A couple of first-rate problem makers.
With the paint having barely dried on last March’s Far Cry 5, we were taken a bit by surprise in December when Ubisoft announced Far Cry New Dawn would be released in just a couple months, making it the second title in the series in less than a year. It’s not quite a full sequel, being more akin to what Halo 3 ODST is to the Halo franchise. That doesn’t mean it can’t be fun, though, so let’s head back to Hope County and see how nuclear war has affected things.
New Dawn is fundamentally Far Cry 5 with a new coat of paint, so pretty much everything we wrote about its predecessor remains true here. Aiming is snappy and responsive, and mowing down Highwaymen feels gratifying — though since they have health bars watching damage numbers pop up doesn’t serve much purpose in the heat of battle other than to let you know if you’re registering head shots. It’s a time-tested system, and it still delivers.
Driving continues to be a thorn in the series’ side, as the view always feels too limited, particularly inside cars, and at high speeds it’s hard to even see the road much less stay on it. Allowing you to pull back to a third-person perspective would likely solve most, if not all of the current problems, but it’s absent once again. Grappling is also pretty dicey, and the sudden perspective changes gave us a hint of motion sickness once or twice.
One other thing worth noting is that, despite the game jumping roughly two decades into the future, there aren’t many changes to your arsenal beyond superficial ones (such as affixing a screwdriver to an AK-47 to create a makeshift bayonet). The saw launcher is the most notable addition, which made us hearken back to Half-Life 2 and making our way through Ravenholm with the gravity gun, but we would’ve enjoyed more weapons like that.
As noted, New Dawn takes place in Hope County, so you’re literally getting a modified version of the previous game’s location. Nature has reclaimed much of the land, so landmarks will typically have a more distressed, overrun look, and there are some tweaks to the colour palette and local wildlife, but these changes are mostly cosmetic. New “expeditions” allow you to visit entirely new areas, which is nice, though they represent a fraction of the content.
Voice acting is typical Far Cry fare with a handful of serious characters surrounded by a bunch of nutty comic relief types, such as Nana, the sniping grandma who believes death is only for other people, and series veteran Hurk, who seems to be winking at the fourth wall throughout. It’s the mix we’ve grown accustomed to.
Set a little less than 20 years after the events of Far Cry 5, New Dawn finds you, the Captain of security for Thomas Rush, who travels around helping groups build up in the aftermath of nuclear bombs being dropped, headed to Hope County to help Kim Rye and her daughter Carmina. However, their train is waylaid by the Highwaymen, led by twin sisters Mickey and Lou, with Cap narrowly escaping.
He quickly links up with Carmina, and the two of them head to Prosperity, a colony that yearns to be free from the deadly Highwaymen. The colony will lean on you in that task, and you’ll travel around Hope County, recruiting specialists to strengthen Prosperity and claiming land and resources from the Highwaymen. Things eventually get stranger, starting in earnest with the reintroduction of 5‘s antagonist Joseph Seed, but it feels on brand, albeit on a smaller scale.
That brevity is both a blessing and a curse, paring down the world and keeping activities largely streamlined in a very obvious direction (go north, young man!) but sacrificing any real meaningful character development. You could make a strong case that the campaign, both its uneven missions and trope-filled plot, are New Dawn‘s weakest point.
What saves it then? The world that was created in Far Cry 5 is still a damn fun place to visit, and there are enough changes that going through it all again feels just different enough. Sure, some of the additions fall flat — the minor RPG elements don’t do much more than keep you progressing at a specific pace — but others are quite enjoyable.
At the top of the list are the expeditions, which send you on a series of quick strike missions in which you are dropped at a self-contained location to steal an item. Once you do, everyone will be alerted and try to stop you from being extracted. What ensues is usually a stealthy approach followed by a desperate fight to keep your enemies at bay until the helicopter arrives.
Each one can be replayed on progressively higher difficulties, which is something that’s been added to capturing outposts as well. Now, after an initial capture you can “salvage” that location, gaining precious ethanol (used primarily to upgrade Prosperity and, by extension, you) and repopulating it with tougher foes.
Guns for hire also return, offering a new roster with a lot of similar skill sets — for example, Cheeseburger, the marauding bear, is replaced by Horatio, the marauding boar. Even with a high level of familiarity it’s still fun to bring them along on missions, instructing Nana to snipe clueless Highwaymen or have Timber tear them limb from limb. And The Judge is awesome… and awfully familiar…
While it feels like more could’ve been done to freshen up the formula, Far Cry New Dawn is ultimately a fun game that proves Hope County still has some life left in it.