What do a tropical island, a lush jungle, the Himalayan Mountains, Africa and 10,000 BC all have in common? They make up the majority of the locations that Ubisoft has visited and shot up with its globe trotting Far Cry franchise. That is, the one that turns idyllic places into the vacation from hell, or at least did until now.
With its latest entry, Far Cry 5, the series has ‘come home.’
Instead of going with another exotic setting, Ubisoft’s Montreal and Toronto studios decided to do something different this time around. The result is a game that is grounded in its North American location, that being a digitized and very interactive take on the backwoods of Montana. Fictional Hope County, to be exact.
It’s in this once peaceful hunter’s paradise that a seemingly deranged cult has taken root and assumed the name ‘Project at Eden’s Gate.’ Their leader, one Joseph Seed (who just so happens to look like a crazy, man bun wearing version of Bradley Cooper) says that the end of times are coming, as every cult leader does, and has urged his devoted flock to prepare for them. To this extent, they’ve built compounds and armed them well, while also doing whatever needs to be done to force the locals to join. Here, anything goes, including drugging, kidnapping and breaking people with messed up trials and cult propaganda.
A former foster child who suffered abuse and torture at the hands of his ‘parents,’ Joseph believes that he is saving people from the upcoming Collapse. That is, the end of the world. Thus, he doesn’t see anything wrong with the tactics he, or his family members, happen to employ. Acquiring land, overtaking businesses and brainwashing people into joining is a good thing, you see, because it will potentially save their souls when the end of times come, and will also help bolster Project at Eden’s Gate’s chances.
It all sounds like hogwash, but is it? Is Joseph Seed truly mad? You’ll come to find out, and will get up close and personal with not only the man himself, but also what his beliefs have accomplished. All of this while attempting to stop him and working your way towards one of the game’s three endings, two of which are choice based. The other is simply part of a neat little Easter Egg that the developers hidden inside of their game.
Hope County, you see, is separated into three different regions, or provinces if you prefer that term. There’s the Whitetail Mountains, where former war veteran, Jacob Seed, culls the flock through violence, murderous trials and an armed militia. Next is the Henbane River, where Faith, the 26 year-old ‘Sister,’ uses a special flower and its hallucinogenic properties to both control and assimilate people into the cult, while also creating powerful ‘angels’ through some sort of chemical modification. Last up is John Seed, another of Joseph’s brothers, who controls the Holland Valley, where small towns and farms dot the landscape. There, he uses violence and intimidation to break people, and also carries out an unhealthy obsession with the Seven Deadly Sins by forcing people to confront their sins before etching or tattooing them onto their bodies.
Then again, Joseph isn’t innocent when it comes to this practice. His body is covered with traditional tattoos that are also flanked by crudely etched sins that have been cut into his skin through bladed means.
Each province is treated as its own region, meaning that it has its own missions, side quests and collectibles to damage. Aiding the people who either reside or resist within each will then unlock resistance points that accumulate upon three separate meters (one for each area). These meters, which fill as you complete resistance missions and side quests, kill powerful enemies (like angels) or destroy cult property (explosive silos, speakers that manipulate wolves and statues), lead you towards confrontations with these three underbosses. They all happen to bear three distinct dots, too, with the first two acting as progress markers.
When you fill a meter towards its first dot, what you’re essentially doing is pissing off the local herald, be it John, Faith or Jacob. Upon reaching it, your radio will then come to life with that leader’s taunting vocals, as well as the news that they’ve sent out a hunting party or something like it. Shortly afterwards, you’ll be hit with an arrow, knocked out or drugged, and will then awake inside of a bunker, or inside of Faith’s feverish Bliss. That is, a hallucinatory realm that eschews day-to-day life for drugged peace and forgotten responsibilities, but is in no way real. Therein, you’ll partake in violent trials for Jacob, experience fever dreams with Faith and try not to confess your sins to John.
Although many of Far Cry 5‘s quests are called story missions, it’s these that really push the cult’s story forward, by letting you get up close and personal with its major players. You’ll meet each one two or three times as you attempt to liberate their regions, and will eventually have to square off once their meter has been filled. This triggers solid, but very crazed boss battles that don’t always take place on land or within reality.
The aforementioned story begins strongly, with a raid on Joseph’s main compound that goes very, very wrong. It then introduces players and their silent, but customizable deputy to the world and those who control its natural amenities. After that, folks are left to their own devices as they choose who to deal with first, or perhaps make the decision to just fool around within Far Cry 5‘s massive world. There’s certainly lots to do, including hunting, fishing and adrenaline-fueled racing trials that are meant to pay homage to a fictional, Evil Knievel type of fellow named Clutch Nixon. Those balls to the wall, arcade racing challenges are easily one of the best parts of this game.
Needless to say, this is a story that hits home for North Americans and is awfully fitting for this tumultuous time. The narrative hits upon false leaders, corruption and not being able to trust those in power, and clearly has messages it wishes to share. Ones that factor in who the current President of the United States is, and sometimes humorously poke fun at him through special missions. One such quest involves Hurk Sr. and his plans to run for senate, and goes by the name of ‘Make Hope Great Again.’
That said, what’s disappointing is that Far Cry 5 never takes full advantage of its messed up, but grounded in reality, storyline. It has good characters, including the aforementioned heralds (of which Faith is the best), but it never takes a big enough leap. Thus, the story is simply good and disturbing, as opposed to being great and unforgettable. This is disappointing because the developers could’ve gone further, and had both the premise and major players to do so. However, we simply don’t see the heralds enough, or get to interact with them as much as we should. This lack of depth hurts the game, too, because even though its gameplay is very good, the credits make you feel as if there should’ve been more to the story.
This is Far Cry, though, and that means that amidst all of the craziness that comes with the cult and its leader (who’s more grounded than Vaas and Pagan Min, but still disturbing and effective), there’s lots of humour to be found. This isn’t limited to Hurk and his father, either, as certain missions will have you stopping an alien invasion and collecting the enlarged balls of mating bulls. The latter is, of course, accomplished by killing a bull as he’s deep inside of a cow, then cutting off his testicles, which are then taken to a chef at a local testie festival.
No, I’m not making this shit up.
Amidst all of the serious undertones lays lots of humour, and Far Cry 5‘s gameplay supports this. Its world truly is an open world sandbox, where one can drive, fly (planes, helicopters), soar (wingsuit, parachute) and destroy at will. There are outposts to clear, challenges to complete and guns for hire to team up with. Hurk is one of these fellows, but he’s just one of 9. Then again, he’s easily one of the best, thanks to some rather funny dialogue and a heat seeking rocket launcher that can really turn the tide of a battle.
Joining Hurk Jr. are a mini-gun toting helicopter pilot, a float plane pilot whose winged vehicle comes equipped with bullets and bombs, and Hurk’s flamethrower carrying cousin, Sharky. They’re flanked by Cheeseburger, a diabetic bear who hates just about everyone; Peaches, a dangerous cougar that one can befriend with food; Boomer, the dog, who kills enemies and carries their guns back to the player; Grace Armstrong, the military style sniper and Jess Black, the silent huntress who carries a lethal crossbow. All nine of these badasses can be unlocked and called upon at will, so long as they haven’t been killed in battle, at which point one must wait to regain their services. You’ll have to complete a mission or two before they’ll help you, but that’s a given.
The aforementioned guns (and fangs) for hire really add to Far Cry 5, by making it more fun. Sure, they also make things less challenging at times, but it’s nice to be able to ask for help when you’re swarmed by a ton of enemies. Nick Rye’s bombing runs are especially helpful, as are Hurk’s rockets and the animals’ complete lack of fear. Their A.I. is also generally good, and is devoid of any major issues. It’s not always perfect, but there’s little to complain about.
Some of Hope County’s residents can also be hired upon rescue. These are regular people who’ve been forced to take up arms, and have no qualms about giving the Peggies (as they’re called) their due. You’ll find many of these folks throughout Montana, as you walk and drive your way across its massive landscape. They’ll be tied up, handcuffed and/or facing execution at the hands of a cultist. Their services do not come free, however, as they’ll require one of your (up to) two available guns for hire slots. I only ever had one, myself, because the second one is locked behind a perk or something.
Unlike those in other open world shooters, Far Cry 5‘s perk system does not rely on player levels or dole out a lot of points for completed missions. Most of the game’s fifty-odd perks, which come in several different varieties, are unlocked through points that you earn for completing challenges relating to how many kills you’ve gotten with certain weapons, how many enemies each gun for hire has killed and how many of each individual animal you’ve hunted and skinned. Thus, not only are skins one of your main ways of earning money (to buy ammo, med kits, weapons, clothing and vehicles with), they also help you upgrade your character’s skills.
Perks can increase your ammunition capacity or unlock special, armor piercing bullets. They can do much more, though, including lessening the amount of time each gun for hire takes to recover, increasing your health, or decreasing the amount of damage that animal attacks cause. Hell, the game’s parachute and wingsuit are even locked behind perks.
Some perks can also increase the amount of skins you collect from hunted (or run over) animals, as well as the number of flowers you’ll earn for picking one of the game’s several different varieties, be it mustard or something else. These flowers can then be turned into enhancements that bolster your melee damage, up your armor, or display all enemies for a set amount of time. Gone is the old and familiar system that involved picking colour coded plants for use in crafting health syringes and other such potions, and in its place is this system, with its med kits, timed buffs and explosives crafting. It’s a change, for sure, and I must admit that I miss the old system, which allowed me to hoard plants for use in creating my own health syringes.
All of these described gameplay elements combine to create a very fun, fluid and accessible game, which boasts great gunplay and beautiful visuals. Far Cry 5 truly is both a treat and a blast to play, and is easy to get lost in for hours at a time. It’s not difficult to get sidetracked, either, as there’s tons to do, including the hunting and fly fishing that I mentioned above.
Things are not perfect, though, because this game has a couple of minor but frustrating problems, including an overabundance of enemy vehicles. While the developers toned down the amount of animal attacks one will experience, they didn’t do much pertaining to how often you’ll encounter enemies along the roadways. It is true that these patrols greatly decrease once a province has been liberated, but prior to that it’s not uncommon to encounter a truck-based or aerial patrol every 20 to 30 seconds. Unfortunately, driving a Project at Eden’s Gate vehicle isn’t the answer, because you’ll be detected in seconds, as if the vehicle you’re driving is adorned with a sign declaring your identity.
Things can also get kind of repetitive after a while, but that’s always been a bit of a problem with this type of game. There may be lots to do, but the majority of the missions boil down to shooting at enemies, blowing shit up and doing whatever one can to survive encounters with multiple enemies. It is what it is, and we can’t fault Ubisoft for this too much. They’ve done a lot to add variety, and have created what is the biggest and most diverse Far Cry game yet.
I just wish that animal attacks wouldn’t occur during dialogue, causing NPCs to run and cower mid-sentence.
Another downside comes in the form of unnecessary microtransactions, though the good news is that these are very easy to avoid. Ubisoft sells silver bars that can increase one’s in-game currency, and does so at a surprisingly high premium. You can then use these to purchase new clothing items and outfits, as well as one of many different vehicles and weapons. I don’t know why you’d want to, though, because the core game offers more than enough options and it’s not terribly difficult to find enough money to buy what you want through normal means. Plus, you almost never see your character, so why do outfits even matter? This is a first-person shooter, after all.
On the presentation side of things, Far Cry 5 is an almost always beautiful and great sounding affair. Outside of a couple of small bugs (like when Peaches got stuck in a door), it almost always ran like a dream on our Xbox One X and was a blast to play from start to finish. The game’s lighting system is impressive and realistic, its world is stunningly lifelike and the sheer size of its landmass is almost overwhelming. What’s most impressive, though, is that throughout all of this, it doesn’t really buckle. I can’t remember any sequences where the frame rate became an issue, despite many firefights involving multiple enemies, regular explosions and occasionally random animal attacks.
The voice acting is also very, very good, and the writing is up there, too. Far Cry 5 may not win any literary awards, but it’s another step forward for the first-person shooter genre and gaming as a whole. The sound effects are very much at the same level, and there’s also a good amount of licensed music to be found, including ‘Barracuda’ (Heart), ‘Get Free’ (The Vines), ‘Slow Ride’ (Foghat), and two songs from both CCR and Greta Van Fleet. This music will occasionally be used during missions, in a fitting way that really amps up the experience, and outside of that you won’t hear a lot of it unless you want to. Why is that? Well, radios are mostly limited to vehicles and most of the cultists’ cars are set to their own gospel station. If you want to, you can change it to licensed music, though doing so may affect your immersion.
I know that this review is getting long in the tooth, but there’s just so much to talk about with Far Cry 5. Not only does it offer a very robust single player/co-op campaign that took me a good 27 hours to finish, but it also features an Arcade mode that can be accessed through both in-game cabinets and the pause menu. Dubbed ‘Far Cry Arcade,’ it incorporates a pretty robust map and challenge editor, which allows for tons of fan made content in the form of single player and co-op missions, not to mention user generated multiplayer maps. Thus, few deathmatches and team deathmatches (between 12 total people) end up being the same, thanks to a large assortment of maps that will continue to grow. Some are much better than others, though, and the multiplayer isn’t exactly up to par with the campaign. It’s decent fun, but it currently suffers from a weird issue that removes the tags and indicators above certain players’ heads and makes it unclear as to whether they’re friend or foe.
At the end of the day, Far Cry 5 is a major success. It’s the most grounded and realistic of the series’ iterations, and arguably the best overall. While it has some issues, most of them are small and won’t negatively affect one’s experience much. Thus, those with interest should have no qualms about purchasing what will likely end up being one of the best games of 2018 once all is said and done.
*This review is based on the Xbox One version of the game. We were provided with code.*
- A massive open world, with lots to do
- Very sound, mechanically
- Looks beautiful, sounds great and performs very well
- Can get repetitive
- The story isn't as deep as it could've been
- You don't encounter the heralds enough