Hours of Darkness, the first DLC for Far Cry 5, moves the action from the modern day rural Montana back to the Vietnam war. It’s the first of three pieces of downloadable content planned for the game, each of which promises a significant departure from the main campaign, with future DLCs set to feature zombies and even a trip to Mars. Fans of past expansions in the Far Cry series, such as Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon or Valley of the Yetis, may react the same way I did when seeing these plans, but if this first release is any indicator, we may want to adjust our expectations.
The DLC begins with a cartoon cutscene showing how you are dropped into Vietnam, or more accurately, how your helicopter crashes to ground. The cartoon itself is quite good with its style reminding me of the spy sitcom Archer, but after this initial cutscene there are no more. In fact, once you leave the smouldering wreckage of your chopper there is no more plot beyond needing to reach the extraction point and completing side missions along the way.
These side missions involve rescuing your three American squad mates, rescuing five prisoners of war, collecting eight lighters – it’s all the usual Far Cry side stuff, really. The only new addition is destroying anti-aircraft guns, which is also the most important side mission as it opens up areas for airstrikes. Once you’ve cleared the AA gun in an area you can call in air strikes with your binoculars and, just second later, friendly planes will screech by overhead and your target will explode. Loudly.
This feature seems at odds with the actual gameplay. Stealth is clearly encouraged, not only because every unsilenced gunshot brings a legion of enemies to your position, but because the new mechanics for the DLC are designed around stealth. In place of the systems in the main game, the player instead has four perks that are activated by stealth kills. One allows you to move more quickly in stealth and tags nearby enemies, the second allows you to more more quietly, the third automatically tags enemies who are about to see you, and the fourth lets you tag enemies through walls. They make a big difference when you have them, but you lose them once you’re spotted and need to earn all over again. Stealth seems to be the advised method of conquering ‘Nam.
Another thing at odds with this is the guns for hire system. Once you rescue your three American squad mates they become your support, much like the guns for hire in the main game, except once these guys die they won’t come back. Unfortunately, they don’t have abilities like the help available available in the main game and are limited to their roles as heavy, close combat, and ranged support. They are also completely incapable of stealth, partly because they don’t have silenced weapons and partly because they are constantly being spotted as you try to carefully approach a base. They’ll also happily open fire while you’re driving around which, as mentioned above, attracts every nearby enemy and their dog.
All the equipment you use in Hours of Darkness is found lying around and there are no shops to visit, so if you want a silenced weapon to call your own, you will want to keep an eye out in enemy bases. They shouldn’t be too difficult to find, as you’ll be scouring those bases for ammo and other supplies anyway. The rest of your time will be spent between side objectives as you make your way to the other end of the map and extraction. Any side missions you don’t complete will affect the photo you get once you finish the DLC, with squad mates and POWs you don’t save not making it into the final picture, not to mention a lower completion percentage.
Ultimately Far Cry 5’s first DLC is a disappointment. It takes the gameplay of the main campaign, removes all the story and variety that kept it fresh and drops you into another setting. Vietnam, the place, is really the best thing about the expansion, as it looks great. Trudging through the misty jungles is almost enough to help you forget all the war and death.