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'Far Cry: New Dawn' review: The end of the world

Daniel Howley
Technology Editor
The sadistic twins Mickey and Lou run Hope County without mercy. (Ubisoft)

The bombs have fallen, civilization is no more, and humanity is on the brink of extinction. In other words: It's time to let loose. And that's exactly what you'll do as you traverse the post-apocalyptic landscape of "Far Cry: New Dawn."

Available for Sony's ( SNE ) PlayStation 4, Microsoft's ( MSFT ) Xbox One and PC, Ubisoft's "Far Cry: New Dawn" picks up after the events of 2018's "Far Cry 5." That open-world, first-person shooter game saw you try to take back the mountain town of Hope County, Montana, from a vaguely Christian doomsday cult, only to (spoiler alert) fail when the Earth was annihilated.

"New Dawn" drops you back into a reborn Hope County 17 years after the world was destroyed. The title brings improved and updated gameplay elements that make it feel more challenging and fun than its predecessor. But it also suffers from some of the repetitiveness found in "Far Cry 5."

No hope in Hope County

Hope County was already a terrible place to live in "Far Cry 5," what with the death cult known as the Project at Eden's Gate taking over large swaths of the region, forcibly converting the kindly townsfolk to their violent cause with a toxic drug called Bliss.

Life didn't get much better after the nuclear firestorm. Sure, it only took the valley that makes up the bulk of Hope County 17 years to go from a wasteland, to a fully functioning ecosystem where flora and fauna abound. But where there is man, "Far Cry" tells us, there is evil. That sinister force lurking in all human hearts is made manifest in Mickey and Lou, the leaders of an organization of raiders called the Highwaymen.

The group enjoys the chaos of the post-apocalyptic Hope County, and won't let you or the group of survivors you're helping claw back any sense of a normal life from the ashes of the world.

The animals in Hope County have been altered after the nuclear apocalypse. (Ubisoft)

Your home base is, fittingly, called Prosperity. It's here that you'll bring lonesome individuals and experts from throughout Hope Country who help build up your new home, develop and craft new weapons, and fight back against the Highwaymen.

"Far Cry 5's" death cult, the Project at Eden's Gate, also returns in "New Dawn." Their leader, Joseph Seed, having accurately predicted the end of the world, gathered the remaining survivors of the cult and taught them to live with and among nature. They shun modern technology and fight the heavily armed Highwaymen with nothing but primitive weapons.

"New Dawn" has adopted a kind of ‘80s-inspired color palette. Animals, plants, even the graffiti painted by the Highwaymen are awash in bright, vibrant hues. While "Far Cry 5" attempted to make a more realistic game world based on Montana, "New Dawn's" styling is far more appealing. From the pink, velvety antlers of whitetail deer, to the searingly-bright yellows of local flowers.

Going all out

"Far Cry 5" felt like a game made to address the uncertain sociopolitical climate of modern America. It dealt with the rise of violent militias, a drug epidemic and the feeling of overwhelming helplessness. But it never delivered on those themes. The game teased the idea of digging deeper, but before getting too serious, it veered back into the standard "shoot the bad guys because they're bad" routine. And then the world was destroyed.

The leader of the Project at Eden's Gate cult, Joseph Seed, makes his return in New Dawn. (Ubisoft)

"New Dawn" ditches the baggage of "Far Cry 5" and instead lets you go freewheeling across a huge game world bringing as much chaos to the Highwaymen as you'd like. The enemies are also less sympathetic. The Highwaymen are, from the outset, faceless maniacs clad in “Mad Max"-style ATV armor out to plunder whatever supplies they can from their fellow survivors.

Outside of its narrative issues, "Far Cry 5" offered tight controls, fast gunplay and the kind of ridiculous, over-the-top mayhem only a "Far Cry" game can bring. "New Dawn" builds on that and more by essentially giving you temporary superpowers brought on by your exposure to an irradiated fruit. Yes, the excessive religious symbolism is ripe in "New Dawn."

RPG-lite

Ubisoft says it wanted to add a touch of role-playing game dynamics to "New Dawn." To that end, enemies and weapons in the game are ranked 1 through 3 with elite just above level 3. The higher in rank, the more powerful the enemy or weapon. Hit a level 1 grunt with a level 3 shotgun and they're done for.

To upgrade your weapons, you'll have to collect resources in the game world by either scavenging them from various rundown structures, or by going out on expeditions from Prosperity. Expeditions take you away from the confines of Hope County and let you explore one-off locations including a former aircraft carrier and Alcatraz.

Each expedition can be completed three times to gather additional resources, though for every time you go back, the difficulty increases significantly. If you're heading in a third time, you'll want to make sure you have at least level 3 equipment on you.

Like most "Far Cry" games, you'll spend your time between story missions trying to take down enemy strongholds. And as with expeditions, strongholds can be repeatedly plundered. Overrunning strongholds, however, isn't optional. When you capture them you gain ethanol resources, which you'll need to expand Prosperity and unlock story objectives.

Having to go around fighting at the same strongholds, though, becomes tedious, even if the difficulty changes with each attack. If the strongholds offered something beyond having to take out every enemy in sight, they might be more exciting, or at least interesting.

Should you get it?

"Far Cry: New Dawn" is an enormous sandbox FPS with some satisfying elements that help keep the game feeling fresh through its relatively short campaign. Fans of the series who wanted more "Far Cry 5" will certainly get that and thensome. And if you didn't play "Far Cry 5," "New Dawn" feels like the better of the two.

That said, "New Dawn" doesn't pack enough to make it a true standout. It's silly and explosive, and tries to reach higher with its religious symbolism and the heart of man, but it never quite hits the mark. If you're looking for more "Far Cry" in your life, check out "New Dawn." But don't expect anything groundbreaking.

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Email Daniel Howley at dhowley@oath.com; follow him on Twitter at @DanielHowley . Follow Yahoo Finance on Facebook , Twitter , Instagram , and LinkedIn.finance.yahoo.com/