Adam "Griz" Mathew recently grabbed a number of hours hands-on time with Far Cry New Dawn. Read on for his full thoughts...
It's weird being back in Hope County after 17 years [cue: massive spoilers for Far Cry 5]. Though a nuclear war has ravaged the USA, Mother Nature has gone mental by spreading an explosion of iridescent wildflowers throughout Montana. During my hands-on I also went mental by selecting "Hard-Ass" difficulty and I did my best to spread an explosion of... well, explosions.
Check out 30-minutes of captured gameplay from Griz's hands-on session
Now that a nuclear winter has been weathered, the sun has come back and the plants have reasserted themselves in what David Attenborough would call a “super bloom” (a real-life phenomenon, apparently). Hope's survivors began farming the land again, rebuilding and rethinking their approach to civilisation during a peaceful period of around ten years. Unfortunately, this abundance of peace, love and delicious homegrown mungbeans has attracted The Highwaymen, a group of petrol-headed pricks whose main import is other people's stuff and their chief export is ultra-violence.
"Two things happen: I become an outgunned one man (or woman) army, and the people I'm out to liberate try to price gouge me for guns and ammo..."
I'm dropped a little way into Act 1, right as this kooky little world is opening up. This time around I will slide into the leathers of a Captain of Security for one Thomas Rush, a bad-ass altruist who's pushing Eastward through the country by train, determined to prop up settlements and halt the nation-wide expansion of a bunch of Lord Humungus understudies. Our plan was to storm into Hope County with a sizeable cavalry, but of course game logic makes two things happen: I become an outgunned one man (or woman) army, and the people I'm out to liberate try to price gouge me for guns and ammo. Yay, post-collapse capitalism.
My base of operations is Prosperity, a ramshackle affair in the extreme SW corner of a familiar sandbox constricted by radiation zones. Looking more like a fort from Mad Max 2 than a town, Prosperity is being nursed back into health by the mother-daughter duo of Kim and Carmina Rye (note: you helped the latter be born as the player character in Far Cry 5). The Rye's efforts are hampered by a lack of Specialists, recruitable rednecks who can enhance both the community and your offensive capabilities. Securing their skillsets is the way forward, but it'll inevitably make it a bigger target for mohawked, motorcycle-based bastards.
"So far as I can tell, the biggest switch ups include the layering in of a light RPG approach, outposts can now be “escalated” and there are one-shot Expeditions that'll whisk you out of Montana..."
Evicting these opportunists seems to be more or less the same job as last time -- do story missions, recruit friendly AI rednecks to fight alongside you and turf gangs out of outposts or away from their convoy routes. Personally, I divide my time fairly evenly between my first high-level goal (rescuing Rush from the Highwaymen) and seeing if this new Far Cry still deals in emergent fun when you wander off script and out into the wilds. I'll let the embedded video speak for itself on that front.
As I get back into my FC groove, I notice a bunch of new features layered in. So far as I can tell, the biggest switch ups include the layering in of a light RPG approach, outposts can now be “escalated” and there are one-shot Expeditions that'll whisk you out of Montana and off to other parts of the post-apocalypse. Kind of like how one of Far Cry 5's DLC mission whisked us off to Vietnam, I guess.
The numbers-centric firefights will feel pretty straightforward to anybody who's into something like The Division. Guns and enemies are bound by ranks – shoot a rank 4 baddie with a rank 1 gun and it'll be like whispering sweet nothings at them. Hell, even a fair-level fight makes the enemies feel spongier than I'm used to with this franchise. Certain actions that I'd count on as a full-stop to an encounter – like a double tap through a windshield to disable a driver, or an SMG burst to waste a sentry at medium range – only result in a bunch of numbers and a half-dead enemy. When the chips are down, with an entire outpost trying to square dance with you, the absence of that surety may just mean your ass.
What you'll want to do is salvage crafting materials early and use them to level up a workbench so it can churn out the sort of attitude-adjusters you need. In the early game you'll have access to standard fare: SMGs, assault rifles, sniper rifles, RPGs, a flamethrower and a saw (blade) launcher thrown in for novelty effect. The next tier up includes (among other things) slightly more exotic selections like jerry-rigged silenced guns, a weird SMG/shotgun hybrid and a bizzarely futuristic Vector.45 ACP themed on President Trump's much memed Space Force. Sadly, that one was locked out of my reach.
Work your way up into tier three gats and all of a sudden you can get your filthy mitts on .44 magnums, downright scary looking melee weapons and a lever-action 1887 shotgun that has a scope for some reason, plus a butcher's knife taped to its business end. Lastly, my picks from the Elite tier include a Deagle with a dot sight, a “Blood Dragon” AJM9 that's basically Robocop's sidearm, and a flamethrower with a kaleidoscopic paintjob and a unicorn horn. Couldn't even tell you why it is. I just know it'll be my jam.
Honestly, you'll need to be well strapped for the Enforcer enemy types you'll be going against. Ubisoft insists they've been designed with either a co-op partner or a Gun For Hire in mind (AI companions with unique abilities that complement different styles of approach). Unfortunately, half of these buddy options are blacked out during my demo. I did spot a sniper to provide cover from a postcode away, or I could adopt my own personal Pumbaa – a semi-wild boar who tears around and takes enemies to tusk.
"The catch: said bag of goodies is rigged with a GPS alarm. You're gonna have to leg it to a chopper extraction, Schwarzenegger style..."
You'll need to bring that sort of A game when you elect to “replay” a captured outpost by scavenging the last drops of ethanol out of the place (a process that really pisses on the hornet's nest). The Highwaymen will quickly retake the place in your absence, then install tougher hombres and better defenses that'll be randomly positioned. Expect to do this time and time again as it'll be the best way to get that sweet, sweet guzzoline for Prosperity.
Sadly, I don't get to see an Expedition in action. Ubisoft touts these as little “snatch and grab missions” against The Highwaymen's nationwide outposts – a chance to see new sandbox sights and swipe some of the rarest loot in the game. The catch: said bag of goodies is rigged with a GPS alarm. You're gonna have to leg it to a chopper extraction, Schwarzenegger style.
Even better, and like outposts, Expeditions are designed to be replayable with tons of randomising elements and increasing difficulty. Push your luck, and what once felt like a lovely getaway from Montana will turn into a holiday nightmare of Griswold family proportions.
When all the bullets get spent and I'm asked to put down the controller (possibly because my repeated corpse kicking is making the other demoers uncomfortable), I walk away from Far Cry New Dawn with a good feelings. Sandbox-wise, there's an undeniable deja vu about all this, but I can't deny the thrill of revisiting old haunts and being shocked at how drastically they've changed. It's also incredibly refreshing to be in a post-apocalypse that trades the usual poo-brown bleakness for fallout meets fabulousness.
"Personally, and I'm digging the bolt on features that are enhancing a formula that was tight to begin with..."
Q1 2019 is about to overload us with dystopian-themed shooters (see Metro Exodus and Rage 2) but I'm marking my calendar to give New Dawn the right of way. The promise of more co-op shenanigans sells it for me, personally, and I'm digging the bolt on features that are enhancing a formula that was tight to begin with. Like a sweet assault rifle with a sharpened screwdriver lashed on for a bayonet, New Dawn feels like business as usual with a wickedly brutal edginess applied. I think it's well worth a stab.