The Far Cry series burst onto the gaming scene 15-years ago and instantly made a name for itself with its addictive free-form gameplay. In 2019, gamers can list off the elements of a Far Cry game in their sleep. The franchise offers violent action-filled romps through exotic locations, and each game takes place in a setting where man, beast, and even the savage terrain assaults your out-gunned hero. Far Cry New Dawn is the first game in the series that makes a point of attacking the player’s senses.
Far Cry New Dawn’s visual take on the post-apocalypse is less Mad Max and more Willy Wonka. The game takes place 17-years after the events of Far Cry 5, which ends with global nuclear apocalypse. The catastrophe left behind a trail of smoke and ash and drove people below ground. But life always finds a way. And when the people of Hope County emerge from their bunkers, they’re shocked by what they see. The nuke that decimated their corner of Montana must have been packed with plutonium and skittles. After years of gloom, the landscape bounced back and respawned as the result of a scientific phenomenon known as a super bloom.
The region’s flora and fauna are more striking than ever. The game’s visual style looks influenced by Alex Garland’s sci-fi/horror gem, Annihilation. Brilliant pink and blue flowers run wild as far as the eye can see. Vast swaths of the day and night skies shimmer with an iridescent Borealis effect. And the wildlife evolved into more stunning – and dangerous – versions of their former selves. You haven’t seen anything until an irradiated wolverine makes a swift dash towards your loins.
The game designers take New Dawn’s visual bombast and incorporate it into the story and gameplay. The games’ villains, known as Highwaymen, are a hodgepodge of weapons, rainbows, and bad attitudes. They rock bright-coloured body-armour, cover their fortresses in graffiti, and they announce their arrivals with parades of fireworks and loud music. Since New Dawn puts players inside a neon-lit apocalypse, it’s only right that it embraces a fitting style of play.
This game wants players to let their freak flag fly – if they’re so inclined. Dress your character, known as The Captain, as a medieval knight, a unicorn, or even equip a cyborg leg. Or get behind the wheel of a unicorn-themed motorcycle-and sidecar and skewer bad guys with the bike’s horn. (The apocalypse loves it some unicorns). The game even arms players with a gun that fires saw blades. And just to gild the lily, late in the story The Captain gains the ability to double jump, cloak, and knock out a bear with a single punch. New Dawn doesn’t take itself seriously, except when it does.
Despite New Dawn’s over-the-top visuals and balls-to-the-wall action, its story feels inexplicably dour. Far Cry games famously pit players against one-note psychopaths. New Dawn mixes things up by pitting players against two one-note psychopaths; sibling twins named Mickey and Lou. Mickey and Lou are ruthless thugs who took advantage of the post-apocalypse’s power void. They’re brash, vicious, and calculating villains who prey on the weak. They’re also completely uninteresting.
We’ve seen New Dawn’s story play out in legendary films like Seven Samurai and The Magnificent Seven. Mickey, Lou, and their band of Highwaymen roll through the country pillaging vulnerable outposts. They have their sites set on the thriving town of Prosperity, and it’s up to the player to lead the town’s resistance. Throughout the game, the player must rescue and recruit allies to bolster Prosperity’s defences and put an end to the Mickey and Lou’s tyrannical reign.
The twins show up in a few key scenes, act like assholes, and then bounce, with little nuance or depth to their wants and needs. These women live by a simple code: people are problem makers or problem solvers. Their binary perspective sounds very Harvey Dent/Two-face, but their schtick is only half as amusing. They come off as annoying shit-talkers rather than compelling adversaries. I love losing myself in a game’s story but found myself huffing and puffing every time they popped up during my playthrough.
The conflict with the twins makes up the bulk of the game’s main plot, and story wise New Dawn is aggressively bland. Lots of things happened during my 16-hour playthrough, but none of it carried much emotional weight. The game features some memorable set pieces, but the pleasure comes from the satisfying gameplay and not the low emotional stakes. I engaged in side-quests and rescued supporting characters because it moved along my playthrough. Not because I had any interest in helping their journeys or listening to what they had to say. And I’m the type of player who loves wringing every drop of story out of a game.