When looking at the Far Cry franchise as a whole, it cannot be denied that the series follows a very distinct formula: open world gameplay that is touched by some sort of controversial element with a story driven by a dastardly antagonist. Far Cry 3 is largely heralded as one of the best and most unforgettable games in the series for this very reason. It introduced gamers to psychotic murderers who ran rampant drug rings on an island gone wild. In the middle of it all was a young adult male, trying to have some fun with friends during a vacation. Far Cry 4 had a similar premise, except this time it had a flamboyant dictator and gun-toting villain as the main antagonist. The protagonist, meanwhile, was yet another young adult, which — spoiler alert — was the heir to the dictatorship. How then, does Far Cry 5 fare?
Far Cry 5, once again, follows a very similar mould – with a few interesting differences. You are a young deputy in the sheriff’s department for Hope County. It is your job to reign in a religious nutcase, and have him, and his crazy family, incarcerated for life. That, or die trying. The game is set in a fictional county in the good old US of A, and it is all about drug rings, dictatorship through faith, and cult extremism. The game is somewhat culturally appropriate too, given how gun control and extremism seem awry in the real world today. It goes without saying that controversy is still very much a central theme in Far Cry 5, but does it stack up to previous games in the series? Or does it fall flat and serve as an example for the inevitable sequels?
Heed your sins, and confess your crimes! [Story]
Right at the start, you are flown in to apprehend and close the book of “Father” Joseph Seed. Father Seed is the enigmatic, charismatic, and totally psychotic leader of the Project at Eden’s Gate. His project is an ever-growing cult that has managed to infiltrate pretty much every branch of the US government in Montana. His lackeys are all trigger-happy maniacs, and brainwashed locals hell-bent on seeing the father open the gates to Eden. It is a truly scary and relatable premise.
From the moment you get off the helicopter and make your way into his church for the first time, through to when you are given the seemingly obvious choice of cuffing the father, the entire world feels instantly believable. In this prologue, you are surrounded by Seed’s people in a small church that has definitely seen better days. Before you stands Father Seed, his hands out and ready to be cuffed, with his siblings watching from behind. All of them, giving you deep, dark and lifelike stares. The Father’s demeanour and rhetoric is truly terrifying too, and I mean this with all sincerity. After cuffing Joseph Seed, and airlifting him out of the area… the game begins.
When all is said and done, you meet the members of the resistance — good local folk who just want to see their county free under the moniker of the American flag. With this in mind, you first meet an old and grizzled veteran called Dutch. He sets you on your way to help the resistance out and liberate the regions controlled by the Seed siblings: Jacob, John, and Faith. On the way, you meet other good folks like Mary May, Nick Rye, Grace, Hurke, and Pastor Jerome Jeffries, among others. You meet these people generally one by one, as you explore Hope County and liberate its areas from the clutches of the Project at Eden’s Gate bozos — otherwise known as Peggies. All characters mentioned above, and so many more, have very interesting stories to tell. From the mission that unlocks Nick, to the one that helps the people of Pastor Jerome’s church, through to getting one of the best pets available, Boomer the dog [Hans: For me it is Peaches the Mountain Lion], there is much fun to be had. That is until you realise that very little of it actually has ties to the larger story.
You see, the opening hours of the game may convey a strong sense of urgency, complete with dark tone and scary narrative. However, as soon as you step foot on one of the three main regions of Hope County, the game throws you to the wolves and lets you loose with your vices. There is no doubt that Hope County is literally a playground for the player to get lost in; and that is absolutely something I did. I got so lost, in fact, that six hours later, I had only completed two levels of John’s region. Six hours, two entire levels! That was so great. Until I asked myself: where is the story?
Do not get me wrong, the main narrative really is great in Far Cry 5. In fact, I would say that the game has some of the best overarching and mini-stories compared to all previous titles in the series. The problem, however, is that the main storyline is locked behind a resistance meter. A region-specific Resistance meter that only fills up as you complete various tasks in and around the area of the Seed sibling that controls it. I will talk more about that in the gameplay section, but the gist of it is as follows: as the levels roll by, you have to continue doing open world tasks and side quests, which grow increasingly tedious and boring as time goes by. While the story is great, and while I had a lot of fun learning about the siblings, I must say I would have loved it even more if they had allowed the story to follow a slightly more linear path instead of locking it behind repetitive open world gameplay.
Let’s blow those peggies to smithereens! Again and again. [Gameplay]
Gameplay is probably the strongest aspect of Far Cry 5. It is just so incredibly fun to play, with intuitive controls and a fully realised world to explore. With that said, story elements do have a caveat in that they are locked behind a reputation meter. When you do eventually unlock them, however, they happen with a fantastic bang! You see, to unlock a new story mission that has to do with the Seeds, you first have to add points to the reputation meter, and each region has its own meter. This is done by running around and destroying cult monuments and deposits; liberating cult outposts; rescuing resistance members and civilians, and doing random side quests for those members. The grind to increase reputation and unlock those main story missions, however, is very real in Far Cry 5.
Liberating outposts is fun and exhilarating in Far Cry 5. You do this by killing all peggies in the area, by any means necessary. This is where the game’s various methods of gameplay shine. You can go in guns blazing, or lurk around and stay in the shadows while shooting them all in the head with arrows or carrying out sneaky takedown manoeuvres. When you get them all, the outpost becomes liberated. This allows the resistance folk to move in, complete with shops, more side quests, and better music — way better music. Liberating most outposts will net you around 300-600 points on the resistance meter.
You can get around 400 to around 900 points by completing missions for the main resistance members, like Nick, Merle, and Hurke and others; but these are few and far between. Other things you can do come down to destroying cult monuments like shrines and deposits, or driving around and freeing civilians that are being pursued by the peggies.
As you explore the regions, you will come across folk that desperately want to help you. They are called Guns For Hire. You can recruit three of them in total, and hire them at any time. You then add them to the D-pad on the controller, and during missions, you use that function to tell them where to go, what to do and whom to kill. It is a nice system that alleviates the grind a tiny bit. That said, the missions for key members of the resistance generally tend to open up “specialists”. These are Guns for Hire that have special perks and unique personalities. Nick, for instance, is almost always in his plane. By giving him a command to attack something or someone, he will swoop in and bomb them – effectively blowing them to smithereens. There are three specialists in each region.
Pro tip: The first “Specialist” you will most likely meet is Boomer, AKA Man’s Best Friend, Best Dogo, Four Legged Legend… I can carry on all day. When I first got to him, I had no idea how to unlock his cage and thought that I was experiencing a glitch. Do not be me. Rather, just look closely at the poor guy, and do what you do best.
The Guns For Hire slots tie in directly with the perk system. As you unlock more specialists, you obviously want more of them on the D-Pad. The problem at the start, however, is that you is that can only have one. Fortunately, there is another way to get one: the Perk system.
The Perk System in Far Cry 5 is how you upgrade your character in the game. While it directly affects your character, and while it is the main system of progression in the game, I must say that it feels arbitrary. Simply shooting a bunch of enemies in the head with an arrow, for example, netted me three perk points. With those points, I unlocked the ability to grapple and to parachute — two abilities that I should have unlocked through the story, or through special missions rather than suddenly clicking my fingers and remembering that I could do them. You know, for the sake of immersion. I must confess that there are a few overpowering perks and other perks that feel like natural progressions, such as being able to hold more guns and more arrows. As such it is a decent upgrade system, but not one that comes close to progression systems in games like, for example, Skyrim.
Fortunately, the game has plenty to offer when you are not trying to rack up enough points for that seemingly unreachable third level of resistance. Just like in Far Cry 3, 4, and Primal, animals reign free in Far Cry 5. Ranging from black bears, wolverines, wolves and jaguars, through to goats, moose, deer and even fish; the game has them all. Hunting animals and getting their pelts can help a lot if you are strapped for cash — something you will definitely need as you try to buy better weapons and customisations.
By driving around, you also get to have some extra fun with one or two side activities that you can find by sheer happenstance. These activities include flying planes through magic floating rings, doing crazy jumps off ramps in muscle cars and even going for target practice while getting drunk. I cannot say I found them all, but there were about two or three big challenges in each region of this nature. After you have done that however, it was just back to the grind for those elusive reputation points. Fortunately, by now you should have racked up enough points to carry on with the actual main missions.
Seen one mission. Seen them all. [Gameplay Grind]
Once each level of the resistance meter has been filled, you will get an encounter with the main sibling controlling the region. The first encounter normally occurs at the 2500 point mark. Faith will entice you with bliss, John will capture and torture you, and Jacob is just a gun-toting nutcase who appears to be suffering from a severe case of post-traumatic stress disorder. After each of these quick missions, you are thrown back into the open world to gain even more points than before, by doing exactly the same things as before. This is perhaps my biggest gripe about the game because as beautiful and engrossing as the world of Far Cry 5 is, the repetitive nature of the missions let it down. I personally wish the game had an option of just following the story, or at least award more points for quicker progression. With that said, I do understand why it was designed this way, and that has to do with the ending of the game; and that is all I will say about that.
Despite the grind, the great thing is that missions pertaining to the main resistance members, and the core “guns for hire”, are pretty cool. Very seldom did any of these missions have any direct relation to the Seeds, but they always promised good entertainment for their duration. A good example is a mission to help out at the Rye farm: here, you had to help Nick remove all the Peggies from his farm before they got to his wife and unborn child. After that, Nick instructs you to go and steal his plane back, after which you get to pilot the plane and shoot peggies to smithereens. As you do all of that, Nick and his wife’s banter make you feel like you are a part of the world — as if you are actually there, in person.
Far Cry 5 really does have golden moments. They are fun and exciting, and so incredibly immersive, that you can lose yourself in them up until they end. Alas, once they are over it is back to the grind, and by grind I really do mean it.
The world would be a better place if there were more of you, Rook [Multiplayer & Arcade]
With all of that out of the way, I must also commend the game for including a multiplayer option. While it feels a bit lacklustre at times, it works really well – for the most part.
Full disclosure: in the time before launch, I had the opportunity to join both my colleague, Hans, as well as other members of the press to try these Far Cry 5 features out. While they often went smoothly, there were many times when disconnects would occur for no apparent reason. This may have been because of servers still being in testing, or for other reasons. Regardless, I just thought I would put that out there.
Thanks to multiplayer, a lot of the grind needed to increase resistance levels was effectively cut in half. This was not because it was literally cut in half, or because the experience was doubled, rather it is because everything is always better and quicker with a friend. Remember when I mentioned that you can take peggies out from the shadows and liberate an outpost? The same is true in multiplayer, but now those peggies can be taken out faster, with two sets of bows and arrows! Remember when I said you can do bombing runs in planes? Now, you can do two bombing runs in two planes!
As much fun as it was to actually get to play with a friend, there is a caveat to the system. Imagine my surprise when I found out that the person who joins another person’s multiplayer session will not have the story or mission progress carry over into their game. Granted, the game does tell you this right from the start. Even so, the lack of saved progression for the person joining a multiplayer session is quite disappointing. Although money and perks carry over, it effectively means that the person who joins the host must still do those very same missions again, in their own game. The lack of saved progression is also an odd choice, in my mind, given how you can share the story and mission progress in other Ubisoft games like Ghost Recon: Wildlands and Splinter Cell: Black List. What makes Far Cry 5 different then? For that reason alone, I strongly believe that multiplayer was a late addition to the game, which the company managed to polish to a very high standard. As great of an addition as it is, however, it is also one that is not worth spending hours in unless you are the host player.
One of the most unexpected features included in Far Cry 5 is Far Cry Arcade. In this mode you have the ability to download custom maps that have been created by other players, or create maps of your own. Here, you can create missions, areas and unique challenges for other players to enjoy. For example, our friends over at MWEB created a spectacular Bloodborne-themed map. In essence, Far Cry Arcade is exactly the same as the Arcade mode featured in Activision Blizzard’s Starcraft II. You download and play content created by other players, with or without friends. It is all about you, and it is a great addition to the game.
We are all beautiful beings… you just need the grace of the father to show it [Performance & Visuals]
Since its inception, Far Cry games have always been beautiful. While it is hard to agree with now, Far Cry 1 and 2 were some of the best looking games of their time. Far Cry 2 even won a bunch of awards for the way it portrayed fire!
I am happy to say that Far Cry 5, like 4 and Primal before it, looks utterly incredible. From the very first time you load up the game and enter the church where you apprehend Father Seed, to the moment you step foot in the fields of bliss where Faith Seed tries to make you a mindless pawn, everything looks beautiful and near photo-realistic.
While I played on a standard Xbox attached to a full-high-definition television screen, Hans joined me on his Xbox One X attached to an Ultra-high definition 4K OLED television. I did see the game on his setup, but only briefly. However, while in co-op, I fondly remember every single time Hans gawked at the scenery and the vistas, mentioning how beautiful everything was. As such, I felt his input about the visuals deserved a place in this review.
Hans: Far Cry 5 is, without a doubt, one of the most beautiful first-person-shooter games I have had the pleasure of playing. From an outstanding implementation of High Dynamic Range, through to ambient occlusion, god rays, realistic smoke effects, reflections, convincing water effects, real-time day and night cycles, and so much more, the game world is an absolute joy to play and get lost in. There are times when the game world can even look photo realistic, which is no small feat. It also runs incredibly well, with barely a framerate drop in sight.
I can also say I was properly enthralled with the characters, both good and bad. From the moment I met Dutch, his bunker and all of the letters strewn around it; they were all small indicators of the greater picture. The same goes for Pastor Jerome and the Seed siblings, all of which were motion captured expertly with incredible voice over acting. Of particular note are the eyes of the characters. Those creepy eyes that John Seed looks at you with when you encounter him face-to-face. The same goes for all siblings, honestly. I hesitate to say it, but they are beautiful people. Deranged, but so attractive. Thanks to years of being worshipped, they walk tall, talk with a higher vocabulary than the regular inhabitants, and wear all of the prettiest clothes that Hope County has ever seen. Gosh, I would not mind having a go at Father Seed’s suit.
In terms of performance, it is excellent in Far Cry 5. Minus the initial loading, I can say with confidence that this title sets a very high bar for triple-A open world titles. Booting up the game took a long while, but once it is up and running, there is very little loading to speak of. Cutscenes tend to throw you from loading screen to loading screen, but those are few and far between; while fast travelling loading times are so short they are barely a bother. I did also experience a few frame drops here and there, but nothing that would impact the performance of the game overall.
I must also make mention of the incredible music that Far Cry 5 has to offer. From the eerie soundtrack that is ripe with dark and gloomy ambience to its cheery and patriotic twangs; to the incredible detail and budget that went into the creation of licensed music based on the characters and places in-game; it all came together so wonderfully. The music really helps to immerse players into the game. You would never say Father Seed is a fictional character if you were just listening to Creedence Clearwater Revival on the radio, and then a song about how great the Father was, all in one go. It is, simply put, an amazing little detail that Ubisoft put into the game.
Oh The Bliss! [Conclusion]
All in all, Far Cry 5 is a real gem. Granted, the game may feel somewhat repetitive when it comes to the grind for reputation points, featuring copy and paste liberation and side missions in each region. With that said, I did find that there are enough “main missions” strewn about to offer a welcome break between all of the grind. Side missions all feel the same, but there are honestly enough types of side missions that, if played in short two-to-three hour segments, will have the game feel pretty well fleshed out.
Similarly, missions pertaining to the Seed siblings are incredible. They were all crafted with much care, detail and thought — it is clear that the brunt of the narrative team’s effort went into these bits. The only issue, in my opinion, is that Ubisoft decided to lock these incredible bits behind long segments of open-world gameplay grinding. Something I would happily go without. A nice solution I would propose is to keep all levels at the same experience requirements as the first (2500 points) or make the story a continuous thing that the player can do at any time they wish. Nevertheless, and given the way the story ends, I do understand why this design choice was made.
Multiplayer is a decent little tacked on addition. Yes, I call it a “tacked on” because I feel it could be so much better. With that said, it did make the game a lot more fun than it already was — something I did not expect when I went into my first co-op session.
Far Cry 5 features an engrossing story with a gorgeous open-world and copious amounts of things to do, enhanced by quick loading and very few hitches. This all attributes to the fact that I believe the game is a keeper. It is a title that I will happily recommend to anyone who is a fan of open-world shooters. With that said, excuse me while I return to Montana for several more doses of Bliss.
|Time to Complete||30+ Hours|
|Acquisition||Review copy courtesy of Megarom Interactive|