Ubisoft set themselves a high bar with Assassin’s Creed Origins‘ glorious return to freshness. The mechanical tweaks, fat-trimming and seeming adoption of a ‘quality over quantity’ mantra delivered a return fit for a Pharaoh. Far Cry 5 is the first in the series proper since 2014’s Himalayan adventure, Far Cry 4. The series had increasingly suffered from map-bloat, repetitive mission types and a lack of new ideas – typified by the spin-off Primal.
Similar to Origins, Ubisoft have used their hiatus well, addressing gripes and open-world fatigue head on while infusing the game with some new features to make FC5 stand out.
Inhabitants have more to say about their situations and the ‘kitchen sink’ nature of some of the missions ground the game well
Choose Your Own Adventure
Players begin Far Cry 5 as an unnamed U.S. marshal sent to arrest the charismatic cult leader, Joseph Seed for kidnapping. Seed plays along but thanks to an intervention from God, he escapes and makes a few arrests of his own. The player takes their choice of female or male character but it makes little difference really.
While the stories of previous entries in the series involve the player centrally, FC5 feels grander. The environment itself conveys an absence of normality better than other Far Cries. Inhabitants have more to say about their situations and the ‘kitchen sink’ nature of some of the missions ground the game well. Far Cry 5 feels like a stretch of the ‘possible’ rather than pure fiction.
After our hero is let loose, they learn that three underlings, all siblings of Seed, control separate areas of Hope County. Each one has a different style of harassing a player and subjugating the locals. For instance, Faith inhabits a lush forested area complete with hallucinatory flowers while Jacob’s Darwinist rhetoric suits the harsh terrain he resides in.
By causing enough trouble and recruiting enough region-specific faction help in any one region, a special mission is triggered. Each one drives the story along and completing these ramps up the stakes. A plane may begin to follow the player, dropping ordnance or marking you for enemy troops. Death squads might show up. Players will hallucinate progressively larger animals to attack them. These give each area a distinct feel, keeping players on their toes while making the game progressively more difficult.
The Origins-job that Ubi have done in editing out the series’ more tired and stale archetypal content is commendable
Games Gone Wild
The free-roam mission structure is similar to a few open-worlders. But players coax sub-bosses out of hiding exactly as seen in Ghost Recon: Wildlands with each boss now having three ‘encounters’ instead of a dozen bosses like GR:W. Where Far Cry 5 is different is in how it succeeds in making the mundane ‘resistance point’ farming activities fun on their own. GR:W lacked enough mechanical variety to carry the same style of narrative progression.
The combat feels very like the Bolivian jaunt also. Wildlands‘ bullet physics was one of the game’s strengths with travel-time and projectile drop giving a more realistic and satisfying experience than hit-scan weapons. A similar mechanic is used here in FC5. A player can take up to two AI companions and use them to assault or subdue enemies with a system that is like a dumbed-down version of GR:W‘s.
The barely-underground militias that players encounter create an endless soundtrack of chaos and our open-world battles are often interrupted by well-wishers
A Far Cry from Other Far Cries…
The Origins-job that Ubi have done in editing out the series’ more tired and stale archetypal content is commendable. There are no puzzle radio towers used to defog the map or reveal places of interest. Instead, just being nearby or finding the relevant map does the job. The aforementioned break-up of the missions allows a player freedom of the map from the very beginning. Instead of holding a player back till they are strong enough to move on, players are encouraged to extend their range by making new friends and allies, unlocking new missions as they do so.
There are dozens of types of vehicles everywhere in Far Cry 5, players will never lack for transport options and this helps the free-roam aspect even more. Helicopters and aeroplanes are common to find and inexpensive to unlock.
Far Cry 5 sees the player with far greater support than other entries. The barely-underground militias that players encounter create an endless soundtrack of chaos and our open-world battles are often interrupted by well-wishers. The feeling of nigh-on civil war and state of emergency are tangible as a player experiences the Montana of FC5.
…But Not That Far
The mild RPG elements of the Far Cry series are still here as are liberal fast-travels, parachutes and stealth pretensions. A player will begin the game in a delicate state with tiny pockets and few discernible skills. By finding puzzle-platform ‘prepper stashes’ and completing missions, players can purchase perks to become moar 1337.
Most of the fan-favourites of the series remain – arrow play, hunting and a very healthy selection of kill flavours. There isn’t a lot added to these but the game didn’t really need to. These mechanics fit perfectly as they are into the Far Cry 5 experience.
Seed and his siblings feel justified in their brutal quest, deluded into believing they are a power of good
The influences for Far Cry 5‘s story are many, including the happenings at Waco and Jonestown and incidents between Johnny Law and local militias as seen in the Bundy standoff. The cult is a pseudo-Christian Sect called Eden’s Gate and use a complex mix of torture, drug addiction and brainwashing to recruit members.
Jospeh Seed is menacing in an understated way, far from the Bond-villainy of FC4 and graphic novel sinisterism of FC3. Seed’s cult speaks of a cleansing coming through God’s reckoning. They feel justified in their brutal quest, deluded into believing they are a power of good. This feeling of justification separates Eden’s Gate from the senseless ‘Lord of the Flies’ vibe that one got from previous FCs. In Far Cry 5, the wicked are thus for a reason rather then blindly and unrealistically following a madman.
Jacob’s encounters are boring and his map area is the least interesting to play around in
The sub-bosses aren’t just named NPCs with extra hit-points. Each one has a very distinct modus operandi and (for the most part) a meaningful existence in the story. The siblings humanise the evil with their conflicting reasons to exploit and be exploited by their brother’s regime.
John is a media-savvy lawyer using his position to gain political power while outwardly justifying the cult’s right to police themselves. John attempts to recruit by coercion; both religious and physical. His ‘police’ style is a juxtaposition to the far-right rhetoric evinced by his brother Jacob.
Faith uses narcotics to brainwash and depersonalise her subjects. This sometimes give her third of the game a zombie-rush feel with some heavy hallucinatory scenes. The Bliss is a white flower that grows everywhere in east Hope and standing in it will give players some difficulty in seeing at first. Later on, enemies will spawn and attack during these episodes, increasing in frequency and strength as the player gets closer to completing this section.
Jacob is battle-scarred and sees the earth as in need of a culling; drawing a dichotomy of weak and strong. Jacob’s take on his brother’s word is very literal, bringing his own reckoning wherever he goes. He is probably the weakest of the three characters from a gameplay standpoint. His encounters are boring and his map area is the least interesting to play around in.
Small Town Heroes
It would have been a mistake to cast the rural types of Montana as simpletons or semi-complicit bible-thumpers. A disservice to the complexities of human beings wherever they live and most likely annoying to listen to. Instead the sympathetic locals, while still stereotypical, show their positive personal qualities far more often than not. As quick to remind a player of their easy-going manner and generosity as their fierce belief in personal freedom in conjunction with a just code of law.
It’s easy for players to believe such people exist in the detailed and vast mini-Montana that Far Cry 5 takes place in. Each home, church and farm feels like the people nearby really live, pray or work there. Every single person seems to have something throwaway to say, just to add to the realistic chatter.
Big Eden Country
The map is incredible. Ubisoft obviously put great thought into balancing a realistic feel with a manageable scale. Hope County has enough space to feel roomy and open, like a player imagines the ‘Big Country’ in which the game takes place. But it doesn’t feel empty nor does it lack for detail or variety.
The architecture, art and style are harmonious and contiguous even though there is a marked change seen across the three areas. The pastoral plains of the west, the meadows of the east reclaimed by nature and the rugged wilderness of the north. Each zone modifies the theme to fit beautifully and players will gently notice their surroundings change. They find a paranoid man in a dream yurt across a river from a paranoid woman in a prepper’s cabin, knowing they have strayed.
the Father tells me that he thought God had a plan for him but he was wrong
A Double-Edged Sword
The narrative design has its limitations. The main-quest dialogues have either have a strange temporal vagueness to them or seem detached from the progress a player has made. Entire sections of exposition are worded as though the player is just beginning to make a dent on or close to nabbing Seed.
Most of the dialogue steers clear of contradiction. But on finishing a particular section a sub-boss tells me that I am acting out the Father’s plan perfectly and I don’t even know it. Within 60 seconds the Father tells me that he thought God had a plan but he was wrong. Was this a device to show the Father up as a charlatan or a quirk of interchangeable episodes? I am guessing the latter.
The bunker theme that is common in many main missions gets played out
A Single-Edged Sword
Far Cry 5 has several bugs strewn across it hefty run-time. Ranging from annoying to game-breaking, players will seldom play two hours without encountering one. There are several doors locked for missions that simply didn’t open when I signed up for the appropriate quest.
There were three sessions that had an audio glitch which left only the ambient forest sound audible. During an intense gun-battle in a bunker, the chirping of birds and the rustle of trees was an odd sound. This problem developed elsewhere but during this bunker-bound main-mission I was unwilling to reset the game and lose progress so this occasion stands out most.
I spawned in under the ground and fell into grey hell more than once. A helicopter did the same several times. An armoured mobile macguffin, ‘The Revelator’ was invisible. Clipping into a tree under ‘zombie’ melee attack happened quite often but can be remedied by a jump so it wasn’t fatal. Dozens of skulls were seemingly penetrated with lead to no ill effect. The list goes on.
Eventually I wondered about the many dozen cultists I had sent to their maker per hour of play and concluded that Seed has an infinite supply of cannon fodder
Intelligent Design (Sometimes)
Some of the main mission designs are uninspired, others seem to lack care and a few are just lazy. The bunker theme that is common to many of these gets played out. Add in bad enemy/environment mixes and a player will be truly sick of the post-apocalyptic dwellings by the end of Far Cry 5.
A particular problem is with heavies in these confined spaces. They can kill a player with two shots for a large portion of the game but need several headshots to take down. In a tight space with other enemies, it can be too easy to get pinned down and perish. Enemies seem to spawn in the most ridiculous spots so trying to apply a medkit during one of the game’s many, many zerg rushes is an unfair hazard in a largely fair game.
Sometimes there is little thought put into providing suitable weapons or enough ordnance for harder targets in crucial battles. Being caught after a checkpoint encumbered by a lack of appropriate ammo or grenades probably shouldn’t happen in a AAA title these days but it happened a few times in Far Cry 5.
Secure the Paragraph
While Far Cry 5 has its fair share of mission types and mechanics at its disposal, too many involve ‘securing an area’. An overused code for spawning a huge gun battle from nowhere to lengthen a side-quest.
Eventually I wondered about the many dozen cultists I had sent to their maker per hour of play and concluded that Seed has an infinite supply of cannon fodder. If he was that willing to send in 30 troopers for every leg of every side-quest, this can be the only explanation.
The editor is complex and hard to get into but offers players a huge range of options
Far Cry 5 features a robust map and mission editor under the misleading ‘arcade mode’ moniker. Players can take textures, objects, NPCs, objectives and many more assets from FC 3,4,5, Assassin’s Creed series and a few other Ubi hits. The editor is quite deep and hard to get into but offers players a huge range of options. A pseudo-random map and mission generator is available and currently offers double XP for your arcade character; presumably to get players in to rate their algorithims’ work.
FC5 also has a pre-made solo, co-op or PvP ‘arcade’ element for players who want something separate to the main game but are not willing to risk getting a map made by an idiot like me. Unfortunately, I was unable to get a PvP game of Far Cry 5‘s arcade mode. This, despite many streamers, reviewers and Amazon pre-orderers lining up for the arcade servers to go online (23rd March). I matchmade for minutes at a time and never managed to bag more than three of the five needed others to go.
A Far Try
From start to finish, Far Cry 5 doesn’t let a player lose sight of the mission. I never felt detached from the central story as I have done in other Ubi open-world titles. There is a sense of urgency in every person and place that stems from the excellent character and environmental design.
Despite limitations on the overhaul and some problems with the new narrative structure, Far Cry 5 is the fresh, interesting entry the franchise wanted. Fans of the series will appreciate the familiarities but bask in the new direction. Lapsed fans have many good reasons to come back while newcomers are probably experiencing the series at its very best.
Formats: Xbox One (reviewed on X1X) and PS4
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal, Ubisoft Toronto
Release Date: 27th March 2018
Age Rating: 16+
Review code provided by publisher