Picture Vietnam, 1975. The war is over and it’s time to leave the memory of another lost war behind. All that remains is a bit of clean up. One last mission behind enemy lines and then it’s home Jerome, to enjoy an American Christmas with friends and family. What could possibly go wrong?
I don’t know if any of what I wrote above is actually part of the story of Hours of Darkness, the first major DLC from Ubisoft for the brilliant FarCry 5, but it could be. This is mainly due to the fact that there is very little backstory given. You are a helicopter gunner on a mission that goes tits-up and you end up in a fiery helicopter wreckage. Sound familiar?
You spend the first moments of the game just running blindly from gunfire into the Vietnamese jungle and from that point on you kill NVC’s, liberate prisoners and blow stuff up in truly spectacular fashion as you make your way to the extraction point.
Far Cry 5: Hours Of Darkness can be finished as quickly or as slowly as you like. You can rush from point A to point Z and as far as I can tell the only missions you have to complete is the finding and freeing of your teammates. This is foreshadowed right from the start in the opening scenes, all beautifully done in 2D animation. There are the Suicide Squad-esque stereotypical characters, complete with a character called Joker, with a Joker playing card in his helmet, as you share your inner monologue with us about how you are a team of brothers and the best you can hope for is that you all make it out alive.
This oversimplification made me think that maybe this was going to be rubbish, considering how intricate and through the storyline in Far Cry 5 is, but less than an hour into the game I realised, there is a purity to this. It’s not trying to be everything to everyone like its big brother Far Cry 5 does (which it does excellently), it takes the really good stuff and chucks all the bloated gameplay away.
For example, there is no complicated skill tree. You start out with access to 4 Perks called Kill Streak Perks. You activate them one at a time as you make a kill in Stealth Mode. It stays active for a while until time expires or you get spotted, then they are gone and you need to start again. These perks let you move faster while crouching and automatically tags nearby enemies, the second reduces fall damage and makes you move more silently, the third will auto-tag an enemy who is about to spot you, and the fourth lets you tag enemies through walls. That’sit’s, but it’s enough. It allows you to just focus on sneaking thru the jungle, trying to survive.
Like Far Cry, you discover missions thru finding intel, liberating prisoners and another new touch, calling in air strikes. This is a particularly fun ability. You tag an area you want lit-up and call the airstrike. The Phantom Harriers come in overhead and blow the crap out of the target. It’s worth doing a few times to find the exact right spot to mark to clear the entire area.
Another great addition is Permadeath.
Like in Far Cry 5, you can enlist the help of the locals. In this case, it’s your downed teammates and this makes life a lot easier. Most of the time. All the other times they run headlong into a situation, shouting at the top of their voice, which really screws up any plans of using stealth to clear an area. My gameplay style changed completely when I liberated Joker. Up to that point I had made almost all my kills, including taking out a Commander in his compound, with a bow and a stick. As soon as I got this A-hole with me every encounter turned into the 4th of July. So it’s a balancing act.
Anyway, they don’t die easily, but if they do, that’s it, they don’t come back and losing one is actually a very traumatic experience. If I am honest though, I have on more than one occasion let one of them die when it was within my power to prevent it, just because their incessant shouting pissed me off to that point.
The missions include having to blow up massive AA guns which keep shooting your support planes out of the sky and you lose the Air Strike ability until the area is cleared of these nuisances.
So this game is a Far Cry 5 lite. They have stripped away a lot of the nice-to-haves and left the core mechanics. The story is simple, survive the jungle, free as many people as you can and get out and the actual narrative behind it is almost non-existent. It’s as beautiful as its big brother and the focus on stealth is right up my alley. In Far Cry, I always feel like I’m falling out of one shit storm into another, wherein Hours of Darkness, I always feel like I am in control and I love that.
I wouldn’t go as far as to say that this DLC is better than the core game, but I think it’s simplicity and the Vietnamese Jungle setting make it different enough and fun enough for me to say that it is every bit as good as the core game.
If you are needing a break from the dangers of Hope County Montana, I can confidently recommend a couple hours in the Vietnam jungle to be exactly the break you need. I rate this DLC highly and I really hope that the next 2 are at least as good.