Game review: Far Cry: New Dawn offers a very pretty apocalypse

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Far Cry: New Dawn (PS4) – Far Cry 5 with a new coat of paint

Ubisoft has created a direct sequel to Far Cry 5, as you explore a post-apocalyptic world that hasn’t changed quite as much as you’d think.

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From being one of the plagues of the last generation, yearly sequels are now surprisingly rare in video games. Call Of Duty and sports games are still pumping out a new entry every 12 months but most other games have realised that scrambling to repackage the same experience year after year does more harm than good. Far Cry isn’t 100% regular, but it’s only skipped two years since the series was reinvented with Far Cry 3 in 2012. This sequel is unusual though, because it’s a direct follow-up to last year’s Far Cry 5.

Despite all the sequels none of the modern Far Cry games have featured the same setting or characters, but this is set 17 years after Far Cry 5 in a variation of the same map. There’s no way to avoid spoilers other than to say that variation is caused by the surprise nuclear attack that ended the last game. You play as a new character who is part of a group travelling across America and helping survivors to rebuild. Although we say character – you don’t have any dialogue or demonstrate any kind of personality so you might as well be controlling a robot for all the difference it makes.

New Dawn portrays a very different kind of post-apocalypse to most games. It’s certainly a million miles away from Metro Exodus, as there’s no radiation and no mutants more extraordinary than some albino deer. There’s a lot of dirt blowing around, even though there’s a lot more plant life around than before, and for some reason you can see the aurora borealis but that’s the only real sign of Armageddon. That and all the biker thugs and Mad Max cars.

New Dawn’s villains are a pair of teens who run a gang called the Highwaymen and have access to an apparently infinite supply of witless minions. Far Cry usually prides itself on memorable bad guys, even as its other characters remain quite the opposite, but while Mickey and Lou are suitably psychopathic there’s nothing else very interesting about them. They’re also really terrible at running their gang, as even though they clearly outnumber you and the survivors they’d much rather threaten you on the radio than just attack your compound.

It’s a shame the story isn’t set-up better because the basic idea is sound. Your homebase is one of the old outposts from the last game and the meta game behind everything is to build it up into a more defensible base with a full range of amenities. That means recruiting survivors that specialise in things like medicine and cartography and upgrading all the work areas. Although that’s less interesting than it sounds as all you’re really doing, especially for things like weapons, is unlocking new tiers of equipment to then craft using collected resources.

Resources like gears and springs are lying around everywhere and are also used as rewards for side quests involving prepper stashes. The most important resource though is ethanol, which is used to upgrade work areas. It can be obtained from supply drops, that you have to fight Highwaymen for, or a new set of ‘Expeditions’ that involve taking a helicopter to a separate map and stealing a bag of goodies, but the primary source is outposts, which you have to liberate in the normal Far Cry fashion. Although once you do so you’re then given the choice of ransacking the place for more or keeping it, waiting for the Highwaymen to take it back, then retaking it – at a higher level of difficulty – in order to get the maximum amount of reward.

The game uses the same guns for hire system as before, where you can recruit a character to act as your computer-controlled ally. Since they only ever repeat the same dialogue again and again, they’re not much company though and it’s still the dog that’s most useful. The problem with guns for hire is that the game’s artificial intelligence is terrible, from the lackadaisical enemies to the apparently suicidal pedestrians at the side of the road. Although the greatest incompetence is left for driving, with the AI regularly turning any attempt at a Mad Max style race into pure farce.

Far Cry: New Dawn (PS4) – the landscapes are very pretty

There’s a lot to criticise in New Dawn but most of the complaints are also true of Far Cry 5. And yet that was a very enjoyable entry and the best in several years. This is fun too, but it’s such an odd mix of big budget visuals (the graphics really can be very pretty) and what has clearly been a very short development cycle – most of which has been spent desperately trying to hide the fact that this is just a reskin of the last game.

In terms of gameplay the biggest difference is what Ubisoft describe as a ‘light’ role-playing element. It’s absolutely featherweight though and all it amounts to is tired enemies who are a lot tougher and who you can’t stealth kill unless you unlock extra perks. It makes very little difference though and just ends up being silly when a top tier bear, for example, takes a dozen shotguns blasts to the face as if it was nothing.

Another problem is that a lot of the set pieces are notably less inventive than last time and there’s a general refusal to take advantage of the setting, with the only novel weapon being a saw blade launcher that has the same disregard for physics as Captain America’s shield. At least it’s fun to use though, as are the new mystic superpowers, although thanks to the poor artificial intelligence they’re never really that necessary.

Far Cry: New Dawn (PS4) – the twins are not very compelling villains

Much of New Dawn’s appeal seems to rest on the fact that, rather than Far Cry 5’s flawed implementation, this has a proper co-op mode that you can play all the way through with a friend. That definitely is welcome but having to buy a new game just to take advantage of a feature that should’ve worked properly in the last one feels galling.

The slightly cheaper than normal price seems to acknowledge this, but it all feels very half-hearted and unnecessary. If you haven’t played Far Cry 5 before then this is a perfectly enjoyable open world shooter, although it’s notably smaller and shorter than the previous game. And the way that Joseph Seed and the whole murderous religious cult angle is handled is very dubious, with the implications of what they did in the last game given disquietingly short shrift.

The Far Cry formula is an enjoyable one but as usual we can’t help imagining it’d be a lot more fun if it took itself less seriously and had some actual engaging characters for once. Most people are either painfully dull or painfully unfunny and that’s a real problem in a game where you’re meant to be nurturing and protecting a community. Although it did make us laugh that when you take over an outpost the first thing your allies do is turn off the Highwaymen’s ultra loud hip hop and put on some old timey pop music, essentially turning the game into an old person revenge simulator.

If Far Cry 5 was some beloved classic that hadn’t been seen for a decade then creating a sequel on the same map and revisiting the same characters and places in different circumstances would have had a lot of appeal. But it’s not, it’s an above average entry in a competent but unambitious franchise that pumps out sequels almost every year, and Far Cry 5 in particular came out less than 12 months ago. If you want to know what happened after that ending then this sequel is moderately entertaining in its own right but it’s certainly nothing new.



Far Cry: New Dawn

In Short: A direct-to-video style sequel to Far Cry 5 that’s still perfectly playable but fails to make use of its own premise in any interesting way.

Pros: Attractive open world with plenty of secrets. Solid gunplay and improved co-op options. The saw launcher is a lot of fun and Expeditions offer interesting challenges.

Cons: None of the new features make much difference and the artificial intelligence seems to have got even worse. Dull characters and story, weak set pieces, and notably shorter than the last game.

Score: 6/10

Formats: PlayStation 4 (reviewed), Xbox One, and PC
Price: £39.99
Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Release Date: 15th February 2019
Age Rating: 18

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