Platforms: Xbox One, PS4, PC
Reviewed On: PC
Review code supplied free of charge by the publisher.
For better or for worse Far Cry 5 is very much a Far Cry game. Ubisoft isn’t known for their big risks, though, so it’s hardly surprising that six Far Cry games in (not counting Blood Dragon as a full game) they don’t want to take huge risks with a series that has clearly been selling well. However, like with Assassin’s Creed: Origins we are seeing a gradual change in the Ubisoft open-world template, most of which are for the better.
So, this time we’ve jumped from dealing with psychopaths who have questionable dress sense to…uh, psychopaths with questionable dress sense. Set in the mythical and entirely made-up land of Montana you’ll be playing as nameless, mute deputy who winds up dealing with an insane cult that has taken over the entire. It’s led by a man known as The Father and his siblings who preach that the end is indeed nigh, that the world is on the brink of tipping into chaos and that they have a plan.
Needless to say, you have to suspend your belief from a fairly high point for this to work. The game attempts to justify its own premise by having characters comment on how they didn’t take the cult of Eden’s Gate seriously at first which is how they insidiously worked their way into the state before performing a full-blown take-over, but the fact that the National Guard hasn’t simply stormed in is skirted around.
The story is mostly just okay, with none of the villains managing to top the beloved Vaas from Far Cry 3. The performances, though, are generally very strong and while they aren’t great villains they’re still strong enough to carry the game. In particular, I found Faith to be fascinating, a woman who has crafted the Bliss drug which can turn people into essentially zombies. In her portion of the map she constantly appears as mirages, and of course, it means that the developers can have their traditional trippy drug sequences. It’s just a shame there aren’t more layers to the Seed family. They firmly believe they’re doing the right thing, as all good villains tend to do, but it’s hard to understand their reasoning when there are literally corpses nailed to walls.
It feels like there’s so much more here that the writers wanted to say about the dangers of becoming overly Patriotic, the power of religion and nationalism, the legality of weapons, indoctrination and cults and so much more. It’s a premise ripe for some intriguing exploration and discussion, except that they seem to be scared to actually do anything with it in case they offend someone. Instead, it quickly goes down the route of being bonkers and quietly sidling around any potentially touchy subjects. To be clear, I’m not saying that games HAVE to talk about stuff like this, but if you’re unwilling to jump fully into the fray then don’t make the premise of your game something like this. It’s like storming into a group of friends, saying something controversial about politics or religion or pizza and then just running off into the darkness. What was the point?
Games have long been unwilling to really delve into complex subjects, though, especially triple-A titles from companies like Ubisoft who don’t like to take big risks if they don’t have. So, knocking all the political crap aside for a while the story is mostly just okay, and does include some fun, wacky antics. The juggling of the various tones isn’t handled very well, but once you learn to roll with it it’s all good. One minute you’re dealing with devoted cultists and the bodies of the innocent, and the next you’re delivering a truck to help out with the local Fried Testicle Festival, which is a remarkably fun thing to say.
The basic formula is the same as always; big-ass world, stuff to do, off you go. This time around the world is split into three areas, each controlled by a member of the Seed family. By doing main missions, side-missions, taking over outposts, blowing crap up and pretty much just by breathing you’ll fill the Resistance Points meter. At various points along this bar, you’ll initiate various story beats, most of which involve you unceremoniously getting pulled out of whatever you were doing, and when you finally annoy the local boss enough they’ll call you out to end it all.
Where the improvements lie are in how everything is presented to you. You’re absolutely free to tackle any of three areas in whatever order you see fit or just leap between them. While a few key points are highlighted on your map to get you going the screen is no longer littered with dozens upon dozens of icons vying for your attention, there’s no mini-map getting in the way and Ubisoft’s obsession with scaling towers to find everything has finally been tossed into the garbage. Instead, interacting with NPCs or reading various bits of paper scattered around the place will mark new enemy outposts, prepper stashes and side-missions on your map. It’s still laid out in a way that means you won’t miss much, but it feels so much more organic than clambering up towers. You might crash into a van carrying hostages, rescue them, learn of an outpost, take that over, get a side-mission, complete that and then bump into someone who tells you about a prepper stash of gear.
More improvements can be found in the side-missions. Rather than dozens upon dozens of copy and paste events we’ve got actual side-quests with interesting characters. They aren’t hugely deep or anything and most of them are quite basic, but it’s still a step in the right direction for Ubisoft Open-World template.
Just like before the game is at its absolute best when the various systems come crashing together to create something wonderful and messy. Mostly messy. You might be driving down the road when you have to suddenly slam on the brakes because a pig that is on fire being chased by a bear just ran across the road, or you might be holding off incoming enemies atop a church when a patrolling plane decides to strafe you. One rocket launcher later and the plane’s spiraling crash results in its wingtip clipping the church, sending it spinning before it crushes two of the enemy soldiers. Then there are the awesome moments when you powerslide a jeep sideways while gunning someone down with a revolver, or wingsuit down the mountainside while narrowly avoiding a helicopter that decided to come to play too. The way the various systems collide make you wonder if it’s scripted or just purely accidental, and that’s a wonderful thing.
And yet, the developers seem to be utterly afraid to leave the player alone for more than 10 seconds without something bombastic happening. It’s impossible to drive down the road or walk through the woods without encounter a million patrols, a helicopter, a bear and a bunch of other stuff. The genius behind something like Skyrim is that while there were adventures to be found and enemies to be fought the game also gave you space to breathe, to soak in its atmosphere, but Far Cry 5 wants to literally throw things at your face. It rarely, if ever, lets you soak up the wonderfully beautiful recreation of Montana, and this constant barrage of action takes away from the enjoyment of stumbling across something cool. It’s hard to appreciate the amazing moments when they’re slapping you in the face constantly.
Of course, the very core of the game is still the gunplay, and I’m happy to report it’s the tightest it has ever been and feels freaking great. The controls are smooth and responsive, the guns pack a satisfyingly vicious sound provided you don’t whack a silencer on them, and enemies react very well when they get shot, though weirdly at a distance sniper rifle rounds still sometimes seem to pass through bad guys rather than smack into them. The only thing that lets the firefights down is the A.I. which is still just…okay. I’m happy to report that the cultists are more than willing to use vehicles to their advantage when possible, but they’re also still prone to running into the open for no reason and don’t seem capable of flanking you effectively.
Stealth is more of a mixed bag, largely due to it being overly easy. Silencers again completely muffle your weapon, while it’s possible to smack someone in the head with a shovel, a move that results in a spine-tinglingly pleasing sound, while their friend is standing two feet away without raising any alarms. On the upside, this does mean that stealthing a base makes you feel like the freaking Predator, especially if you opt to use the Compound Bow. I’d also highly recommend turning off the enemy tagging system, because being able to see targets through walls makes an already easy game a cake-walk.
The selection of weapons on hand is pretty nice, as is the fact that you can now purchase cars, trucks, helicopters, boats, and planes. However, browsing through these does reveal something heinous; bloody microtransactions. I’m not even entirely sure why they exist since everything can be bought using in-game cash which isn’t particularly hard to come by, but sure enough, Ubisoft still felt the need to whack in the option to spend even more real-world money on their game.
If you do feel the need to grab some more spending money you can hunt animals and sell their pelts to the local shops, while prepper stashes typically have a lot of cash to pick up. Sadly, though, hunting is only about the money now. In previous Far Cry games if you wanted a bigger bag to hold more loot or an extra holster so you could lug around a rocket launcher you’d need to take-down specific animals and then sew the skin together, a gruesome task to be sure but one that did make the crafting feel interesting and the rewards earned. Now, Far Cry has ditched the experience system entirely as well as the hunting and gone with a perk system where you earn Perk Points for doing a variety of challenges, which almost feels like a strange way of pushing players toward doing certain things in a game that is otherwise content to let you tackle stuff in a fairly open manner. Most of the perks are open from the get-go, so it’s nice that you don’t have to unlock a bunch of stuff just to get the one perk you actually want.
But hey! Animals do get their moment to shine because it seems the developers really liked getting to have various beasts tag along with the player in Far Cry: Primal, so they brought it back! The Guns/Fangs for Hire system means you can now select up to two people or beasts to take along as back-up, ranging from the surly sniper Grace to the beefy bear Cheeseburger who naturally tends to attract the enemies attention while also excersicing his right to bear arms. Yes, the game makes that joke and so will I. If that doesn’t float your boat there’s a savage cougar, a dog named Boomer who helpfully tags enemies and the returning Hurk, as well as others. They can also be given basic orders, so that’s pretty cool.
If you happen to prefer the company of an actual live human being, though I’m not sure why you’d ever prefer that over a freaking BEAR, then the entire game can be played on co-op with a friend or just a completely random person. You can also jump onto the almost instantly forgettable multiplayer, but I don’t see it lasting very long.
More interesting is the Far Cry 5 Map Editor and the Arcade where you can download new maps and play ’em. The editor is relatively easy to use and decently powerful, so provided the community sticks with it there are many happy hours of fun to be had here, on top of the 20-30 hours it will likely take you to work through the story while also stopping off to do other things.
Once again running on the Dunia engine the game looks absolutely fantastic. The wilds and towns of Montana don’t provide the same level of diversity or color as Far Cry 4’s Kyrat, but they do create a grounded feeling and the whole world just feels more…cohesive. A lot of attention has been paid to the smaller details as well, especially inside the various houses and other buildings. Toss on top of that some nice texture work and lovely lighting and you wind up with one pretty game that also happens to run rather well. At 1440p with a GTX 1080, 16GB of RAM and a Ryzen 5 1600 CPU I was easily holding above 60fps with a few settings turned down slightly.
Some love needs to be shown to the audio as well. There are some great licensed songs that play on the radio – including a personal favorite of mine, Electric Light Worry by Clutch – and the voice performances are great across the board. Much like the graphics, there’s a lot of attention to detail in the ambient noises that help create a more immersive world.
I opened my review by stating that for better or for worse Far Cry 5 is a Far Cry game, and I stand by that. There are definitely some improvements to be found in terms of how you find new things to do, the side-quests, the combat and other things, but for the most part this is very much a safe sequel that doesn’t want to rock the boat with a radical shift in style. In other words, if you enjoyed Far Cry 4 and want some more of that tasty open-world mayhem but with an improved recipe then Far Cry 5 is an easy recommendation. But if Far Cry 4 didn’t do it for you then I don’t think this sequel is going to do it for you, either, despite the fact that you can take a FREAKING BEAR WITH YOU!