The world can be a dangerous place, and sometimes the dangers are closer than we think. Ubisoft’s Far Cry games have exposed us to a vast array of exotic locations (and time periods), forcing us to prove ourselves worthy of survival each time. The obstacles before us in Far Cry 5 are just as daunting, but the locale isn’t quite as exotic. In fact, it’s right here at home. Far Cry 3—arguably the most successful game in the series—laid the groundwork for the adventures coming after, with each switching up the setting and introducing its own basket of tweaks to the formula. The strengths of its foundation assures Far Cry 5’s quality, but this new installment falters in most of the areas from which it attempts to branch out.
The peaceful county of Hope, Montana hasn’t been as peaceful since it was taken over by a doomsday cult calling themselves the Project at Eden’s Gate. As a sheriff’s deputy, you and a small squad are sent into Hope County to arrest the cult’s leader, Father Joseph Seed. To no one’s surprise, things quickly go sideways, and you are left stranded in the backwoods of Montana with no choice but to help the local resistance dismantle the cult piece by piece.
Since Far Cry 3’s bone-chilling performance by it’s main antagonist, Vaas, the role of the villain has been an integral centerpiece around which the narrative of each Far Cry game has been built. The Father shoulders a similar responsibility, as he and his siblings terrorize the region in the name of “saving” its people from the coming apocalypse. Compared to previous villains, the Father is a little less erratic and unhinged. The passive condescension of his preachings can occasionally bleed over from sinister into obnoxious, but the new character direction is overall a welcomed change. The role is played well, and every now and then he will deliver a line that makes you want to genuinely step backward.
Playing opposite this antagonist, the player-created character—male or female—is called “Rookie,” “Rook,” or “Deputy” by the people of Hope County, due to their lack of an actual name. An even more important attribute than a name your character lacks is a voice, making Far Cry 5 the first game in the series (since Far Cry 2) to feature a silent protagonist. Silent protagonists are not inherently bad, but the character-focused narratives of Far Cry games have long benefited from the main character contributing their two cents; Far Cry 5’s deviation from this framework did not do it any favors.
There are a staggering number of characters vying for screen time in Far Cry 5. Some are serious, some are quirky, some well developed and some less so, but apart from a few exceptions, the connection these characters try to form with the player fall flat because of the lack of feedback. Every time the player character stares blankly at someone spilling their guts without a word in response, we are reminded that the protagonist is not a participant in this world, but merely a vehicle by which the player experiences it. The character is talked at, not conversed with, and the immersion is lost because of it. Without any feedback, the supporting cast is left to soliloquize on their own, turning many of them into caricatures attempting to sell the player on their one-dimensional personality before their allotted time runs out.
In addition to filling the void left by the protagonist’s muteness, a voiced character would have also helped the player navigate some of the story’s stranger plot elements. Perhaps they could have commented on the incessant number of times you get captured throughout the campaign, so the player isn’t left asking the redundant questions to themselves.
While the characters of Hope County can be hard to root for, the landscape itself is beautiful enough to warrant fighting back. Split into three regions—each controlled by one of the Father’s siblings—Hope County manages to amalgamate some reasonably distinct environments into a believable setting of rural America, rich with wildlife that seem to find the player inexplicably delicious. The county’s pine forests and farmlands don’t have quite the exotic impact of a deserted island or remote Himalayan mountain range, but the heavy layer of violence and oppression that hangs over the land is made that much more poignant by being areas players are likely familiar with.
Freeing Hope County from the cult’s grip involves taking out each of the Father’s siblings (aka Heralds) before facing the Father himself. To draw each out of their hidey-hole, the player must fill a Resistance meter in each Herald’s region by assisting the Resistance in pushing back against the cult. This goal is achieved by completing various story and side missions, as well as engaging in the series’ classic Outpost infiltrations. Alternatively, certain actions in the open world will also raise the meters, such as saving captured resistance members, destroying cult landmarks, or other acts of defiance. Filling up a meter ultimately results in confronting the Herald, but set milestones along the way will initiate various consequences for the player’s disobedience. Some of these consequences—like being hunted by attack planes—can be frustrating when you’re trying to focus on other things, but the spontaneous challenges definitely liven up a commute.
Mission objectives follow standard Far Cry fare, tasking players to drive to the farthest reaches of the map, blow something up, take out targets, and/or platform across precarious obstacles with some surprisingly good platforming for a first-person game. Objectives can get repetitive, but they’re dressed up by enough backstory and locale variation that they avoid getting stale. Virtually every mission in the game can be tackled solo or in online co-op, but considering it is only the host’s story that actually progresses, it is not something players will likely want to stick to through the whole campaign. Plus, outside of select vehicles, there is little in the game that tactically benefits from having a second player. Co-op may not serve much purpose in the name of progression or overcoming challenges, but the option is a success in the sense of just creating a fun playground in which to cause chaos with a friend.
Nearly every challenge can be completed by either blasting away at it or taking a more stealthy approach, and Far Cry 5 boasts a myriad of tools for either scenario. Far Cry has always been top of its class in terms of the popular stealth/combat dynamic, but the stealth this time around can prove to be more of a headache than it has previously. The system still features all the necessary mechanics, like enemy awareness indicators and intuitive line-of-sight parameters, but the enemies’ overly aggressive senses often render these tools less than effective.
The range at which enemies can see and hear disturbances in Far Cry 5 more often than not leave the player helpless to prevent them being triggered, not necessarily by the player themselves, but by the damage they’ve inflicted. For example, an arrow penetrating a head from three floors up or a body hidden behind barrels 30 meters away can be enough to agro hostiles, and combined with their erratic movement patterns, maintaining one’s stealth can often feel out of the player’s hands. Granted, finding bodies doesn’t raise alarms, and stealthily taking out enemies that are actively looking for you will still be considered “undetected,” but laboriously clearing a camp only to have your silent run undermined by some unavoidable nonsense can seriously kill one’s enthusiasm to bother with it.
The other side of this gameplay dynamic is combat, and fortunately, it is as strong as it has ever been. Far Cry games feature some of the most satisfying shooting mechanics in all of gaming, with armaments that pack a visceral punch and enemies that react accordingly. Complementing this is a top-tier cover system that intuitively transitions the player in and out of cover based on their proximity to an object. This allows them to pop-and-shoot or blind-fire from safety before seamlessly relocating when the situation demands. Aiming seems a little stiffer than it has in the past—not helped by a notable lack of complex controller options—but the aim assist on consoles is generous enough to compensate. The weapon selection is another facet not overburdened with complexity, but it manages to cover all the necessary bases, with some special treats thrown in like bows, flamethrowers, and two-handed melee weapons (a personal favorite). The series’ iconic fire physics are also back in full force, seemingly pulled outright from previous games. It would have been nice to see the physics evolve a bit, but there is still something vindictively pleasing about a single molotov cocktail burning half a forest to a crisp.
The player’s tactical support is not limited to what can be slung on their back. Far Cry 5’s most novel addition to the series formula is the Guns For Hire support system. These support characters take two forms: Specialists, characterized individuals that feature unique abilities who are unlocked through specific side quests, and Fighters, random NPCs that will fight by your side if you help them out in the open world. The impact of Guns For Hire is mainly up to the player, as their abilities can be useful but also easily ignored. It is generally beneficial to let them tag along even if you ignore their more complex functions, as the game’s inconsistent difficulty can spike randomly, and it is helpful to have someone else there to draw the fire. The downside to their presence is that they can disrupt the player’s stealth, throwing a wrench into a carefully planned infiltration. The Guns For Hire feature doesn’t flip the game on its head, nor does it feel like something that will transcend beyond this installment, but these characters’ involvement can make for some memorable moments.
It wouldn’t be Far Cry without the ability to upgrade, through which players can enhance both themselves and their support. Unlike previous games, Far Cry 5’s upgrades aren’t laid out as a skill tree, but rather as one general mass of skills that are free to unlock in any order (with a few rare exceptions). The currency by which players unlock these upgrades is equally unstructured, taking on the form of tokens that are either found in the world or acquired by completing simplistic gameplay challenges. This upgrade redesign is easily Far Cry 5’s most bizarre divergence from series norms. The upside to it is that players can feasibly max out all of their desired skills before even touching any of the game’s core content, leaving them free to enjoy those upgrades over most of the campaign—but this is at the cost of any meaningful progression.
Without distributing skills and upgrades in any consequential format, it offers little motivation to fully engage with the system. Skills are randomly clumped together, most notably being all of the series’ classic takedown moves that are locked into one single perk. When that one upgrade is purchased, there is no sense of accomplishment or anything more to look forward to. In previous games, depending on how you progressed, you could arrive at an obstacle for which there was a perk, but it was one you hadn’t unlocked yet. This would force you to creatively adapt, which could result in some of the best moments in the experience. Any obstacle in Far Cry 5 can be countered by finding a couple Prepper Stashes and unlocking the corresponding perk on a whim—that is, if a perk is even needed, as some obstacles (such as Heavy enemies) no longer even require skills to manage. Thus, progression feels like something that is handed to you rather than earned.
Beyond the shortcomings of the upgrade system, more than a few other issues can hamper the experience. Progress will undoubtedly be impeded at one point or another by the game’s AI, which often struggles to operate outside of its rigid script. In such a chaotic game, things regularly go awry, and if this happens in the general proximity of friendly AI, they can become repeatedly distracted from their duty, or sometimes stop being interactable at all. Their behavior can also be unpredictable to the point of senselessness, such as one character who kept running into fire before being revived just to do it again. There wasn’t anything game-breaking on my playthrough, but the AI problems, in addition to a variety of spawning issues, became exasperating after a while.
Far Cry 5 has qualities to admire and issues to fix, but its Far Cry Arcade feature may be its saving grace. The foundation of the Arcade is a map-editing tool which allows players to create their own single-player and cooperative missions with a huge amount of features and assets. Even more impressive than the missions is the Arcade’s potential to create competitive maps, meaning there is an entire multiplayer component that some players may not even be aware of. The layout and operation of the editing tools could arguably be a little more logical, but the options are deep enough that dedicated fans will be able to make some truly impressive arenas.
Particularly in the multiplayer, the Arcade provides opportunities for some truly anarchic nonsense, which can be hilariously entertaining if not taken too seriously. The game’s freedom to customize the mode layout, available weapons, and unique modifiers has resulted in a complete lack of coherent design in most creations currently on display—but that is the point of user-created content. Fortunately, a post-match rating system allows participants to critique each project, meaning quality content should eventually rise to the top. Goofing off may not be enough drive for some players to commit to a competitive multiplayer, but the Arcade offers money and upgrade points for ranking up in the mode, giving a quantitative value to the nonsense. The mode’s current outlook is good, with some impressively creative content already available, and how well this continues will play a major role in the game’s longevity.
Far Cry 5 doesn’t quite reach the standard set by some previous Far Cry games, but it is important to remember that most of the criticisms above are based on comparisons to some of the best open-world games out there. Far Cry 5 may be a dip for the series, but it’s a positive step for gaming as a whole, and even its ludicrous conclusion shouldn’t temper your desire to go back and explore what else it has to offer. And before you even ask, yes, there are more than a few Trump jokes in here.
|Publisher: Ubisoft • Developer: Ubisoft Reflections • ESRB: M – Mature • Release Date: 03.27.2018|
Far Cry 5 had much to live up to coming in under the shadow of previous games in the series. While it doesn’t quite reach the same level, it stays true to enough of its series staples that fans and newcomers alike should expect a good time.
|The Good||A beautiful world full of lunatics to shoot and satisfying weapons to shoot them with.|
|The Bad||There is nothing wrong with a conventional skill tree, and Far Cry 5’s attempt to mess with that was not wise.|
|The Ugly||The use of the phrase “Obama loving libtard.”|
|Far Cry 5 is available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. Primary version reviewed was for PS4. Review code was provided by Ubisoft for the benefit of this review. EGM reviews games on a scale of 1 to 10, with a 5.0 being average.|