This week, Yahtzee reviews Far Cry New Dawn.
Say what you like about Ubisoft; at least they diligently recycle. Far Cry games are like ants, these days: you see one, there's almost certainly a fuckload more waiting under the skirting board. Far Cry 3 begat Blood Dragon, 4 begat Primal, and now 5 begets New Dawn. No sooner is a new Far Cry game out that they start stripping it for parts and making something from that savage hinterland of games too elaborate to be DLC, but not quite elaborate enough to be a numbered sequel; that insipid in-between-y territory where dwelleth roving packs of Assassin's Creed Rogues, embittered and violent from their forsaken dreams of Assassin's Creed Liberation.
Unusually for the now-inevitable Far Cry second-helping-go-round, Far Cry New Dawn is a direct plot sequel to Far Cry 5, so those canny sods at Ubisoft didn't even have to change the sandbox map much; just copiously widdle on a few things and repaint everything in "post-apocalyptic hot pink". Also, a surprisingly large number of named NPCs from Far Cry 5 somehow survived the... (probably shouldn't spoil it) ...the Thing That Happened at the End of the Game. "Well, that's not too surprising, Yahtzee; I mean, Ubisoft credits sequences only have a 2 or 3% fatality rate."
It's roughly 20 years on since the last Ubisoft credits sequence ravaged Hope County, and the survivors have just about begun to rebuild their lives when their new home is invaded by the Highwaymen, a vicious bandit gang of disenfranchised millennials led by the now-inevitable smug, charismatic psycho Far Cry villain who the cover artist at least seems to think is the only character in the plot worth speaking of. The silent protagonist goes in, gets ambushed, narrowly escapes an encounter with the villain, and must build a resistance from the back foot. So far, fully in line with the standard Far Cry plot that I assume Ubisoft has now carved into the wall above all their fucking urinals, but later on, we discover that the smug, charismatic psycho who smugged everything up in the last game is still around, and thus begins the smug, charismatic psycho arms race.
The thing about New Dawn is that it has a weirdly conservative message; everyone's getting along in a nice, quiet community of modestly-dressed people until everything is shaken up by this gang of unruly spring break college kids who spray graffiti everywhere and play their very loud techno music at all hours of the day and night. Tellingly, every time you retake a stronghold, the techno music gets replaced with stuff like Louie Louie and other songs that white dads like. The smug, charismatic psycho du jour, the Twins, are definitely among the least effective or interesting villains Far Cry has produced; they come across like former stars of a 90's children's sitcom that went off the deep end: certainly hateable, but with no complexity or agenda besides wanting to laze around, living off other people's hard work. Bloody typical of young people today, am I right?
The only reason the Twins have any power seems to be that people like the main protagonist keep getting inexplicable brain farts in their presence; there's one bit where we're headed to a building to confront the Twins, and the Twins give us a ring when we're outside and say, "Hey, put all your guns in that bag and then come in and handcuff yourself to the ceiling," and we're given no choice but to obey. Hypothesize with me, Captain Protagonist Person: what if we just didn't do that? What possible consequence do you think there would be if bursting in guns blazing? "Oh, no! They might say something very fucking sassy before I blow their jawbones off with an LMG and leave their tongues to waggle like used condoms on an extractor fan!"
What also undermines the threat posed by the Twins is that all the inevitable "liberate the enemy stronghold" missions are initially set to "Baby's First Easy Mode", and you can then invite the enemy to come and retake it so that you can liberate it again; the difficulty does increase, but the fact that we trigger it ourselves removes any sense of threat the Highwaymen present. "Keh! You call that a base defense?! Look, I'll turn around for 30 seconds, you set everything back up, and this time, let's see you defend it properly!" And you do need to do this at least once, because it's the only way to make enough ethanol to afford base and weapon upgrades, ethanol being the most important currency in the post-apocalypse; I mean, they've got to put something in the mint juleps.
New Dawn, are you slightly blatantly locking important things behind rare crafting resource grind-a-thons in the hope that I'll notice the fucking massive link to the micropayments shop on the pause menu? "No, of course not! Don't be absurd! Why? Are you interested?" Well, ha-ha! Maybe I'll not get all the upgrades and call it a skill run! "Well, ha-ha! You need to upgrade your base to unlock all the story missions!" Well, HA-HA! STICK IT UP YOUR BUM!
I had a feeling New Dawn was going to be a difficult little madam the moment I started the game, got past the prologue, walked 50 feet down a forested valley, and noticed a stag running in circles, panting and sweating in fear and clearly confused as to why I wasn't getting further away, and then my NPC support lady started screaming in my ear because a deadly wolf was idly licking its bollocks somewhere in our current post code. There's a bugginess that implies that things might have been rushed a tad; there are definitely a few specific moments that could've done with a bit more, i.e, any amount of playtesting. The "Destruction Derby" sequence springs to mind, when I kept getting blown up over and over again 'cos my car kept getting caught on sweet wrappers and the curvature of the Earth; so in the end, I beat it by getting out of the car and flinging remote bombs at my opponents, which nobody said I couldn't do, so I think there's going to be some revision of the official rulebook after today.
And then there are the two final boss fights, both rather hideous in their own unique ways: the first one against what amounts to two standard enemies with ridiculous amounts of health that you just run around chipping at like you're dismantling a leather jacket with a potato peeler, then the final, final boss fight against something that might have been more at home as a Super Mario boss, the way it keeps jumping about, flinging fireballs and trying to get a fist up your booty-hole, and which, in the restrictive first-person perspective, becomes an exercise in frustration as you wobble around the room, crafting medkits so fast, your mortar and pestle is probably emitting sparks.
I liked Far Cry 5! Well, a bit. Well, bits of it, a bit. Fine, let's just say I liked it a hell of a lot more than Far Cry New Dawn, because Far Cry 5 managed to somewhat avoid the issue that so many AAA games have these days: that is, the sense that it exists not because someone thought it would be fun or interesting or a story that needed to be told, but primarily to dig a nice, fresh hole to dangle micropayments over and hook ourselves some whale meat. New Dawn gives me a profound sense of "Oh, how lovely, you shouldn't have"; there's a temptation to mouth the usual completely unnecessary statements like, "If you liked Far Cry 5, you'll want to check out New Dawn!", but I feel in this case, that would be like saying, "If you like squirrels, you'll want to check out this quilt I made out of roadkill!"
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