STAFF REVIEW of Far Cry New Dawn (Xbox One)

Sunday, February 24, 2019.
by Chad Goodmurphy

Far Cry New Dawn Box art Less than a year ago, Ubisoft combined a dangerous and delusional cult with a digitized take on Montana’s vast, open countryside. The result was Far Cry 5, a large-scale sequel to one of gaming’s more popular franchises, and in this humble writer’s opinion, one of its best. A sequel that took on religious fanaticism with its guns blazing, Molotov cocktails flaming and colourful guns for hire by its side.

With Far Cry 5, the French video game giant delivered a very good sequel that was both large and accessible. Its attempt at creating a more realistic villain (that is, if you strip away the cult magic and odd things its leaders were capable of) was successful, and led to a pretty memorable villain. Well, that and a rather shocking ending.

Fast-forward to this very month and Hope County, Montana is back in gaming’s limelight, though it’s changed more than a little bit. You see, the bomb that went off at the end of Far Cry 5 did a number on the area, and only parts of it have recovered even a decade and a half later. Somehow, though, most of the region’s grassy hills, lakes and other natural wonders have regenerated, and have added lots of colour thanks to some newly bloomed flowers that have gone rather wild. The buildings? Well, they’re another story. Most were destroyed, and many exist as mere shells of what they used to be. Then again, at least they’re in better shape than some of the nearby forests, which were completely killed (and fully irradiated) by the bomb.

This is the world of Far Cry: New Dawn, Ubisoft Montreal’s lesser-priced follow-up to Far Cry 5. Call it what you want, but it’s essentially a sequel to the previous game, or a Far Cry 5.5 if you will, though giving it a half point isn’t really fair. This is a rather full-fledged experience, and discovering that made for a nice surprise.

This twenty some-odd hour-long campaign picks up after the events of the last one, and gives an overview of what happened after the bomb went off. The gist of it all is that the survivors moved underground, where they stayed for approximately fifteen years, before venturing back to the surface. At that point, nobody knew what to expect, but things turned out pretty positively. Not only had most of their home come back to life, but it’d arguably become even more beautiful, thanks to nature’s wonder.

By that, I mean flowers.

Things were peaceful for a little while, but as is always the case after a near apocalypse, the shit hit the proverbial fan. People couldn’t play nice with one another, which led to conflict, with most of it coming from an outside source: the local chapter of a group called the Highwaymen, which happens to be led by two young women named Mickey and Lou. Two young ladies who want nothing more than to take what they want, kill whoever they hate and torture while doing so.

After dealing with unwanted threats, oppression, thefts, bullying and attacks, the citizens of Prosperity (the survivors’ newly constructed home) decide to reach out for help. They do so by sending Nick Rye’s daughter, Carmina, to talk to one Thomas Rush, whose group has become famous for helping people out of jams. It just so happens that he and his comrades – including The Security Captain, whom ends up being the player’s avatar – are travelling through Hope County by train.

Things hit the fan again, bullets fly, people die, and Mickey and Lou show their true colours. This kick starts what is a surprisingly lengthy, immersive and content rich campaign filled with over 20 story missions, along with multiple side quests, numerous bunkers and tens of gang hideouts to attack and hopefully take over. All of that plus the fishing, hunting, animal attacks, quirks and hidden secrets that Far Cry is known for.

Needless to say, this is a pretty full-fledged Far Cry game, and one that doesn’t skimp on story. It’s also one that incorporates some familiar faces in important ways, throughout its rather decent storyline.

For the most part, Far Cry: New Dawn’s gameplay loop is pure, typical Far Cry. By that, I mean that you’re traversing a large open world by foot or by vehicle, while taking out enemy patrols, attacking outposts, hunting, picking plants for healing purposes and completing missions. This game is more about upgrading one’s home base, though, and has its own post-apocalyptic currency: ethanol. One must take over outposts, hijack fuel trucks and steal the enemy’s aerial supply drops in order to earn ethanol that is then used to upgrade different sections of Prosperity. This includes the garage, the medicinal plant garden, the workbench (where you can construct your own weapons and craft your own ammo) and the excursions helicopter.

It’s important to upgrade Prosperity as you go, and to not just focus on story missions, because there will be points where the game will stop and force you to get to a certain level. This means investing in approximately six, then twelve, different upgrades. On top of that, you must also go out in search of (and save) the game’s five specialists. These include a captured Nick Rye, whose rescue mission is very memorable, a druggie named Selene, and familiar faces in Grace Armstrong and Sharky Boshaw. The first mission to set these progression requirements will ask you to help/save three of them, while the last will require you to have helped all five before it will let you move on to the next true story mission.

Ethanol can sometimes take a while to earn, but you’re helped by the fact that enemy outposts can be reset, in a matter of speaking. If you capture one, you’ll earn 100 units of ethanol, with more being available if you do so without being spotted or without having the alarm sounded. After that, the good guys take over the outpost, and it becomes a fast travel and stock-up point. If you’re feeling adventurous, and/or want 50 more units of ethanol, you can reset that outpost but will make it more difficult in the process. This is because each one has three different levels, and each time it’s reset it is restocked with more challenging enemies, and a larger number of them.

To capture these violent locations, you’ll want to invest in workbench and guns for hire upgrades, so that you’re stocked with level three weapons and very powerful allies. Speaking of these weapons, it’s important to point out that the map is littered with random locations (like dilapidated barns and houses) where supplies like metal gears and duct tape can be picked up for later use. Such supplies are plentiful within New Dawn, but can sometimes be somewhat hidden. There are even more safes to hack, and many more perks to unlock.

As mentioned, the guns for hire also make a return, and almost all of them (apart from Carmina) must be rescued and befriended. This includes Timber the dog, Pastor Jerome, the shotgun wielding berserker, heavy gunner Gina, sniper Nana, RPG fan Hurk and a masked hunter called The Judge. Hell, there’s even an angry hog named Horatio, who happens to be a tank.

Generally speaking, these guns for hire are very helpful folks, who want nothing more than to kill Highwaymen with you. They’ll even revive you if you fall, so long as they’re not too lead-filled themselves. What I found is that the dog is the most helpful here, because he doesn’t tend to be shot (much) by enemies while attempting to save the player. Whether this was purposeful or an oversight, I don’t know. They’re all pretty helpful, though, and have solid but imperfect AI.

Last, but not least, I must also mention two other things. The first is that this is a fully single player or cooperative experience. The second is that those excursions I mentioned above are essentially challenge maps, wherein one must travel to a new area, then try to steal a package of some sort from an enemy base. The one I unlocked and completed involved going onto an aircraft carrier of a ship and looking for the package, all while dealing with a never ending flow of asshats. Some even had shields (like the odd enemy does in the campaign). I had fun picking those up and then throwing them at guys, causing them to instantly die.

For the most part, this is a very fun return to Hope County, albeit one that isn’t as polished as some of the previous Far Cry games. It’s also not as memorable, or as good as games like Far Cry 3. That said, it’s a much-appreciated release for fans like me. The gunplay is fun, there’s lots of action and the world is not only large, but also full of side content.

The thing could’ve been better, though, if it had better villains. Mickey and Lou are okay, but the most memorable thing about them – outside of their gender, age and style – is that they’re mean. They’re not as memorable, deep, unique or creative as someone like Vaas.

Far Cry: New Dawn is also a very pretty game, with detailed character models, beautiful environments that absolutely pop and a solid frame rate. It is not perfect in this department, however, because you’ll come across the odd glitch, often see into the unknown that resides below the map when you fall to the ground, and may even fall through the map itself. I did at one point. Thankfully, though, those glitches are few and far between, and the game both looks and sounds good, thanks to some solid voice acting and boisterous sound effects. Hell, there are even collectibles in the form of MP3 players that carry popular licensed tunes. These songs also play during the odd mission, and come on the radio while driving.

Speaking of driving: It works much like it did in Far Cry 5, except for one difference. With its setting being within a post-apocalyptic world, the developers saw fit to invoke a well used trope, by adding cages onto the front of most of the cars. Those, coupled with what feels like a lower viewpoint while driving, make things more difficult. Simply put, it’s harder to see where you’re going.

With all that having been said, I must admit that I find it easy to recommend Far Cry: New Dawn, especially to folks who happen to be fans of the series like I am. While it’s certainly not the best game in the franchise, or even the second or third best, it’s a very solid affair, and one that offers good value for its price tag. You’ll get a lot out of this game, including fun, a good challenge, lots of side content and some very dangerous and difficult beasts to hunt.

If you’ve never been a fan of the series, then Far Cry: New Dawn won’t win you over. However, if you’ve ever enjoyed one of these games, or happen to really enjoy this type of experience, it’s well worth picking up.

**This review is based on the Xbox One version of the game, which we were provided with.**

Overall: 8.0 / 10
Gameplay: 8.1 / 10
Visuals: 8.5 / 10
Sound: 8.0 / 10


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