in Red Dead Redemption and Sea of Thieves. You use an image, and not an icon on a map, to find what you're looking for. I've pined for Far Cry 2's handheld map for years, and while this isn't that, it's still a more interesting and exciting way to find your way around than simply walking in the direction of a big arrow.
The world looks huge and varied
Far Cry 5's Montana was big and beautiful, but it never felt like a real place. It was a map where the biggest town was a handful of buildings, where a mission location might simply consist of a barn or a couple of cabins. Far Cry 6 looks much more like a real place in the world, a proper country with a huge capital city, smaller towns and villages throughout, vast wilderness, and smaller islands around the perimeter.
A pretty map won't be enough: there will need to be engaging things to do there and a reason to explore other than looking at the scenery. But it certainly looks like a more interesting and realistic place to visit than we've seen before. We're also told there will be a "vast array of wildlife" that the trailer doesn't really get into—hopefully we won't exclusively use them for crafting wallets.
Perks are tied to gear
I'm not 100% sold on the new perk system, which ties player perks to gear. One the one hand, it means you're not locked into a playstyle path based on your perk choices. If you find you don't like being a sniper that much, you can shed your sniper gear and replace it with something that supports a different playstyle.
But at the same time, it's good to have character perks you can use no matter what you're wearing. If you're midway through a mission as a heavy-damage dealing tank type, but see a good sniping opportunity, it'd be nice to have some sniper perks built into your bones instead of your clothing. We'll see how we like it once we get our hands on the game.
Goofy-ass weapons still abound
For those hoping for a more grounded return to a game like Far Cry 2, it looks like you're out of luck. Plenty of goofy weapons are on display, like a backpack that fires rockets and creates flame walls, miniguns built from motorcycle engines, and a weapon that fires compact discs while blaring Macarena.
Guns for Hire are out, but you still have animal pals
In Far Cry 5 and New Dawn you could recruit various NPCs and call them in to help you—like bush pilot Nick, who could fly his plane in for some air support, and Hank Drubman, Jr., who'd follow you with his RPG and blow up anything in your way. That's not quite how it works in Far Cry 6.
"We don't have Guns for Hire, per se, but we do definitely have other NPCs with you," said David Grivel. You'll have a couple animal pals, like Chorizo, an excitable little dog in a wheelchair who can distract soldiers, and Guapo, a crocodile who can tear them to shreds and eat them. Human amigos are a no-go, however.
You will sometimes fight with humans at your side on certain missions and during some activities, but as far as tapping a person to follow you everywhere, that won't be the case in Far Cry 6. And I'm okay with that. I prefer the company of a crocodile (or in New Dawn's case, an awesome boar) over a human any day. Far Cry 6 will be released on October 7.