Ubisoft’s Far Cry franchise should be a genre of its own. The way the games feel, play and look are all unique, so that when you’re playing a Far Cry game, you certainly know it. It’s come a long way from the somewhat linear debut taking to the open-world structure of Far Cry 2 before making it a full-on sandbox game in the excellent Far Cry 3 onwards. It’s no stranger to veering from what it knows best by creating side projects, such as Far Cry: Primal, which took you back to the Stone Age, and Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon, which took you to an 80s action film-inspired neon world. These have been great titles in their own right, chances for Ubisoft to explore a little and see what they can create using the airtight Far Cry formula. Now, more recently, another Far Cry side project, or more so a sequel, to Far Cry 5. Far Cry New Dawn tells us what happened after the (SPOILER ALERT!) nuclear explosion that totaled Montana at the end of Far Cry 5.
17 years have passed, and survivors of the fallout have settled to the post-apocalyptic setting and built lives for themselves. That is until the twins and their army of doom arrived. Mickey and Lou and their Highwayman gang have invaded Hope County to forcefully take everything the citizens have built. You, the player, have a run-in with them after your train is destroyed and you’re forced to seek shelter. It’s not long before you’re introduced to Prosperity, the last beacon of hope for survivors, a settlement run by Carmina Rye who provides shelter for those who require it, including you. The plot is a safe choice for Ubisoft, the standard post-apocalypse survival story. Each character you meet has their own reasons for fighting the Highwaymen, but all express hatred towards the twins. The acting has always been a highlight of the series, and it’s no different here. Cutscenes are fantastically realized, and some characters make a return, including Nick Rye and the hilarious Hurk. There’s an overwhelming feeling of familiarity here though, and the twins don’t really make a huge impact. Yes, they are mean characters who want world dominance, they play their parts well, but they don’t give me the jitters like Vaas did. That being said, the rest of the cast do well, and Far Cry 5 players will feel right at home.
Speaking of home, Hope County returns as the setting for New Dawn, but it’s not how it was in Far Cry 5. Familiar landmarks are now ruins, roads are decorated with upturned cars, outposts litter the once pristine countryside and Ethanol is now the most valuable resource known to man. The county has shrunk, there’s still lots to see and explore, but the post-apocalyptic aesthetic doesn’t stay around for long as bright, bold, pink paint is splashed everywhere, Highwaymen are dressed up in biker outfits, and the Prosperity and New Eden settlements feel like shantytowns. 17 years is not a long time from a nuclear holocaust, but people have moved on quick. Vehicles are still around, this time adopting a Mad Max vibe with spray paint décor and rusty frames, but there are noticeably less air and sea vehicles this time around, with only 3 possible helicopters and a dinghy to commandeer, which is a shame.
The Far Cry formula remains untouched in New Dawn. You still run around finding collectibles, such as crafting materials, search boxes and crates for loot, take Highwaymen outposts (which can be retaken at higher difficulty levels for a chance to earn more Ethanol), hunt for treasure, such as perk points and, new to New Dawn, embark on Expeditions. Expeditions are side missions that take you to other parts of America to steal care packages from the Highwaymen. They require stealth to infiltrate then a scramble to extraction, as when you’re in possession of your objective, the alarm is raised. These are exciting, tense missions that are a welcome departure to the confines of Hope County which allow Ubisoft to branch out to other parts of the country. Expeditions can also be done cooperatively online too.
Some things have changed in New Dawn from its much bigger counterpart though; some are welcome, whilst others are less so. One of the welcome changes are the introduction to the Saw Launcher, a homemade weapon that shoots circular blades that bounce off of walls and other structures. This thing is fun to take down enemies with as the blades kill weaker guys in one shot, and if you miss, you can almost guarantee that your shot will hit another guy not far away. Another welcome change is the addition of powers. Partway through the story, you’re given a gift that allows you to use perk points to adopt certain changes for a short amount of time, such as increased strength and speed. Sure, it takes the realism away in favor of otherworldly powers, but Far Cry is no stranger to going off books. The less favorable changes are the new crafting system. We can still create ammunition on the fly, but there is no way to customize weapons. Using weapon benches, you’re able to create weapons, but you cannot add mods or attachments to them. If you want to add a silencer to an assault rifle, then you need to craft both parts together; you can’t craft the silencer and put it on your already crafted AK. This also means that if you want two variants of the same weapon, it’s going to take up two slots of your inventory. Another change that isn’t great is the removal of the importance of hunting. Animals in New Dawn can still be killed and looted for their skins, but they can now only be traded in for crafting materials instead of being used for making a bigger wallet or a new holster. Then there is the aforementioned decrease in size of Hope County. At the start, it feels huge, but go further north, and it seems to bottleneck. There is plenty to see, but it all feels claustrophobic in comparison to the massive playground of Far Cry 5’s Hope County.
So Far Cry New Dawn continues a story that didn’t really need to be continued. A nuclear explosion is a perfect way to end a story, and it should have been left that way. The lackluster villains and smaller game world make New Dawn feel unnecessary. It’s still fun though, driving and shooting feels sublime, stealthily taking over outposts feels exhilarating and flying using the wingsuit is still a blast.
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC
Release Date: 15th February 2019