Far Cry 5
How many U.S. Marshals, county sheriffs and deputies does it take to apprehend Joseph Seed, aka “The Father,” the radical preacher of a massive doomsday cult in the dead of night in fictional Hope County, Montana? Five. Apparently the answer is five. Not surprisingly, the arrest doesn’t go too well as the cult turns violent at the sight of their leader being led away in cuffs. Shots are fired, a helicopter is downed, and most of the authorities are captured save for a junior deputy who finds himself on the run behind enemy lines. It’s up to you, “Rook,” to spark a resistance among Hope County’s resolute community members, save your friends, and quell the cult known as The Project at Eden’s Gate. This is Far Cry 5.
Let’s be honest, the Far Cry franchise has gotten a little complacent in recent installments. To date, Far Cry 2 has been the most imaginative entry in the series, Far Cry 3 the best overall. The last two installments – Far Cry 4 and Far Cry Primal – seemed content replicating the formula of Far Cry 3 while simply introducing a new villain and a new setting. Recognizing this sideway if not slightly downward trend, the teams at Ubisoft Montreal and Toronto set their sights on providing players with a number of firsts for the franchise: the first Far Cry set within the United States, tackling subject matter like religion, gun control and freedom while poking fun at American stereotypes and clichés; the first entry to allow players to fully customize the main protagonist, even if the results are only seen upon death or by your co-op buddy; and most importantly, the first installment to present a truly open-world experience, offering players more freedom than ever before.
I know what you’re thinking, hasn’t this franchise been open-world since Far Cry 2? Yes it has, but the story path in those prior games has always been explicitly set, whereas Far Cry 5 offers the player considerably more freedom in terms of plot progression. In that style, the campaign is reminiscent of Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands. Hope County is divided into three zones – North, East and West – with each zone controlled by a member of the Seed family, and though the game subtly recommends a starting location to make your way to, it’s completely up to the player to tackle each zone – and the story missions found within – in any order they choose. Within each zone you’ll rescue civilians, liberate cult outposts, destroy cult property and complete story and side missions in order to earn “Resistance Points,” increase your “Resistance Level,” and ultimately fill up a meter en route to confronting one of Joseph Seed’s nutty siblings. It’s a gameplay loop that the aforementioned Wildlands struggled to keep from getting repetitive, but Far Cry 5 manages to keep fresh thanks to a few key improvements to the formula.
For starters, gone are the days of climbing towers to lift the “fog” and reveal key locations on a map. Instead, players discover landmarks simply by exploring the environment. A novel concept, I know, but combining exploration with NPC interactions and articles of interest results in a much more organic reveal of the game world. Far Cry 5 also does a much better job with NPC immersion. There are plenty of quirky folk to meet in Hope County, and greater attention has been paid to pair these NPCs with interesting quest lines to make the characters more memorable (excellent voice acting across the board also helps). If that wasn’t enough, Far Cry 5 re-introduces and expands the buddy system from Far Cry 2. When you rescue or help certain NPCs, they’ll join the resistance and offer to fight alongside you as guns for hire. Each specialist brings something different to the table, whether it’s pilot Nick Rye providing air support, master huntress Jess Black joining you on a hunt, or series veteran Hurk Drubman who carries a rocket launcher for explosive mayhem. You can even befriend a few animals: Boomer the dog, Cheeseburger the bear and Peaches the cougar, and watch them maim cult members at your command. In the early stages you can also hire generic fighters with two random perks that unlock as they kill more enemies.
Speaking of perks, Far Cry 5’s upgrade system is built around perks and the use of perk points. You can obtain perk points by raiding prepper stash locations and completing various challenges, such as killing 10 enemies with a flamethrower, consuming 6 homeopathics, skinning 4 caribou, or catching 3 rock bass. There is no perk tree to speak of so for the most part players can purchase perks that best fit their play style right from the get go without needing pre-requisites.
Other than that, Far Cry 5 is pretty much everything you’d expect from a Far Cry experience, or any recent Ubisoft open-world game for that matter. Hope County is a sprawling, beautiful and meticulously detailed mid-western U.S. landscape; the sound design is excellent, highlighted by a gospel and country-inspired soundtrack that mixes in the occasional licensed track; gameplay is solid; gunplay is tight; stealth tactics are always available to the player; there are plenty of vehicles, including tractors, to wreak havoc in; there’s some light crafting; and you can even take a tranquil moment to cast a line and catch a few fish down by the lake. There are tons of things to see and do in Hope County beyond the roughly 25-hour campaign, not to mention the Far Cry Arcade map editor and the ongoing live events.
So what didn’t work for me in Far Cry 5? The game opens with a wonderfully eerie and unsettling 15-minute prologue, but then struggles to be tonally consistent throughout the campaign. One moment you’ll be tasked with collecting Rocky Mountain oysters for the annual Testicle Festival, the next moment you’ll be raiding John Seed’s bunker to rescue Hope County’s finest from being horribly tortured, and then it’s back to the shenanigans of tracking and acquiring Trump’s pee tape. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate a little levity in an otherwise dark tale, but the extreme swings in tone are quite jarring.
Even more concerning is the ridiculously relentless enemy presence. Referring to them as a cult is an understatement; Eden’s Gate has the manpower and firepower of a military force. You can’t drive along most roads in Hope County without passing a cult vehicle every few seconds, or encountering a cult presence of some kind. The population of Hope County can’t be more than five hundred people, yet somehow this cult has amassed several thousand members. Sometimes less is more, otherwise you run the risk of falsifying the game world. To make matters worse, the perpetual presence of the cult often interrupted key conversations with NPCs and even ruined one of the more amusing missions in the game for me. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate that anything can and will happen in a Far Cry game, but there’s a fine line there and Far Cry 5 fell on the wrong side of that line a little too often.
Also, the enemy AI is generally weak. Bottlenecking is a sure-fire game plan for loud encounters while finding a sniper’s nest is a stealthier way to easily eliminate enemies one-by-one; the AI simply fails to counter either strategy. It’s only when increasing the number of enemies or introducing cult members who are bullet sponges that the game becomes more challenging. Seriously, how does wearing a wolf mask and carrying a flamethrower make you more immune to bullets? This isn’t The Division. But while the cult may not be the best shots or handle combat situations all that well, their pilots do have impeccable eyesight. I was once spotted through a window of a building by a plane that was flying AWAY from me! So yeah, the AI definitely has issues.
Those issues aside, just as Origins was for Assassin’s Creed, Far Cry 5 is a breath of fresh air for the Far Cry franchise. Ubisoft’s open-world design continues to evolve in mostly positive ways, granting players more freedom than ever before while presenting more engrossing story and side missions with memorable NPCs to help keep the gameplay loop from getting repetitive. And when you combine that with the pillars of any good Far Cry experience – an intriguing villain, an exotic setting, the trappings of survival and desperation, and gameplay that is often chaotic and explosive – you get a game that is well-crafted, well-polished, and simply a lot of fun to play. If you’re a fan of Far Cry or first-person shooters in general, Far Cry 5 is an easy recommendation.
Reviewed By: Stephen Riach
This review is based on a digital copy of Far Cry 5 for the Xbox One provided by Ubisoft.