When Ubisoft announced its line up for downloadable content after launch, I had a ton of questions. After all, how do you add content to a game whose series has a history of clear ending points? What we got was an array of adventures for fighting aliens in Lost on Mars to surviving undead hordes in Dead Living Zombies to the jungles of Vietnam in Hours of Darkness.
For a game firmly grounded in present realities, the first two seem to ride off into the zany reaches of a Far Cry fever dream. Yet, the addition of Vietnam is curious because it adds a layer to the prepper mindset of some of Hope County’s residents, in particular, one Wendell Redler.
Within the main story, Wendell can be found in the Holland Valley. It is here that he shares with you a pact that he made with his war buddy, veterans of the Vietnam War, to always be prepared in the event something went down. And this is precisely where Hours of Darkness picks up.
In Hours of Darkness, you play as Redler – know as “Red” to his company. On the way back from a patrol mission, the helicopters carrying Red and his buddy get shot out of the air and those who survived were taken in as prisoners of war. After Red escapes captivity, thanks to a bombing strike on his captor’s location, it is up to him to locate his friends and get out alive.
This is where Hours of Darkness begins to diverge from Far Cry 5’s perks system. Instead of perks, you gain survival instincts. These skills are gained through stealthy takedowns of your enemies. There are four you will gain, starting with Adrenaline which will allow you to move faster in a crouch and auto tag enemies within 10 meters. Ghost will reduce your noise and fall damage. Sixth Sense will automatically tag enemies that are about to detect you. Finally, Predator will allow you to tag enemies through walls.
Be mindful of your surroundings because you will lose them if you are detected!
Aside from freeing your friends, there are a series of other objectives which you can complete on your way to the extraction point. You can save other POWs, destroy AA guns, secure camps claimed by the NVA, collect lighters from downed pilots, and take down VIP targets.
After completing the mission, Hours of Darkness has two other gameplay modes which unlock.
Survivor Mode and Action Movie Mode. In Survival mode, you will have less health overall and a smaller inventory. However, in Action Movie Mode you will have a larger inventory for up to four weapons and it will allow you to call for airstrikes at all the time – regardless of whether or not an AA installation is covering that area.
So, what did I think of Hours of Darkness?
Honestly, the first thing that came to mind is this: War is hell… and this one was no exception. While there is a certain suspension of reality that video games capture these moments within, I can’t help but think of family members who served in Vietnam and never could bring themselves to talk about it.
The thick jungles and low visibility, the underground tunnel systems and the heavy haze of Agent Orange in the air lend a realism to Hours of Darkness that made me take a step back. It lends far more credence to Wendell’s quest in Far Cry 5’s campaign when you see his company get caught completely unprepared to deal with circumstances of this magnitude.
However, there were plenty of moments which reminded me that this is, in fact, a video game and a hyperbolic version of a very real war. After all, your war buddies function in the same way as the Guns for Hire. Unfortunately, that isn’t always a good thing.
One of my biggest complaints with Far Cry 5 was that the Guns for Hire tended to get into more trouble than they did assist you. In Hours of Darkness, once released, your friends scream at you from across the map when roaming the jungles. It breaks the immersion and can ruin your chances of gaining survival instinct bonuses.
Hours of Darkness can be played through in around 3 hours, but there is far more if you go about collecting all of the lighters and completing all of the objectives. For my playthrough, I completed about 66% of the objectives but did not really get to take in all that Ubisoft’s recreation of Vietnam had to offer. And just like they did with Hope County, it is stunning and worth exploring.