In a series known for taking us to the most exotic corners of the world, Far Cry 5 asks players to survive its tribulations on more familiar lands. The United States of America will play host to the game’s wilderness playground, with specific focus on Hope County, Montana, which has fallen under the control of the Eden’s Gate doomsday cult. How our deputy sheriff protagonist found himself (or herself) embroiled in the domestic conflict has yet to be fully established, but Ubisoft’s new Gamescom 2017 demo showed me a small slice of what they’ll be facing. The demo expands on the previous E3 2017 demo, starting with the liberation of Fall’s End before leading me to a resistance mission, in which I had to take to the skies for some precision airstrikes and dogfighting. Far Cry 5 feels like a rational evolution for the series that seeks to honor the true Far Cry experience—with few apparent risks.
The attack on Fall’s End began by positioning me in front of a number of different route options. I could sneak down to the town and covertly dispatch hostiles one-by-one; I could climb the nearby water tower to take up a prime sniping position; I could flank around to the roof of a nearby department store sporting a massive mounted machine gun on top; or I could throw out all strategy and just start firing into the crowd.
This tactical choice is classic Far Cry practice, and any fans of the series’ combat decisions should feel right at home in Far Cry 5. I went with the stealth takedown option, which mainly involved creeping up on unsuspecting rednecks and cracking their heads open with a star-spangled baseball bat. The intuitive design of Far Cry’s stealth has always made for more easily-manipulated combat environments. If enemies have line of sight on you, they see you; if they don’t, they don’t. Combine this with the series’ uncomplicated awareness indicator, and I could effectively navigate the town, taking out nearly every enemy before the remaining patrols were any the wiser. With such a solid gameplay foundation, it is good to see Far Cry 5 do the franchise justice.
Aside from the aforementioned baseball bat, Far Cry 5’s weapon variety seems to be a fairly conventional Far Cry spread. Shotguns, assault rifles, and hand-held firearms were available to drop cultists by the wave, but the most interesting offensive tools at my disposal weren’t in my arsenal. When starting the demo, I was given the choice of three different support characters to join me in the fight, with more characters coming in the final game. The three on offer here were Nick Rye, who could provide tactical airstrikes; Grace Armstrong, who brought sniper cover; and Boomer the dog, who joined the fight on the ground.
While each character brought unique skills to the resistance, they were all activated the same way: a simple button press that marked the enemy I wanted targeted. Their effects, on the other hand, had varying benefits—Nick’s airstrike dealing damage to a large area, Grace’s sniper shots taking out key targets, and Boomer’s strategic maulings resupplying ammo that was ripped out of the enemy’s hands—and it will be interesting to see what other advantages alternate support characters bring to the experience. These characters seem to be one of the bigger innovations found in Far Cry 5. While the extent of their impact remains to be seen, they seem easy to ignore for anyone after more of a “pure” Far Cry adventure.
Once Fall’s End was free of the cult’s oppression, I was sent to Nick Rye’s hangar to clear out some hostiles and help in an aerial assault of cult resources. The plane I was given for the mission was surprisingly weaponized for a simple crop duster, equipped with machine guns, rocket launchers, and bombing capabilities. Aerial vehicles, while occasionally present, were never a major part of the Far Cry build. So, this killer crop duster could give players a whole new dimension of combat—while also serving as a quicker way to travel around the massive map. The air combat is simple in implementation, but it does the Far Cry formula well.
Far Cry 5 is relying more on popular convention than a drastic innovation of the series. In relation to previous games, it comes off much more in line with Far Cry 3 and Far Cry 4 than the curious trajectory of Far Cry Primal. The sequel boasts enough novelty to feel fresh, but it still stands close beside installments that have come before. While the lands of Far Cry 5 may not be as exotic as they were in the past, it’s still good to feel at home.