For better and worse, the Far Cry series has always been more about over-the-top action than story, despite frequently having promising premises. Far Cry 5’s final expansion, Dead Living Zombies, leans into the series’ patented ridiculousness while also (un)intentionally commenting on Far Cry’s aversion to telling cohesive, meaningful stories. The result is a fun but repetitive zombie fest that’s elevated a bit due to some genuinely funny dialogue.
Dead Living Zombies stars the mind of Guy Marvel, the amateur filmmaker from the base game. Marvel seeks out seven popular filmmakers to offer his pitches for zombie-themed movies. Each pitch represents one self-contained level, so unlike previous expansions, Dead Living Zombies isn’t set in the open world. Oddly enough, this change helps Dead Living Zombies from a pacing perspective. Each of the previous two DLCs suffered from tedium due to their adherence to the Far Cry series’ open world model. Dead Living Zombies drops the filler, letting you jump right into the action.
At the start of each level, Marvel earnestly corners a filmmaker and offers an idea for a new zombie movie. Then you’re thrown into that pitch. The levels include an absurd version of Romeo and Juliet, a riff on Fast & Furious, a take on climate change, and several pretty generic spins on standard zombie fare. Marvel is not exactly good at pitching, but he is a funny guy. His NSFW dialogue on Romeo and Juliet’s relationship is particularly hilarious. He uses a combination of old English and bro humor that had us in fits. The reactions from the directors, almost none of which are amused by Marvel’s musings, are also pitch perfect, especially considering that Marvel seems oblivious to their criticisms. Throughout each mission, Marvel and the filmmaker discuss where the film is headed. Considering the pitches aren’t necessarily well-thought out, environments and objectives tend to change a couple times in each level.
Although each of the film ideas are technically different and take place across a wide swath of terrains, Marvel is all about mowing down hordes of zombies. So, most of the time, that’s exactly what you do. Pick up various machine guns, shotguns, pistols, and grenades, and frag rabid armies of the undead. The zombies are the fast-moving variation and do a good job of homing in on your position. While they can be easily killed with a few shots, if you have bad aim, it’s likely that you’ll soon be surrounded, forcing you to flee for your life. If you die, you have to start the mission from the beginning. Since the missions are no more than ten minutes long, the lack of checkpoints — of which there are many throughout Far Cry 5 — isn’t a big deal at all. While you mostly slay packs of zombies, there’s also zombie wolves, and a couple powerful boss battles, including a zombie Sasquatch.
Dead Living Zombies manages to pack much of Far Cry 5’s systems into its roughly hour runtime, including land and water vehicles, grappling, and most of the game’s weapons. In that sense, it feels the most familiar to the base game out of the three DLC packs. It also happens to be the shortest piece of DLC. Though, after you beat each mission, you can replay them in Score Attack mode, which lets you utilize perks and new weapons en route to unlocking cosmetic items for use in the base game.
It’s a fun and fitting final piece of DLC that plays to the Far Cry series’ strengths: Action, more action, and off-the-wall humor. But the standout feature of Dead Living Zombies is what’s mentioned in passing. As Marvel talks enthusiastically about how action-packed his movie ideas are, the filmmaker’s complaints revolve around character development and impactful themes. All of the filmmakers wonder why the audience would care about the hero. One mentions that it would be a good place to talk about gun culture. Another makes a remark about homelessness, and another briefly touches on climate change.
The Far Cry series has always had interesting settings and premises, but has never said anything beyond surface level platitudes. Far Cry 5 featured a radical religious cult, but had nothing important to say about race, or religion, or extremism. For a moment, as you’re shooting at zombie after zombie, you start to wonder if Far Cry could have both its outrageous action and quality, illuminating storytelling. The filmmakers seem to think it’s possible. We do, too.