'Far Cry 5: Hours of Darkness' DLC Review: Permadeath Comes to 'Far Cry'

7.5/10 (Xbox)

Far Cry 5 and its first DLC Hours of Darkness share a lot of similarities. Both games start right after a helicopter crash, both games share very similar mechanics and both games involve killing a lot of enemies. However, Hours of Darkness tweaks the Far Cry formula to condense the entire Far Cry experience into a few hours.

The first DLC for Far Cry 5 is here, and it's great Ubisoft/Variety

Set during the Vietnam War, players take on the role of a U.S. soldier fighting for survival through the harsh Vietnamese jungle. What starts as an almost jolly helicopter ride changes into a last-ditch effort to reach a distant extraction point and rescue the few remaining survivors along the way. Like Far Cry 5, players clear outposts and find collectibles while fighting against the North Vietnamese Army, but not everything is the same.

The story is minimal in Hours of Darkness, but it works. The opening cutscene is done with 2D animation, but provides enough context about your fellow soldiers so you get to know them a little bit. While the story after the opening scene is largely "don't die and get to the rescue zone," it never strays into goofy territory or creates a cartoonish villain. The enemy is all around you, and all you can do is try to survive and save the others.

The biggest difference, in terms of gameplay, is kill streak perks. Players aren't rewarded with unlockables, but can temporarily earn four different perk abilities by killing enemies. When one enemy is killed, the first perk becomes available for a short time. Kill more and the other perk abilities are added to your arsenal. If you go a long stretch without drawing any blood, you'll fall back to having no added skills.

The other major difference is permadeath. Players aren't absolutely required to find their brothers in arms and rescue them, but doing so adds another fighter to your side. While your soldier buddies can be revived if they are hurt, they will be gone forever if they die. I had several tense gameplay moments where I rushed across a skirmish to save a fallen ally in time, hoping I would live through the process as well.

While you do have some kind of inherent loyalty to your allies, they are also incredibly dumb. For instance, your pals love to yell at all times, even when you're trying to clear an area without being seen by enemies. It's also one thing to lose an ally to enemy gunfire, but I had an ally die because we got too close to a beehive. You'd think these tough soldiers would be a little more capable of watching out for themselves.

Having your allies shout the whole time is a major detriment when stealth is the major strategy, especially in early encounters. It seems once you alert one enemy, many more show up quickly. I lost a number of gunfights before I rescued any of my fellow soldiers because one enemy saw me and I was swarmed with bullets. Even with only one ally, you're still better off sticking to the shadows and tall grass to make your kills.

By the end of the short four-to-five hour campaign, you'll be back to your old Far Cry ways with bazookas, remote explosives and LMGs. The final stand in particular involves a number of big guns as you fight off wave after wave of enemy soldiers and helicopters.

The map is a fairly large open-world area, about the size of one of the three campaign regions in Far Cry 5. Information on the map is scarce, so most of the world is covered in fog and darkness until you walk there yourself. If you do get bits of information from killed high-ranking enemies or rescued allies, the best you can hope for is a point in the right direction to the next target. The main "Escape" mission remains active during the entire DLC, which acts like a lighthouse beacon, guiding you towards the finish line at all times. If you ever get lost or stuck on what to do next, you can always head towards the final area.

There are three different "game modes" to play Hours of Darkness, but really it's just dressed-up difficulty settings. The Normal mode only allows players to carry three weapons, while the Survival mode gives players less health, fewer inventory slots and two weapons. The action hero mode goes the opposite direction with four weapon slots, more health and a bigger inventory.

The different difficulty settings, along with the drive to keep all your allies alive, provides some replay value after knocking out the campaign the first time. Considering the campaign only took me four hours or so to complete, playing through again doesn't seem like an overwhelming experience. Like the main Far Cry 5 campaign, you can play the entire campaign in co-op..

Overall, I really enjoyed Hours of Darkness. The changes to the Far Cry formula worked for the shortened experience, and permadeath of allies kept me on my toes until I got into the helicopter home. The map was fun to explore, and gameplay differs enough from Far Cry 5 so even basic takedowns feel fresh. Hopefully the other two DLC add-ons can hit this level of quality.

So what do you think? Did you manage to rescue all of your soldier buddies in Hours of Darkness? Are you more excited about the Zombies or Mars DLC next? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.