The Far Cry series has really come a long way since the first game was released 14 years ago. What was once a pretty standard shooter has morphed into one of the best AAA open world games on the market. Sayings like “Do you know what the definition of insanity is?”, M.I.A’s Paper Planes, and the classic villains of Far Cry 3 and 4 have carved themselves into the annals of gaming history. With the release of Far Cry 5 and it’s pretty intense marketing campaign in the United States, gamers were left wondering what type of game this would be. Would the series take a big leap in a different direction or would we get refinements on an existing formula? After about 2 weeks with the game, we think we have some answers.
Far Cry 5 begins with you, a Hope County, Montana Sheriff’s deputy, on a helicopter heading to arrest a cult leader named Joseph Seed, aka: The Father. You’re with a couple other people including local and federal law enforcement and within minutes of landing you can see where things are about to head. The compound is armed to the teeth and the sheriff is pleading with the U.S. Marshall to holster his weapon to not start a war with the followers of “The Father.” Events progress and things go horribly wrong, as you’d expect, and you’re left alone, running for your life. You’re saved by a local who offers you food and clothing and sets you on your path to take back Hope County from the peggies (the cultists) while also saving your coworkers from the deranged family lieutenants of The Father.
If you’ve been following social media in the days since Far Cry 5 came out, you probably noticed a trend. A lot of people are upset with the story in Far Cry 5 not because it’s bad, but because it didn’t tackle the issues they wanted covered. On the whole, the story in Far Cry 5 is serviceable. You’re not going to get some gripping tale of redemption or some crazy symbolism of the political divisiveness in America. It seems that a lot of people expected Ubisoft to come out swinging against those on the right wing side of politics and never let up. If you were looking for this, you’re going to be disappointed. Instead, you get a story of a family using nefarious means to brainwash a town into believing their crazy religion with one man, The Father, being the cult leader. You’ll work with locals to take down lieutenants in broken off sections of the map with the ultimate goal of taking down it’s leader. The story itself isn’t that compelling. It is mainly there to move the plot along for the ultimate show down with The Father. I think Ubisoft is getting unfair ire about the story because people wanted it to be something it’s not. Some reviews are dinging the game for not taking a political stand and I think that is just absurd. Judge the game by what it is and not what you wanted it to be. What the story in Far Cry 5 is though, is a mediocre but satisfying drudge through cult worship with a healthy dose of Americana thrown in. It’s not great, but it’ll keep you moving along. What is great though is the world and the stories you find outside of the main plot.
The world of Far Cry 5 is probably one of my favorites in the series. Hope County, Montana is big, sprawling, and beautiful. Each section of the map has its unique appeals with Jacob Seed’s area being very mountainous with wolves a plenty while John Seeds area is more open with farm land. The residents of Hope County are varied and have their own struggles and reasons for fighting back against the cultists. As you explore different areas, you’ll unlock mercenaries to join your cause. Each mercenary has their own story and you’ll have to help them out of a bind usually to unlock their services. Collecting these “guns for hire” was easily my favorite addition to Far Cry 5. The characters you can unlock to join your cause are incredibly varied and unique with each bringing a certain type of co-op gameplay partner to your game. There is the expecting father fearing for his family who flies a plane and gives you air coverage or the former soldier who snipes enemies from a distance. But above all of the human companions are the 3 animal “fang for hires” you can pick up. You’ll meet Boomer, the dog who can find enemies for you and tag them; Peaches, the cougar that can stealth attack enemies; and my personal favorite, Cheeseburger the diabetic bear that is a tank companion. These unique characters add a flair to the Far Cry games that just wasn’t there previously. When you unlock the ability to have two at once in a mission, they’ll often talk to each other and include some pretty great lines. If one thing is taken from Far Cry 5 into the next Far Cry game, I hope it’s the companion system.
The gameplay in Far Cry 5 is a step forward in some areas, a step back in others. First, the positive. The shooting is top notch and the wanton destruction you cause is as fun as ever. Coming up to an outpost and having a wide array of ways to wrestle control from the cultists is always satisfying, especially when you consider what companion you have with you. I rarely play a game to completion, especially open world games, but I found myself ticking away at every outpost in an area before moving on just because of the fun I was having. You’ll also unlock perk points as you complete in game challenges (kill x amount of enemies with this gun, skin this many cougars, etc.) and you can spec your character as you see fit. This allows for a certain degree of customization although by playing the game long enough and completing enough challenges, you won’t be wanting for any skills.
Another thing that stands out in Far Cry 5 is its ability to set you off in one direction and give you a ton of things to do. Rarely did I ever want to fast travel somewhere outside of a story mission. Typically, I’d run to my location and get sidetracked with a couple things along the way. The moment to moment gameplay and its feedback loop is expertly crafted. Sure, the game has a bunch of bugs where I saw cars float in the air and a bear mysteriously appear in front of me but these can be forgiven when the gameplay is so much fun. Hope County is chock full of things to do and you’ll want to do most of them. If there is something you aren’t fond of like fishing, just avoid outside of the necessary mission quests.
In a series first, you can modify the look of your character through a basic character creator. There are a couple faces available for both sexes and a range of hairstyles and clothing options. It’s a neat feature, but unless you’re playing a lot of co-op, it won’t make any difference to you. You never see your character and you never speak. The clothes you wear and your outfit can be seen in first person mode occasionally but not enough to warrant any care to be given to keeping your clothes up to date. In the 20 or so hours I put into the game, I think I changed my clothes once. You can buy additional clothing as the game progresses, but I never felt the need to. It’s a nice to have, but outside of co-op, I can’t see most caring much about it.
While the gun play is amazing and the moment to moment action is addictive as it’s ever been, there are some step backs from previous entries. In Far Cry 5, you can hunt animals in certain locations but it doesn’t really amount to anything. Crafting is gone. Want a bigger gun holster? You’ll have to do those challenges I mentioned previously. The skins you get from animals are only used to sell to NPCs to get money to buy guns. This seems like such a wasted opportunity because the crafting system in the previous games offered a great way to hunt down upgrades to your equipment. Now, it’s tied to the perk system which isn’t bad, it’s just nowhere near as good as the former upgrade system used to be.
Another step back seems to be the gun variety. I can’t put my finger on what exactly it is, but the guns themselves seem far too similar and there are just less overall. This could be based on Ubisoft player data that said some guns were never used and they were removed, who knows. All I know is that the weapons seem lacking and once I found one or two I liked, I rarely ever switched. I would put all of the upgrades into it, get a silencer, larger ammo capacity and it was my gun for the game. In a game where weapons are so well done, it’s disappointing to not see more of them.
Overall though, Far Cry 5 is a great experience. I could list out issues with the game and its story, but at the end of the day there is one question that needs to be asked, was it fun? My answer to that is a resounding yes. From the moment we received code for the game from Ubisoft, I played nothing else. When my son was napping, it was Far Cry time. Got a few minutes before bed? I bet I could take down a couple outposts. Far Cry 5 sucked me in like few games can and I wanted nothing more than to experience everything it had to offer. If you were on the fence about Far Cry games in the past, this installment may be a bit of a mixed bag. It’s streamlined in ways that may cater to a more casual fan of the series, but overall, it’s more of what you’d expect to see in Far Cry 3/4. If, on the other hand, you have loved Far Cry games in the past and aren’t looking for extreme political discourse in your games, then you’ll have a blast playing one of Ubisoft’s best open world games in a long time.