Release Date: Out Now
Format(s): PlayStation 4 (Reviewed), Xbox One, PC
We’ve seen some Ubisoft franchises essentially re-invent themselves over the last few years, with Rainbow Six Siege, Ghost Recon Wildlands, and to some extent Assassin’s Creed Origins offering completely fresh takes on their tried and tested formulas.
The same can’t be said for Far Cry 5 though, but that’s not a bad thing – you’ve still got a fantastically varied open-world, excellent missions that are action-packed, and a story full of memorable and insane characters. There’s an undeniable sense of familiarity to the game, but does it really matter when you’re having so much fun?
Far Cry 5 sends you to Hope County – a picturesque American countryside setting that’s been taken over by a Doomsday Cult known as Eden’s Gate, led by the villainous Joseph Seed (more commonly known as ‘The Father’ to his followers) and his family. You take on the role of a Deputy (you can customise your own character this time around) who, following a disastrous and somewhat haunting attempt to detain Joseph by the authorities, finds themselves in the middle of a war between the cult and a local resistance group. It’s up to you to rally the resistance and help lead it in the battle to bring freedom back to Hope County.
It’s been a common theme in the Far Cry series for the antagonists to take the starring role in the narrative, and it’s the same case here – Joseph Seed is just as insane and deadly as previous Far Cry villains, with his perilous and fanatical mind-set making for some truly menacing scenes in-game. He isn’t a villain who’s over-the-top in his self-indulgence or out to simply reap destruction upon the world, but one that truly believes that what he is saying is the truth and that everyone around him should follow him.
Whilst Joseph is the star though, his family also make their presence known throughout. Each encounter with John, Jacob, and Faith is a memorable one, and you genuinely never know what to expect from them. My personal favourite would probably have to be Faith, who gives off this sense of kindness to those around her, but is actually just as vile as ‘The Father’ himself. Plus, her scenes are pretty creepy, with her sudden appearances and hallucinations catching me off-guard on more than a few occasions.
Far Cry 5’s core gameplay sees you working across three different regions of Hope County, all whilst building up resistance points in order to take down the lieutenant of that area. You earn resistance points by destroying enemy vehicles and outposts, rescuing resistance hostages, or by completing the myriad of missions that are littered around. Be warned though – as your resistance points build up, so do the forces that the Seed family send your way. You’ll have roadblocks put in place, hit-groups out to get you, and even planes looking to spot you and gun you down from the air.
You’ll also start to unlock additional story missions that always kick off in a unique way. It might be a case of John sending a sniper out to hit you with a tranquiliser dart, or Faith hauntingly appearing in the middle of nowhere and trapping you in a disorientated bliss nightmare. Whatever situation you find yourself in, it always results in an entertaining story mission – complete them all and you’ll wipe out that lieutenant for good and liberate that area of Hope County, which eventually builds up to a showdown with ‘The Father’ himself.
You can approach the game however you please, with each region open to you from the get go. You can slowly dwindle each lieutenant’s forces over time, or you can focus on taking them down one at a time – it really is up to you. Alternatively, you could focus primarily on exploring the world and clearing outposts, finding collectibles, or simply investigating each landmark. Whilst the forest-filled aesthetic of Hope County can be guilty of looking a little familiar throughout, it’s full to the brim with unique locales that not only tie in well with the American setting, but also tell little stories of their own. Sometimes it’s a case of finding survivors and helping them out, but there are also a few abandoned houses that are inhabited only by the blood-filled remains of a cruel showdown with the Seeds…
Whilst out exploring, you can also hunt animals and skin them for cash or even partake in a spot of fishing. The fishing in particular almost adds a peaceful touch to the game – your surroundings are absolutely stunning, so sitting down and enjoying these moments of peace added a vibe of tranquillity to the game. Of course, it quickly goes away when a big bear or a jaguar attacks you…
There’s absolutely plenty of wildlife to be found scattered across Hope County, but they all help the environment feel more alive and lived in. You’ll even find them useful at times too, especially when a rabid cow tramples some enemies that are hunting you down (honestly, it was one of the funniest things I encountered in the game).
You’ll be armed to the teeth when exploring Hope County, with Far Cry 5 offering a huge range of weaponry and vehicles for the player to toy around with. As expected with the series, the shooting feels great and is incredibly refined, whilst the selection of weapons allows you to take whatever approach you like to the game. Want to stealthily take down everyone in an outpost without ever being seen? Go in with the bow and arrow, or snipe from afar. Want to go guns blazing and let everyone know what you’re all about? Unleash hell with a rocket launcher. There are simply so many ways to play the game and with all the weapons readily available and upgraded for a low-price in-game, you’ll never find yourself wanting as far as your armoury is concerned.
The vehicles are just as fun to play around with though, with plenty of land, sea, and air options available for the player. I’ll be honest and admit that most of my time was spent navigating the skies in my gun-mounted helicopter (the land is so huge that it’s the best option), but I also spent a good amount of time in a boat and even zipping through trees on a quad. Best of all, once you’ve bought or earned a vehicle in-game, they’re easily accessed – all of the different hubs of the game have a variety of vehicle options which you can simply call upon with minimal fuss, whether it’s a World War-inspired plane, a stuntman’s car, or even a huge truck that’s mounted with guns.
It’s probably worth mentioning that there are micro-transactions in the game that allow you to purchase silver bars to obtain vehicles and weapons, but I never felt the need to buy them. They don’t affect the gameplay, and everything can be bought with the in-game currency anyway. Still, they’re present, and I know that leaves a sour taste in some gamers’ mouths.
Whilst the Far Cry series has always been known to arm you to the teeth and offer insane showdowns with enemies, it’s also been known to ramp up the silliness. Far Cry 5 is exactly the same, with plenty of zany missions and challenges on offer throughout. It might be a case of completing the heavily-Americanised stunt challenges (that are a lot of fun, might I add) or even finding bull testicles for a food festival. Yep, you read that right – one mission sees you grabbing bull testicles by killing them when they’re in the middle of mating, all whilst Marvin Gaye’s ‘Sexual Healing’ plays in the background.
The silly side of the series is something I’ve always appreciated, and it certainly brought a grin to my face here. It could feel a little out of place with the overall tone of the game though – whilst previous Far Cry games have embraced zaniness with open arms, they’ve never touched upon narrative subjects or themes that felt as mature. Sure, they’ve been dark, but Far Cry 5 is undoubtedly the most serious entry in the series so far, so it could be argued that finding bull testicles or helping a wacky scientist with his experiments is a little bit too ‘out there’ for the game. In honesty though, you won’t find me complaining – it wouldn’t be Far Cry if it wasn’t a little bit wacky, right?
You don’t have to adventure alone in Hope County, with Far Cry 5 allowing you to take AI comrades with you as you take on Eden’s Gate. These fighters are typically encountered when liberating a cult outpost and there are plenty of them to find, so you’ll never be lonely in the game. Their abilities continually improve too, so they can actually prove useful. Of course, they also have their moments where they frustrate – I lost count of how many times they blocked my path, stole my helicopter to take on enemies (!), or gave away my position during a stealthy attack. Luckily, the game has multiplayer with the entirety of it playable with a friend, so you don’t always have to deal with the slightly unbalanced AI.
Far Cry 5 introduces more specialist companions you can call upon in combat though, with the ‘Guns for Hire’ (or ‘Fangs for Hire’ in some cases) offering a very welcome assist during the heat of battle. There are nine characters in the game who offer you a mission – complete it and show your commitment to them, and they’ll reward you by offering their services in-game.
They’re a colourful bunch and each offers something unique – it might be a long-range stealthy assist, the killing of enemies via flamethrower, some air support, or even just the marking of targets. Some are just nice to have by your side mind, such as Boomer the dog or Peaches the cougar. Whoever you call upon, they’ll always provide a great assist and add an extra bit of personality to each showdown.
You’ve always been able to improve your abilities and stats in the Far Cry series through various skill trees, though Far Cry 5 simplifies it a bit with its perks. Previously, you might have had to have the right items in order to upgrade different aspects of your character, but this time around as long as you have the required amount of perk points your fine. They offer you additional skills, improved stats such as extra health, the ability to carry more weapons or items, or even allow you to improve the ‘Guns for Hire’.
You can earn perk points naturally by completing missions, but you can also obtain them by finding the many perk magazines that are hidden in plain sight across the locales you visit. However, the best stashes of perk points are found by finding special hidden loot caches. There’s always a little clue as to where these caches are, but they each challenge you in different ways – it might be a case of climbing through treetops or up a mountain, battling through an enemy-filled mine, pulling off a perfect shot from distance on a locked door, or simply solving puzzles to empty a flooded bunker. There are tons to find that each make the player think a little outside of the box, but they’re always satisfying to reach. I spent a ton of time hunting them all down across Hope County, but it was certainly worth it.
Whilst the Far Cry series isn’t really known as being prolifically difficult, Far Cry 5 could still feel a little bit too easy at times. It tries to balance out offering a challenge to the player whilst making them feel like an action-hero, but too often I got through missions with minimal fuss. Sure, some of the more confined areas offer genuinely testing encounters, but as soon as you were out in the cover-filled open areas it could get a little bit too easy. Add to that the fact that you’ve got the likes of gun-mounted helicopters that are freely available throughout, and you’ll quickly find that any real challenge with the game is alleviated fast. It doesn’t stop it being satisfying to play by any means (I mean, who doesn’t like bossing their enemies, right?), but it still would’ve been nice to feel like my enemies had a chance when taking them on.
Outside of the main game, Far Cry 5 also comes with the ‘Far Cry Arcade’: a separate mode which allows you to create and share your own levels using assets from previous entries in the series and even other Ubisoft IPs. You can play through these levels in co-op or competitive action, and with the freedom to create your own levels there’s essentially infinite possibilities in what you can do.
It’s a lot of fun and I can definitely see it being a mode that those with a creative itch could spend hours toying around with. There’s a lot of freedom given to the player in what they can create, whilst the search options allow you to find a myriad of creations readily available to challenge yourself with. It really compliments the zany and action-packed style of the Far Cry series as a whole, and I can easily see myself coming back to Far Cry Arcade for some time – well, at least until the upcoming DLC launches, anyway…
Whilst Far Cry 5 does a ton of things right, it does have one ‘flaw’: it plays exactly the same as any other entry in the series, with just the setting and a few minor gameplay mechanics seeing changes. This is something that’s been touched upon a lot in gaming communities, and there’s simply no denying that series veterans will feel a sense of familiarity when playing the game. Why fix what isn’t broken, though? Whilst the gunplay, vehicles, and missions haven’t really evolved over the years, they’re still a hell of a lot of fun and provide hours upon hours of entertainment. It’s something I personally haven’t tired of throughout the series and provided Ubisoft maintain the high quality production value of the series, I don’t see any need for it to change in future entries either.