Upon its announcement, Far Cry 5 drew a lot of attention for the political tone of its setting and story. As release came closer, Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus took that mantle and ran with it, and most of the attention faded. Still, a new Far Cry is a big deal, especially after Ubisoft managed to massively improve some of their other franchises. So with the game on the eve of release, we now have to ask the important questions. Does Far Cry 5 manage to turn its American setting into something special, or has the series gone too far?
You start the game by going through a simple character creator. I really do mean simple, as you only have the options of gender, skin color, maybe 4 or 5 hairstyles, and about four-color variations of two clothing options. Whatever your choices, you’ll be playing as a deputy of the Hope County police force. This area’s major problem is Eden’s Gate, a religious and doomsday prepper cult that has taken over. When a U.S. Marshal comes in with an arrest warrant for their charismatic leader, all hell breaks loose. The cult cuts off Hope County’s ability to communicate with the outside world. Worse still, they begin to purge anyone who refuses to see the light.
The first mission does a fantastic job selling just how insane this whole setup really is. The cult is led by Joesph Seed, who is another Far Cry crazy turning in a convincing, attention-grabbing performance. The other major leaders are Joesph’s two brothers and a mysterious “sister” that just showed up one day. Solid voice acting and performance capture really sells these characters. I found them to be targets I could sympathize with even as I plotted their deaths.
The actual plot isn’t really that thick, with the focus mostly being on the citizens of Hope County and the history of the cult. That said, it was more than enough to keep me interested in the game’s runtime. The late game plot points did manage to catch me off guard, with at least one twist that comes out of nowhere.
Far Cry 5 plays much as you’d expect a mainline entry in the series to, bringing it back from the detour that was Primal. You find yourself dumped into a large open world and performing a ton of crazy stunts using whatever you can get your hands on. The gameplay remains as fast and frantic as ever. One minute, I’m in the middle of an explosive car chase that leads to a shootout in the woods. The next, I’m hijacking an airplane and bombing cult structures. No matter what I was doing, I was really enjoying it.
Of course, the point of all this destruction is to take down the Seed family and Eden’s Gate. A different leader controls each of the game’s zones, so you need to build up the resistance everywhere you go. Each citizen you free, sidequest you complete, and cult outpost you take back gives you resistance points. The more of these you get, the closer you get to stop a member of the Seed family. Of course, the closer you get, the more they try to stop you. Simple ground patrols eventually become full air patrols when you’re close to taking out a leader.
Piss them off enough, and the leader will eventually try to capture you. Some will send out soldiers that use tranq rounds, others will just drug you. Whatever the case, you’ll eventually see yourself captured by Eden’s Gate. This happens at least three times in each area, and constitute’s the game’s actual story levels. The problem is that you don’t really get to choose when these happen, making them extremely intrusive. Often they come at super inconvenient times. Once, I was in the middle of turning in a side quest when my character passed out. Instead of enjoying my rewards, I had to do a story mission.
This makes many of the story missions feel very similar. They all start with your capture and a crazy rant you’re forced to listen to. Following that, you break your bonds and then escape from the area. It’s especially bad in Jacob Seed’s region. All four of his story missions have you repeating the exact same obstacle course over and over. It makes sense in context, but that doesn’t make it particularly fun to play. While they may be intrusive and repetitive, I’d be a liar if I said I wasn’t having fun with them. I especially like Faith Seed’s weird drug trip levels. They feel like a compelling continuation of Far Cry 3‘s trip to the fields.
While the intrusive story levels may annoy, Far Cry 5 has a ton of awesome side content. For the most part, this content brakes into three main groups. Cult Outposts are self-explanatory. You simply need to kill all the cultists inside the outpost to take them over. After you conquer each location, you get a new fast travel point and a few shops to upgrade your arsenal. Prepper Stashes are also found around the map, usually serving as clever puzzles. Finding you way inside always nets a treasure trove of supplies.
The rest of the missions just fall under the label of side quests, and they can vary big time. One was as simple as clearing out some bears by an apple farm. Another saw me team with recurring CIA agent Willis Huntly to ensure that a “pee tape” couldn’t be used against “the Big Man”. Naturally, Huntly is then immediately promoted to Chief of Staff and ditches you. The good news is that it’s nearly a solid 90/10 split on unique/generic side quests. Whether I’m collecting drugs for an addict, climbing a mountain to get supplies, or blowing up a water processing facility, none of the side quests felt the same.
Despite the variety of activities, there are no towers to climb and no easy way to reveal parts of the map. If you want to discover locations, you best be ready to talk to the citizens of Hope County. As you save civilians, they’ll be willing to talk to you. Each conversation lets you learn about weird people to meet, Eden’s Gate’s regular hangouts, or the location of a supply stash. It takes adjusting but chatting up the people you save jives with the story’s focus on Hope County. It’s a good way to make the player feel like they’re actually doing more to be involved.
Thankfully, you don’t have to bring Eden’s Gate down alone. You can call on two different types of AI partners at any time. Guns for Hire are basically just randomly generated citizens of Hope County who follow you around and shoot things. Nice, but you’ll want to complete side quests to unlock the Specialists, who are basically just bigger and better versions of the Guns for Hire, often with special loadouts or skills. The Specialists are so useful that after you get the first one there’s really no reason to go back to the Guns for Hire. Not interested in AI? Well, that’s okay, as Far Cry 5 can also be played co-op with a friend. You can play the entire game in co-op, which is a pretty fantastic addition that is sure to bring some fun moments.
There are two minor issues I have with Far Cry 5 that immediately come to mind. The first is the game’s leveling system. This time around, you earn points by completing tasks rather than earning XP for your actions. For example, the game has challenges like hunting specific animals, killing a certain amount of enemies with unique weapons, or saving civilians. The system forced me to play the game in non-optimal ways just so I could eek out a few more perk points. It mostly left me wishing that they went with XP points. Either that or rever back to the old animal skin barter system of past games. On top of everything, most of the perks aren’t that interesting. The vast majority just let you hold more ammo, reload weapons faster, or reduce the cooldown on reviving buddies.
The only three perks that significantly change how I play are the lockpick, the grappling hook, and the wingsuit. Being able to scale cliffs to get around to the back of an outpost unseen, or gliding across a large chunk of the map after jumping off a mountain, are skills that I could actually use to assist me in getting around Hope County. Lockpicks let me bypass side quests by unlocking doors instead of hunting for keys. Plus, I can use the skill to open safes to find extra currency. These are not particularly deep or unique mechanics. Still, it’s nice to feel like I earn some useful tools through challenges.
My other issue is that the game simply never gives players any time to breathe. Travel on the main road is almost always met with an absurd amount of trouble. Convoys, fuel trucks, roadblocks constantly find ways to jump in you path. Take to the woods and cougars, wolves and bears (oh my!) will strike until your inventory is overstocked with their pelts.
It’s way too much, way too often, and I never feel that I can get from point A to B to do a side quest in a timely fashion. This is especially a problem as you try to talk to people since any enemy wandering by can interrupt the conversation. More than once, I had to listen to the same spiel over and over because I just couldn’t get through the whole dialogue without some Eden’s Gate guy dropping in.
I really want this chance to relax since Far Cry 5 is a lovely game that I can easily lose myself in. The designers really capture how beautiful Montana can be. As you stand in a massive field with just spots of trees or bushes, you can spot a forest and mountains in the distance. Then, you can light it all on fire and remind yourself of the Far Cry series’ great fire tech.
After spending a lot of time listening to the game’s soundtrack, it may be a strong contender for one of the best of the year so far. This is thanks to both a fantastic licensed soundtrack (a flamethrower based fight set to Disco Inferno? A car chase set to Barracuda? Yes please!) and a slew of mood setting music. From intense guitar and chant-heavy fight themes to a ton of creepy remixes of Amazing Grace, this game is a treat for the ears as well as the eyes.
Once you’ve finished the campaign, or if you just want a break, you can move on to Far Cry 5‘s extensive multiplayer mode. Called Far Cry Arcade, this mode gives you the tools to create and share your own single player and multiplayer content. There’s no denying that this is a mode that lives or dies by its community. However, it’s a genuinely impressive tool that seems powerful enough to make legitimate content. In the PlayStation 4 version, this is basically a big level editor. The PC version seems to hand you something resembling a dev tool, so mapmakers who want to go in depth should be pleased.
For launch, Ubisoft has made a few maps that showcase the possibilities quite well. In addition, a few player-made maps are beginning to trickle in. Single player maps had me exploring a post-apocalyptic city or liberating an outpost in the middle of an underwater city. One trippy level just had me walk from point A to point B in an environmental dreamscape. I even got to play the “Eurogamer Challenge”.
On the multiplayer front, I was able to play various deathmatches in an arctic base, a beautiful coastal town, and an Assassin’s Creed-style marketplace. If you’re not sure what you want to play, a super helpful Arcade Hero option randomly selects maps one after another for you. I was able to try things I probably would have ignored otherwise using this. As you play, you’ll level up and earn money and skill points that you can take back to the campaign.
I came into Far Cry 5 hoping for a fun open-world first-person shooter that hit some weird themes and kept me entertained until the end. I came out of Far Cry 5 shocked at just how much I loved the game. Perhaps more than any other open world game as of late I found myself muttering “just one more mission” at early AM hours, eager to keep playing just a little longer. Once the campaign was done, I lost myself in the player made maps long enough that I easily extended the life of the game, and am eager to see how it can be further extended. While I may need to replay Far Cry 3 just to be sure, and that’s a chance we’ll get soon, Far Cry 5 seems to have exploded past its brethren on its way to being my favorite of the series.
Far Cry 5 was reviewed on PlayStation 4 using a copy provided by the publisher. The game is also available on Xbox One and PC via Steam and UPlay.
Far Cry 5 combines a wonderful setting and interesting characters with extremely fun gameplay, a fantastic open world full of great side quests, and lovely presentation. It also has a powerful level editor that could make some real gems. This is a new standout for the series, as it's easily the best Far Cry has been.
- Interesting Setting with Great Characters
- Awesome Open World to Explore
- Really Fun Side Quests
- Great Story Levels
- Fantastic Soundtrack
- Far Cry Arcade is a Wonderful Tool
- Intrusive and Sometimes Repetitive Story Missions
- Weird Leveling System
- Little Breathing Room