It’s not often that the DLC for a game has people talking more than the game itself but that’s definitely been a theme with Far Cry 5.
It’s not entirely surprising when you get the developers of Far Cry Blood Dragon working on spiders on mars, hordes of zombies and in case of this review, a venture into Vietcong.
Thing is, this isn’t the start we were hoping for.
It’s not that Hours of Darkness is bad, it’s just kind of….boring. It’s a piece of content that never really gets out of third gear. Some might even say second. Most of the time you feel like you’re moving from point A to point B as the DLC doesn’t really do a good job disguising it with effective narrative or diversifying massively from the 50-100 hours of Far Cry 5 you would have already played.
It starts with a bang though, as you and your team crash-land into Vietnam – as shown through a really cool animated cut-scene – and soon find yourself imprisoned at a campsite, forced to watch a brutal execution of a friend. Desperate, you find yourself chatting to a fellow prisoner trying to figure out how to escape this predicament and certain death, but all hope seems lost.
And then, before you know it, you’re repeating the opening of Far Cry 5 after friendly fighters airstrike the area to open up a window of opportunity. You’re on the run, defenseless and dodging bullets through the thickets of the jungle. It’s all very dynamic and action-packed yet it feels all too familiar and this kind of sets the tone for the rest of the content. The aim is to try to make it back to a rendezvous extraction point on the other side of the jungle, collecting your three captured teammates while trudging through blades of grass, skimming over waterfalls, and ducking under the shade of trees.
Hours of Darkness has lots of side objectives for you to accomplish like destroying propaganda gramophones, freeing prisoners of war, eliminating NVA commanders, collecting lighters and destroying AA guns. In some cases, the side objectives do cross over into the main quest but on the whole your objective always remains clear.
By doing some of the side quests, however, you can make your progress through the content easier. For instance, if you wipe out AA Guns in an area, you can call in an airstrike to take a base out from a distance.
But here’s the thing, I finished Hours of Darkness in one sitting and I don’t feel at all inclined to go back and collect the things I missed. Sure, 70s Vietnam has been beautifully recreated and there’s some stunning vistas and setpieces to gawp at, but about halfway through I was already done. The environments are incredibly samey and I don’t think the lore or narrative is captivating enough to make it memorable. There’s a very brief mention of a Jaguar prowling the forests at the beginning, but during the main quest nothing else is made of that.
You just … kill people and blow up stuff. Which, admittedly, is the plot for most 80s movies, but they also had cool lines, quirky characters, and unforgettable soundtracks. I can’t say the same about anyone or anything in Hours of Darkness.
So the Season Pass is a bust?
God, no. Admittedly, I always felt like Hours of Darkness could be the weakest of the three pieces of content so my expectations were fairly low anyway.
And it’s not a terrible piece of DLC. I think, release cycle wise, it might have been better placed coming either second or third as being the first DLC it feels too close to the hours upon hours we’ve invested into Far Cry 5 and sort of falls a bit flat because of that. But all that said above, it also introduces several new features to Far Cry to freshen up the formula a little bit.
For one, those teammates you need to collect? They can actually die in the game, meaning you may not make it out of Vietnam with all three of your teammates. That adds a certain level of drama when you’re running around and shooting everything. You’ll always need to keep one eye on your boys because if they go down, they stay down. And the problem is, they’re not always the most responsive or reliable, occasionally going gung-ho when you’d rather hang back and time your strikes.
For another, there’s a real emphasis on stealth this time around and in developing your own survival instinct. By taking down enemies quietly with melee weapons or silenced weapons you gain perks. If you remain undetected, you’ll also get to keep those perks, like an adrenaline perk which lets you move faster while crouched and improve your tagging distance. There’s also a Ghost Perk which reduces the noise you make, a Sixth Sense that automatically tags enemies who have targeted you and a Predator Perk allowing you to tag enemies through walls while using your binoculars.
This is a neat way of keeping you ahead of your opponents and gives you the edge in battle. Which you’ll need as there’s one or two tough spots where you’re overwhelmed by both ground and aerial forces. More often than not, you will get pulverized if you charge in head first, though you do get some decent firepower to play with, like bazookas and explosives. Some sequences, in particular, are made to be harder than they should be to really drive home the idea that you need to play this in stealth. It’s almost as if the game is forcing you to play a certain way, which is a bit disappointing.
So, yeah, Hours of Darkness has some highlights – especially the game’s ending sequence which allows you to let off a bit of steam – and the map is a pretty substantial size with lots to see and do, but it all feels a bit bland.
Ubisoft Shanghai’s efforts are enjoyable enough, but one just hopes that the bar of quality is raised even higher for Dead Living Zombies and Lost on Mars. For a Season Pass that looked set to break the mould of the series to try new things, Hours of Darkness mostly just plays it safe.
+ Creative emphasis on stealth
+ Gorgeous environments
+ Packed with content
– AI is always disobedient and disorganized
– Some sections overly tough
– It’s all overly familiar and often bland
Far Cry 5: Hours of Darkness
6.5 out of 10
Tested on Xbox One
Code provided by the publisher