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First Impressions: Far Cry New Dawn

by: Randy -
More On: Far Cry New Dawn

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Far Cry New Dawn, the standalone sequel to Far Cry 5, launches February 15. I've had some (some) time to dive into this latest Ubisoft open world action game, but not enough to fully commit to a final score. Look for the full review soon.

In the meantime, here are some of my first impressions. Keep in mind that the last Far Cry I've played was 2008's Far Cry 2 which took place in the savannahs and rain forests of sub-Saharan Africa. Interestingly, the corrugated tin and survival-chic aesthetic of Far Cry 2 is very much alive and well in New Dawn's post-apocalyptic Montana. 

That's the thought that takes lead in my first impressions. Sure, there's that video from last year doing some excellent A/B comparisons of the in-game physics of Far Cry 2 and Far Cry 5. Surprisingly, it paints the 10-year-old Far Cry 2 in a better light than its younger sibling. The Dunia engine—the Ubisoft-modified CryEngine—has shifted its priorities over the years.

Regardless, when it comes to the game's actual setup, a lot of similarities are still present and account for. There are vehicles parked around a rural landscape. Guns and ammo strewn about like a doomsday-prepper's paradise. Sectarian violence between a handful of factions. Wild animals to run over. The aforementioned survivalist look and feel of the art and architecture. This is open-world gaming as pretty much defined and refined by Ubisoft itself. The Far Cry series has traveled to a few different places in the past decade, but the setup is largely the same, no matter where it's gone. Which makes sense: These are sequels, not reboots.

But, focusing on Far Cry New Dawn, you find your lightly customizable self once again in Hope County, Montana. It's 17 years after the bomb-dropping conclusion of Far Cry 5, making New Dawn a direct sequel, but one you can play without owning or having played the previous. 

Hope County suffered a nuclear winter, but has now undergone a super-bloom of post-apocalyptic growth. Wildlife is changed, but thriving. Plant life has changed, but is likewise thriving. You'll notice a lot of fuchsia in the color palette. Flowers everywhere. And the opposition this time is black twin sisters with a penchant for dirt bike gear and rap music. You, obviously allied with the good guys, have a background in security and are surrounded by country music. Welcome to America, I guess. The archetypes of today are still the archetypes of tomorrow, apocalypse or no.

But I'm okay with the archetypes. This is a video game, not a social studies lesson. Crashing through pine-covered hills with Die Antwoord's bizarro South African rap style blaring on the AM/FM radio crafts a cultural friction that I can appreciate. It'd be a bit monotonous if it was all about traveling through the country with some country folks only listening to folk music.

The actual gameplay is all rather streamlined to be as video game-like as possible. You rummage for gear and supplies, turning that gear and supplies into weapons and vehicle upgrades. Upgrade enough weapons and gear in order to upgrade your headquarters, which in turn lets you upgrade your weapons and gear some more. Everything is done rapid fire in big but manageable menus. Nothing takes more than two or three button presses to exchange, upgrade, or acquire. It's all a little too easy, but Ubisoft would take that as a compliment. 

I've ripped across the countryside in Mad Max-lite vehicles, dipped in spray paint and wrapped with roll cages. I've grabbed guns that are recognizable at their base but modded with enough duct tape and tarp to empty out the local Ace Hardware. And I've gone up enough rappelling ropes and down enough zip lines to know that every person in Hope County is a mountain climber at heart. Everything is made to optimize rapid movement and accommodate maximum gunfire.

After being away from the Far Cry series for so long, I thought I'd be lost. But everything is easily accessible. Every concept is a cinch to grasp. Far Cry New Dawn is as video game-y as it comes. You're either excited by the open-world chaos, or your already bored with the system interactions. I can't seem to get an adrenaline rush out of any of this, aside from when those open-world systems interact to comical degrees. Like when a handful of good guys run into an outpost full of bad guys, and then a grizzly bear wanders into the middle of it but is bitten by a rattlesnake, and then a patrol rolls by just as you toss a molotov into the fracas and are suddenly attacked by a family of boars. Hope County is as country as it gets, but it's as busy as a cityscape. You're never more than a few yards away from the next clown car of action-packed nonsense to pop off. 

For the most part, it works. Again, look for our final review in the coming week.