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It wouldn't be modern triple-A if there wasn't a leak, right? And sure enough, barely 48 hours before Far Cry 6 was due to be revealed to the world in Ubisoft's first-ever, E3-replacing Forward digital event - which also saw more of Watch Dogs: Legion (still not sure about the colon) and Assassin's Creed Valhalla (definitely without one) shown off - details of the game slipped out early.
Was it a so-called disgruntled employee, or a journalist letting early access to details go to their heads? Nope - in this instance, it was the PlayStation Store of all things, publishing a listing for the game ahead of schedule. And once these things are out of the bottle, they can't be squeezed back in: Far Cry 6 will release on February 18, 2021, for current-gen consoles and next-gen systems. Which is to say, you'll be able to play this one on Xbox One and/or Xbox Series X, PlayStation 4 and/or PlayStation 5, as well as PC (via Uplay and the Epic Games Store) and Stadia.
Also out of the bag, before it should have been: the game's big star. Giancarlo Esposito will play Anton Castillo, the president slash dictator of the fictional island of Yara - which may or may not be a loose analogue of Cuba, with its capital city of Esperanza standing in for Havana. Esposito is best known for his role as Gus Fring in Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul, and he's also appeared in The Mandalorian, the Maze Runner film series, Okja and the 2016 remake of The Jungle Book. It's not his first time appearing in a video game, either, as 2014 saw him pop up in Destiny and Payday 2 - but Far Cry 6 is definitely his most high-profile gig in the interactive medium.
"When we started looking at casting, one name kept standing out, again and again," recalls Far Cry 6's narrative director at Ubisoft Toronto, Navid Khavari (who also worked on Far Cry 5, 4 and Primal), when I speak to him ahead of both the game's leak and its Forward reveal. "And it was a case of, do we think we can get this guy? When Giancarlo expressed interest, I was over the moon. We flew to New York to meet with him, and he walked in, full suit, fedora, looking cool as hell. He sat down and he was so professional, and prepared - he'd made extensive notes on the material we'd given him, and we ended up talking for four hours about Anton."
Khavari tells me that the villain of Far Cry 6 - which Anton Castillo most certainly is, with the player assuming the role of a local Yaran, Dani Rojas, who can be shown in-game by either a male- or female-presenting character model - had to be something more than "the twirly moustache dictator" we've seen before. "It's one thing to rule a country, and it's one thing to be a brutal dictator," he tells me. "But it's another thing to have a villain who's also a father, and that's something that Giancarlo zeroed in on straight away. He was saying he understood this person, that he could get in their mind."
I haven't the heart to mention that video games have definitely had their share of, I guess, daddy issues in the last decade or so - but it is fair that it's usually the protagonist of a game that we see the more personal, family side of, not the bad guys. Not the case with Far Cry 6, as the trailer shows Anton passing down some, um, wisdom, of a kind, to his son Diego, played by Anthony Gonzalez (Coco, Shameless).
"I think it's super important to approach a narrative without the assumption that there's this monolithic, distant antagonist that you don't feel a connection to," Khavari says. "You do get to see things from his perspective - this is a guy who's suffered himself. He watched his father be executed, when his own father was in power 50 years ago. And that's shaped his worldview of, this is my island, this is my family's island, and it's been stolen from us. He's trying to pass those ideas and lessons onto his son."
Far Cry 6's urban setting marks something of a first for the series. Yes, previous games have featured settlements, little population hubs, but nothing on the scale of Yara's capital - and this, says Khavari, will have a telling impact on the game's narrative. "I think the urban setting is really exciting, and really fresh for Far Cry," he explains. "The guerrilla movements often begin in the farmlands, in the jungles, and players are going to experience that. But you always have that target, you know, of the capital city. You haven't taken the country back until you've taken the capital."
"A lot of our story circles around that: how you approach not only getting people on your side, and doing tactical warfare in a jungle setting, but adapting that to an urban context, using safehouses, rooftops and more," he continues. "There are gameplay layers here that players won't have seen in a previous Far Cry game; but in a narrative sense there's also this strong idea of Anton having his seat of power, having his city under lockdown. This is where his supporters are, where his forces are strongest.
"And what was exciting for me is that this is a huge playground in Far Cry, bringing in a city. Just walking into it, you get that sense of imposition, and I can't wait for players to see more of it. It's not only fun narratively, but it's fun gameplay wise as well."
Fun gameplay hasn't really been something lacking in previous Far Cry games - IMO, at least. I've generally had a great time with them, until fatigue sets in, and repetition strips away what made them fun in the first place: that emergent element to the action, and the freedom to approach missions from a wealth of directions. Khavari says that missions can, again, be taken in different orders: "you can approach the regions, and the country, in any direction you want - and the narrative is going to work, adapt, and make sense." Just how long that'll be fun for remains to be seen - but February doesn't feel that far away, does it? Or maybe my brain already thinks it's late 2020, given the year we've had so far.
Far Cry 6 makes a strong first impression, without a second of gameplay yet being seen. As well as Esposito lending his own star power to the project, the game's titles sequence is directed by Patrick Clair, who's worked on Westworld, True Detective and Halt and Catch Fire; and the game's music is provided by Pedro Bromfman, who scored the TV show Narcos as well as the 2014 RoboCop movie. There's a lot of experience being poured into it, clearly.
But while we can get excited over the prospect of carrying pets through the streets of Esperanza (we're shown a screenshot of Dani with a sausage dog called Chorizo) and then using them as 'Amigos' (the game's reworked Fangs for Hire system), until we see it in action, Far Cry 6 can only be another blip on the long-range radar, rather than one to immediately get excited for.
Not that Khavari isn't sure already, of course. "I think it feels super fresh, and I'm excited for players to see it," he says. Indeed, during our conversation, he refers to several aspects of the game as fresh and exciting - but hey, he's allowed to be buzzing for this. After mainline Far Cry games three, four and five, the time feels right for its formula to be shaken up just a little. The city setting will bring something new to the mix, for sure; and Esposito isn't just there to make up the numbers, clearly. Is that enough? Something tells me there's a lot, lot more to be seen of this one before February - be that through official reveals or, again, somewhat inevitable leaks.
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