Far Cry 6 is a vast first-person shooter that's been constructed from the same mould as its predecessors. You are to liberate a land and leave plentiful bullet casings in your wake, only this time it's the heart of the Caribbean that needs clearing, not the US or the Himalayas. Still, it remains undeniably fun running between map markers and earning rewards, if a bit one-note. A good time is guaranteed, but a memorable one? That depends on whether your brain shelve what feels like 2,000 hours of guerrilla warfare without it being reduced to paste.
Which is funny, because Far Cry 6 starts off small and digestible. Anton Castillo, played by Giancarlo Esposito, rules the island nation of Yara through fear and violence. Diego, his son, often walks limply by this side, reluctant to get sucked into his father's tyranny. Their dynamic is compelling, if predictable, but Esposito carries a cookie-cutter dictatorship by simply being Giancarlo Esposito; he's a great watch.
Playing as the determined Dani Roja (whose gender you can choose), you join resistance group Libertad with the sole aim of sticking Castillo's head on a spike. At the start, action takes place on a small offshoot - Tutorial Island, if you will. Here the game's tone is dark and gritty and semi-serious. There's a conversation on a boat as you leave for the mainland that sticks out, where Clara Garcia, the leader of your rebel band, describes revolution and tyranny as a vicious cycle. Even if you liberate Yara from Castillo's rule, only war will plug that gap. It's a rather poignant point in a quiet moment of reflection.
Then you arrive on the mainland, and Far Cry 6's tone undergoes a seismic shift. Not only are you faced with a staggeringly large map, but any delicacy is torn to shreds. To topple Castillo's regime you must unite a handful of other resistance groups spread across Yara's various regions, and it's not long before you're clattering through the game meeting a cast of boisterous fighters, old and new. Suddenly, Castillo himself takes a backseat as you work your way through a list of other baddies - like Sean McKay, a slimy suit who you want to throttle almost instantaneously. I suppose I should've known; this is Far Cry, after all. But from the moment you leave Tutorial Island, freeing Yara morphs into a caricature of resistance.
This is largely down to the game structuring Castillo's downfall through Ubisoft's favourite thing: map markers. Yes, there are plenty of the things. Yellow ones for main story quests, purple ones for special side quests, red ones for military bases that need capturing, and plenty more besides. Some NPCs simply exist to hand you more map markers. With each one ticked off, you are 0.01% closer to freedom.
Having said this, many of these map markers lead to a fun time. The main story quests involve bombastic raids on luxury villas or torching Castillo's fields of poisonous plants. One had me sneak into a nondescript facility and take photos of dodgy things, while another had me leap from a plane and lead an assault on a ship. There's strong variety on offer here, which extends to, well, all the other map markers. Yaran stories have you find rowdy animal sidekicks. Checkpoints are yours for the taking, granting you fast travel points and resources if you capture them. Destroy anti-aircraft bases and the skies will be yours to roam. The list goes on.
Cruising between them all is lovely too. You can ride horses, trundle in tractors, or rev along in a cadillac. Some locations have special vehicles, like a car that also converts into a plane if you switch gears. And if you're ever stuck without transport, you can call in your very own ride which can be outfitted with turrets and dashboard bobbleheads and spoiler armour at workbenches dotted around Yara.
Aside from map markers, Far Cry 6 adores workbenches. At these you can customise and upgrade guns to suit your needs with suppressors, scopes, bigger magazines, and so on. Crucial, though, are bullet types. Dani's able to whip out her phone and scan enemies before battle, which reveals what bullets they're weak to in particular. In my experience, you only ever need two types: softshell or armour piercing. Poison, blast, incendiary? Don't need em.
I'm a bit conflicted, because the many guns in this game also feel great. Heck, there are bows and shotguns and even special one-of-a-kind guns... yet I just stick with the same old assault rifle. I'm not stubborn, it's just that upgrading actually costs a fair chunk of precious materials, and it doesn't help that some of the most exotic weapons can't be tinkered with at all. In the end, it's clearly better to invest in your favourite gun than it is to experiment.
Thankfully, Supremo backpacks and Resolver weapons offer some flexibility. Loot enough depleted uranium from military encampments and you can use it to purchase super weapons cobbled together from household items. Supremos are like ultimate abilities from hero shooters, letting you rain rockets on enemies or blanket zones in noxious gas. You can't use them often, but when you do, they'll beast battlefields for you. The Resolver weapons, meanwhile, are effectively guns with a difference, the "difference" being that they are a huge nail gun, or a gun that shoots CDs, or launches fireworks. Totally ridiculously fun to use.
But the variety, even if you don't use it, makes sense. Dani's progression isn't tied to stats, instead totally depending on the armour or weapons you've got equipped. Armour itself forgoes standard numbers in favour of practical bonuses. You won't see boosts of +50 health here; rather, look out for a helmet that means your vision won't be affected by poison, or some boots that help you move faster when crouched. Every piece of armour you earn has a clear purpose - which means no inventory decluttering.
But this is all running around the question of how Far Cry 6 actually feels to play in combat. Well, yeah. It feels decent. Again, just about every hostile area in this world follows a tried and tested template. Either stay stealthy and disable some alarms, or just go shooty bang and leather people with bullets. There's always a storage room with resources. There's always a captain with more health. There's always something to get out of it.
And that just about sums up Far Cry 6, actually. I could go on, probably for decades, about the mini-games and the Bandido Operations and the fishing and the hub spaces and treasure chests and another ten things. What you really need to know is that everything in this game exists to give you positive reinforcement. You are Pavlov's dog with an AK-47 slung on your back, given treats for every location you visit, for every quest you complete, for travelling to and fro between each and every map marker.
This constant swelling, with its torrent of deliverables and rewards, almost threatens to consume Far Cry 6 itself. That quiet moment with Clara early on, alongside any of the horrors of Castillo's dictatorship, are quickly lost to noise and loot. This isn't an inherently awful thing if you're into Ubisoft's busy open worlds, I suppose - it's hooked me in, anyway. But when you eventually fell Castillo's empire, all your experiences blur into one (good) mess. Not a great show, not a particularly memorable stand-out. Just a solid mash of juvenile guerrilla action.