Far Cry 5 Review
Sony PlayStation 4Also available on PC and Microsoft Xbox One
Why do you play games? This is a question I’m often asked, to which my answer is always the same. Fun. I play games to simply have fun and escape the real-world and all its problems, even if for just a few hours. Unfortunately, too many titles are released every year, which, while boasting excellent storylines and gameplay, take themselves a little too seriously. Far Cry 5, despite its obvious political undertones, is just that, fun! It’s a rip-roaring blast from the first minute to the last, while still managing to take the franchise forward and retain the series’ best elements.
Set in the fictional Hope County, Montana, you take on the role of an unnamed Junior Deputy, who, along with fellow law enforcement, is tasked with arresting preacher Joseph Seed, the leader of a militaristic doomsday cult called the Eden’s Gate who have taken over the county to protect the people from an inevitable collapse. However, in reality, Joseph Seed, who assumes the title of “the Father”, is just a radical preacher who forcibly converts Hope County’s residents through coercion and violence. Naturally, the arrest doesn’t go as planned, and, while you escape, your colleagues are captured and trapped in Hope County by Joseph’s siblings known as the Heralds: Jacob, John and Faith. Your goal now is to work with the pockets of resistance found throughout the county to rescue your colleagues, take down Joseph and his siblings, and liberate the county from Eden’s Gate.
Joseph Seed, much like Pagan Min in Far Cry 4 and Vaas in Far Cry 3, is an eccentric villain who you’ll love to hate during the 6-8 hours of mainline story. He may not be as memorable as Pagan Min or Vaas were, but he’s excellently written, portrayed, and supported well by his siblings Jacob, John and Faith, who are again all brilliantly portrayed and developed throughout. Far Cry 5 boasts one of the strongest stories in the series, and it’s not as politically charged as it originally appeared to be, nor does it need to be - gaming should be about creating memorable experiences and having fun, not about making political statements! Yes, there were times when Far Cry 5 tried to have its cake and eat it with little nods to the current political landscape in America and the wider world, but for the most part, the story is pretty tame politically speaking.
In a first for the series, Far Cry 5 gives you the ability to customise your character, although the level of customisation is a little disappointing given the nature of the Far Cry series. What’s more, unless you die a lot, you’ll seldom see your character’s appearance, so it feels a little pointless.
Despite Far Cry 5’s story sticking to to the series’ tried-and-trusted formula - one person against an army and unimaginable odds - the way you progress through the story is different to its predecessors. Each region in Hope County is controlled by Jacob, John and Faith respectively, and in order to face Joseph you’ll need to liberate each region from the Heralds. This gives the game a more traditional level-based feel, with each Herald acting as a kind of mini-boss, although they’re not particularly challenging, a critique of the entire game; it’s laughably easy for the most part, even on harder difficulties.
Unlike previous Far Cry games which guided you around the open world through story missions, Far Cry 5 allows you to tackle each region in any order you want, meaning no two players are likely to experience the game the same way, and this means most of Hope County is available to you once you complete the prologue. There’s so much to see and do in Hope County, and you’ll need to do loads, as to defeat each Herald you’ll need to draw them out of hiding by accumulating resistance points given from completing side quests, freeing prisoners, destroying Eden Gate property, and liberating outposts, a fan favourite of the Far Cry series. Outposts can be completed in any order and however you’re comfortable, whether you’re a stealth master or a RPG expert! They can also be reset to do all over again if you want.
What’s more, unlike in previous games, Far Cry 5 does away with towers that reveal parts of the map. Instead, you’ll need to speak and forge relationships with citizens to unlock quests and places of importance to discover more of the map. The minimap from previous instalments has also been scrapped in favour of a navigation bar at the top of the screen, similar to the one used in Skyrim and Fallout 3 and 4. This small change is a masterstroke and encourages you to explore the spectacular landscape and actually appreciate it for what it is, rather than just a check-off list of locations - nothing really compares to that feeling of discovering a new area on your own, and diving in to find the secrets it is hiding.
Far Cry 5 sticks closely to its trusted gameplay mechanics, from the quests offered to the range of weapons available, and as a result, general gameplay is solid if a little unspectacular with little in the way of surprise. Guns and combat are still satisfyingly fun, but the game does little to set itself apart from its predecessors. Nevertheless, the crafting and upgrade systems are updated. Crafting items such as dynamite and Molotovs can be done on the item wheel after collecting the necessary parts/ingredients, while hunting animals returns, but their skins are no longer needed to upgrade weapons. One of the best improvements is the inclusion of a new challenge system that rewards you with perk points for simply playing the game and completing easy objectives like killing “X” number of enemies with certain weapons, and hunting certain animals. The challenges aren’t difficult and you’ll get most through normal gameplay, and the perks points awarded can be redeemed for skills such as health upgrades and other cool new abilities.
Hope County is a simply stunning game world that gave me similar feelings to that offered when seeing the Capital Wasteland in Fallout 3 for the first time. It may not be as exotic as the tropical island in Far Cry 3, or quite as striking as the Himalayas in Far Cry 4, and there were a few issues with texture popping and framerate drops, but on the whole, the American landscape has never looked so beautiful. It’s a simply stunning place to explore, backed by the gorgeous sounds of nature, and a hauntingly-chilling soundtrack of religious gospels and part American-country. I spent countless hours just wandering through this rugged landscape, taking in everything the developers crafted, while I also spent numerous hours on a boat or river bank casting my line in hope of beating my best fishing records. Fishing in Far Cry 5 is a minigame in itself, and hours of fun!
Traversing Hope County is a joy too, as unlike in previous instalments, Far Cry 5 boasts a wealth of planes, cars, trucks, helicopters available at a moment’s notice, and while vehicle controls are still a little on the twitchy side, vehicles are the best way of getting around. As your progress through the game, you’ll unlock docks, garages and hangers, allowing you buy, spawn and customise vehicles too to suit your styles, but again, customisation options feel unnecessarily limited.
Hope County can also be explored alone or in co-op either with online friends or through the Guns for Hire system. With this system, you can recruit locals to fight alongside you, or rescue and hire Specialists who each have their own unique personalities and traits to take advantage of. Playing with friends is a far more enjoyable experience as the AIs tended to have a mind of their own, often blowing stealth missions or needing to be revived every five minutes. In addition, there’s also a Fangs for Hire system previously used in Far Cry Primal which allows you to tame wildlife to fight alongside you.
Once you’ve completed the story and liberated Hope County, you can tackle Far Cry Arcade, an entirely new mode where you can play online in traditional multiplayer deathmatches, or build and play a endless selection of custom levels. The editing tools are extremely deep, and will require hours of practice to master. However, most of the levels available now are just a buggy mess with little or no substance, while the traditional multiplayer elements are just a bore and feel tagged on. In its current state, Far Cry Arcade is nothing more than a gimmick, but I expect the custom levels to improve dramatically over the coming weeks and months, and so will the experience.
While it may not be as revolutionary as Origins was for the Assassin’s Creed series, Far Cry 5 builds impressively on the solid gameplay elements which made the Far Cry series what it is today. Its story is serious and excellently written, while Hope County is a beautifully-crafted world that I can happily spend hundreds of hours in. There are a few shortcomings, noticeably the long loading screens, the poor and bland Arcade mode and the lack of proper character customisation, but overall, Far Cry 5 is a fun, rip-roaring open-world gaming experience that few in 2018 will surpass.