In our Far Cry New Dawn review, Bloody Disgusting discovers that the New Dawn rocks, but doesn’t exactly prove to be a new day for post-apocalyptic shooters.
If you’re anything like me, you’ll play the majority of Far Cry New Dawn with Timber, the doggo, by your side.
It’s not that the rest of the roster of Guns for Hire aren’t capable. Pastor Jerome is handy with a shotgun. The Judge, a hooded assassin, is silent in stealth. And Nana, a vulgar old sharpshooter, can pop Highwaymen heads like the balloons she deploys to test your marksmanship skills. But, all of them have a habit of talking. And after any length of time, the characters in New Dawn begin to grate.
One makes a gross crack about her face looking like a scrotum. The slogan for one fledgling entrepreneur’s company is a forced reference to reacharounds. A dad’s heartfelt note to his son quickly devolves into dick jokes. While it gestures to themes of hope and survival, New Dawn just doesn’t take its characters seriously.
The most striking example occurred when I was recruiting a specialist to join my crew. This character is the kidnapped father of the Gun for Hire I happened to be tackling the mission with. When we killed off the Highwaymen who were holding him captive, he thanked me, then—with the dead eyes and wooden delivery I’ve come to expect from the lion’s share of NPCs in open world games—noticed his daughter, who he hadn’t seen in years, and said, “Carmina, what are you doing here? Go tell your mom I’ll be home soon.”
That’s it. That’s all she gets?
At the end of the mission, a cutscene showed the family’s emotional reunion back at Prosperity. Carmina and her mother run and hug him like she’s seeing him for the first time. It’s tearful, played as an attempt to tug at the player’s heartstrings. But, it didn’t work, because the real reunion, for me, at least, was that pathetic throwaway line a few minutes before.
That’s what’s great about Timber. Aside from him being a very happy, very helpful good boy, he does what’s needed in battle. He lets me pet him. He rezzes me when I’m down (and helps me understand those “Who Rescued Who?” bumper stickers). Yes, Timber is the best of Far Cry New Dawn; he’s a cute character (if crassly created to reach the dog lovers in all four demographic quadrants) who doesn’t distract from the solid mechanics on display, and I don’t have to pretend he’s anything more than that.
Honestly, the best thing I can say about Far Cry New Dawn is that those mechanics are, indeed, still solid. Unfortunately, you’ll be hard-pressed to find anything new or great here. If you’ve played a few open-world games, there’s likely nothing in here that you haven’t seen done elsewhere. Not necessarily done better, just done. This is a fine game (I enjoyed the majority of the 25 hours that I spent completing the campaign and about 70 percent of the side quests), but there’s no reason to try to convince you that it’s an important one. Instead, like Uncharted: The Lost Legacy and Dishonored: Death of the Outsider before it, Far Cry New Dawn aims to offer a shorter, polished take on the series’ previous entry.
In that respect it mostly succeeds, though I was surprised—given the story set-up—how closely New Dawn hews to Far Cry 5. Set 17 years after the conclusion of 2018’s entry, the Earth has bounced back from nuclear annihilation in a colorful “superbloom” of lush pink and primary colored flora. After the bombs dropped, the Project at Eden’s Gate—the cultist enemies from 5—retreated to a compound in the north, and do what organizations do in times of crisis: they rebrand.
For years, the renamed New Eden keep to themselves as another group of survivors— the group the player character joins up with in the game’s opening hour— are holed up in a camp called Prosperity, building a new life in the south. They coexist peacefully. And then the Highwaymen, a violent gang led by a pair of blond-dreadlocked black twin sisters, arrive, setting up outposts (as Ubisoft baddies are wont to do), and raiding New Eden and Prosperity. (The twins, Mickey and Lou, don’t have much in the way of motivation, but they do have charisma and their monologues are the best character moments in the game). With an enemy in common, New Eden and Prosperity make peace, squashing the beef that fueled the previous game’s conflict.
While the enemies are new, not much else is. In general, New Dawn mostly just offers up more of what Far Cry 5 did. As noted, Guns for Hire are back, the main players are back, and New Dawn maintains 5’s removal of towers. Instead, you’ll gain access to missions by discovering them in the world; sprinting past them or getting a tip from a journal entry or helpful survivor.
One addition is a base-building mechanic. You’ll spend the crafting materials you find out in the open-world and on Expeditions—basically, outposts meet capture the flag—on upgrades for Prosperity. In contrast to last year’s Red Dead Redemption 2, Prosperity is humorously video game-y, with in-world posters explaining progression and in-world banners labeling each station.
Most significantly, the map is the same, though some areas—like the Peggies’ church—have changed quite a bit. But, the world of Far Cry New Dawn feels far less post-apocalyptic than I had expected. The weapons look rickety—one shotgun is crafted using a boar’s snout for the end of the double-barrel—but don’t expect Far Cry 2-style mechanical jank. They work as well as their military-grade counterparts; they never rust or jam.
There’s one big addition to New Dawn’s armory: the Saw Launcher. This Mad Max-y bit of weaponry does what its name suggests, firing off circular saw blades which slice through soft bits and ricochet of hard bits making for bouncy, chaotic fun. After a while, I mostly stuck to my shotgun and silenced pistol, but the Saw Launcher is a genuinely cool addition.
The conceit of the “superbloom,” makes for an unexpectedly lively map. Trees and flowers are everywhere. Lush green grass covers almost every inch of the ground. This is not your father’s post-apocalypse; it’s a bright, Horizon Zero Dawn-style take on life after the end of the world. That game, though, was set hundreds of years after the apocalypse; this one is set close enough that Far Cry 5 antagonist Joseph Seed is still rocking the same man bun. This society doesn’t seem post-apocalyptic; it seems pretty… normal, like the nukes dropping was little more than an inconvenience.
That normalness applies to the violent fauna you’ll encounter during jaunts through the wilderness, as well. It seems like a major missed opportunity that a series known for siccing wild animals on players, didn’t mix any weird mutants into the mix. Buffalo, wolverines, wolves, pronghorns, deer; they all inhabit the world like nothing changed after the Collapse. The apocalypse didn’t wipe out or radically change any familiar species. The mooses have orange antlers and there are some big angry fish swimming around in the rivers, but that’s the extent of it. Essentially, Far Cry New Dawn’s end-of-the-worldness boils down to a fight pit, a Deathrace track and bright pink and yellow cars that jut from the ground like Bumblebee’s tombstone.
Everything still works well. Stealthily taking down outposts is a grand time, and the guns feel punchy and have a satisfying kick. There are some genuinely interesting stories out in the open-world, and recruitment missions are all well-designed and unique. I never felt like I was playing the same mission twice, a major benefit that New Dawn’s shorter length enables.
But, after completing New Dawn, I’m suddenly much more excited for Rage 2. While multiple brightly colored post-apocalyptic shooters dropping around the same time is almost certainly a net negative for Ubisoft and Bethesda, I’m curious to see how the other hot pink, Mad Max-inspired shooter handles its apocalypse. Will it lean into it? Will it feel like things are breaking down around me? Or will it feel like the world is basically the same? Like nothing really changed when it ended?
And, most importantly, will there be a very good dog for me to pet?
Far Cry New Dawn review code for PS4 provided by the publisher.
Far Cry New Dawn is out now on PS4, Xbox One, and PC.