It’s been seventeen years since the Collapse. The land of Hope County, desolated by nuclear warfare, has been reclaimed by nature and the remnants of humanity. As Captain of Security (or ‘Cap’, as you will be known by henceforth) you are part of a team requisitioned by Carmina Rye of Prosperity, a rebuilt safe haven for humanity to rebuild. But your challenge begins before you even arrive; ambushed by the Highwaymen led by malicious twins Mickey and Lou, the train is destroyed and your crew is decimated, leaving only yourself and Thomas Rush surviving. It now falls upon you to save Rush from the Twins, and reclaim Hope County in the name of Prosperity.
Nobody would have guessed we’d be stepping back into Hope County so soon after Far Cry 5 had ended, especially the way that it did. But with the cult of Eden’s Gate and its prophetic leader Joseph Seed, how does Ubisoft go one further and raise the stakes? The answer doesn’t lie with bigger enemies, but rather a slight shift from the standard first-person shooter genre we’re used to, to one that includes light RPG elements and a more linear story. Far Cry New Dawn may seem like a DLC expansion to Far Cry 5, but it plays out as so much more than that and manages to keep the series fresh.
In the shoes of the non-speaking protagonist ‘Cap’, you can create your character with your own style and look to tackle the wastelands of Hope County. Tasked with fighting off the Highwaymen, your journey will take you all across the vastly changed landscape, encountering the familiar as well as the unknown as you rid the land of the Highwaymen’s influence and reclaim resources for Prosperity to grow. Using Far Cry 5 as the template allows the game to slip more into RPG territory; enemies, vehicles, outposts and weapons all have a degree of levelling which forces you to think before going in all-guns-blazing to solve a problem. The number of times I accidentally charged headfirst into gunfights without taking things seriously, only to be gunned down pretty easily, led me to reconsider my strategy.
The narrative progression is relatively simple, and is only triggered by main quests – but being a typical Far Cry game, there is so much to do within the world that you’re never likely to get bored. Capturing Outposts allows you to raise your Ethanol stash, which in turn helps you upgrade Prosperity as well as its many outlets such as Garage, Weapons, Infirmary and Cartology. You can then choose to keep the Outpost, or to ‘Escalate’ – meaning the Highwaymen recapture it, and it gets more difficult. These are particularly fun when you’re in the mood for some bloodshed, as you can choose to go in stealthily and eliminate all enemies, or go in guns blazing and fight off hordes of Highwaymen as they call in backup. Beware though, every escalation brings tougher enemies as well as Enforcers, who are really tough to take down.
The great thing about the game’s light RPG approach is that as your enemies upgrade, so do you. Finding more resources and unlocking new weapons allows you to take the fight directly to them. One of my favourite things about the weapons is seeing that they’re coddled together with basic elements – you gotta remember, this is in a world where production no longer exists. As you do this you also unlock Perk points, which make your character abilities grow and change. Simultaneously, completing the Guns and Fangs For Hire recruiting missions means that you’re never alone when the fight gets tough, and your co-op partner will upgrade their skills the more you use them. Speaking of the Guns and Fangs For Hire, this game has a huge variation in who you can recruit, and you are definitely bound to end up with a favourite. Despite having the choice between Timber the dog, Horatio the boar and even good ol’ Hurk Drubman Jr., I had to stick with Nana the Sniper – her quips are absolutely hilarious (“I’m a witch and you can’t kill me!”) and she’s a crack-shot with her sniper rifle. Well, that is if she can get a shot in when you’re using the best weapon in the game – the Saw Launcher.
You can also go on Expeditions to different locations, which are an awesome way to see how the world has been changed by the Collapse. With your sassy helicopter pilot Roger, you can visit other US locations including a dilapidated theme park in Louisiana, a former nuclear plant, and even an escape from Alcatraz. These are also great ways to ease out of the narrative and build up supplies, as well as refine your gameplay approach (try a little stealth every now and then). Additionally, taking Guns/Fangs For Hire with you provides a variety of entertainment through unique dialogue.
At this point I bet you’re wondering though; “But Matt, I played Far Cry 5 and I know how it ends – Where’s the cult of Eden’s Gate? Where’s Joseph Seed?” Believe me, they’re still around, and in a way that you won’t expect. Remember, the Collapse was something that Joseph prophesied – he still has some influence on this post-apocalyptic world and had planned for the end to come. In fact, some of the missions relating to New Eden and its survivors are some of the most trippy and fun missions you’ll go on.
The good thing about the game is that there isn’t a sense of urgency to get things done – you can wander the landscape, go hunting or fishing, loot areas for resources or even hunt down Ethanol trucks or supply drops at your own leisure. There’s even a photo mode where you can find locations and see how they’ve changed to what they were, which is a nice little touch. That’s what makes the Far Cry world so entertaining and likeable; every time I’ve picked up the controller I’ve struggled to decide whether I want to go exploring, or sit down and smash out the game’s missions. Those who are chasing the game for a purely narrative experience might find the game a tad short for their liking, but this is supplemented by all the other activities that can be taken advantage of, along with the RPG-based upgrading system.
Of course, you can’t go through a game like this without encountering some issues; thankfully those that I did weren’t game-breaking or souring to any major degree. I feel like the fall damage system is a little too sensitive, and the number of times I’d get severely injured or knocked by falling a small height made me rethink everything I did. NPCs and civilians have a tendency to get in the way of gunfights (even when they think they’re helping) and you will occasionally get the message “DO NOT KILL INNOCENT CIVILIANS”. I’m sorry, but if you have to wander right up to a Highwayman to shoot him, that’s what is gonna happen. Similarly, when getting involved in a firefight my Gun For Hire would fail to revive me when I got knocked down, meaning I’d have to start a mission or event over again, despite the fact that they were standing directly on top of me able to revive me. Every other gripe I had with this game usually came down to being my fault – not being able to unlock weapons due to a lack of resources, or taking on enemies that were way tougher than I could handle.
THE PS4 VERSION OF THIS GAME WAS PLAYED PRIMARILY FOR THE PURPOSE OF THIS REVIEW. DIGITAL REVIEW CODE WAS PROVIDED BY THE PUBLISHER.
Far Cry New Dawn shares a lot of great similarities with Far Cry 5, but it’s the minor tweaks that allow it to stand as its own title. With so much to do, so many places to explore, and a post-apocalyptic world that is grounded in realism, there is no shortage of entertainment to be had in Hope County. While Mickey and Lou may not seem as threatening as previous instalments’ villains, they and the Highwaymen with their vibrant neon graffiti and motocross-influenced gear are definitely a force to be reckoned with. Welcome back to Hope County – and good luck.