Far Cry 5 Review

April 18, 2018
Xbox One
Also on: PC, PS4
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Over the years Far Cry has brought us some of the tightest gunplay, married with some really fun open world busy work and excellent if frequently slightly bonkers single-player storylines. All of this has come complete with some truly memorable bad guys — Vaas, I’m looking at you, brother. As a result the Far Cry franchise is a bit of a juggernaut in terms of sales numbers and often thought of as one that tries to push the boundaries a little (sometimes a lot). With this iteration, early buzz hinted at there being a series of digs at Trump’s America and his supporters, providing some controversy courting political commentary, and it’s with a wry smile of disappointment that it doesn’t. Whilst there is indeed some hilariously amusing political humour, including the not too subtle ‘Make Hope County great again’ mission, Far Cry 5 is more about the deep south and a take on the evangelical cults which have come and gone over the years.  

You play as a voiceless protagonist commonly referred to as Deputy or Rook, thrown into the middle of a situation which sees a colleague trying to apprehend a cult leader, Joseph Seed in his home town —  home church, in fact. One could argue, in fact supporting characters do, that this isn’t the best plan given the cult is pretty much a militia equipped with all manner of military hardware — some might even question how they are indeed tooled up for extensive guerilla warfare but it’s a video game set in a country where you can buy an AR15 as easily as some Doritos and Diet coke in Walmart, so we can comfortably let that slide.

Joseph Seed means business

The adventure begins shortly after this botched arrest and you are thrown straight into Hope County with no backup, no way of getting help and with no cop entering the county for fear of this heavily armed cult — it’s time to grab a gun and take some names. As is standard with open world games these days, there is an awful lot of things to do. The reasonably large map is split up into three regions and after roughly an hour the whole thing opens up in a really nice way. Each region is held by one of the cult leader’s lieutenants and you have to accrue resistance points before triggering the mandatory missions to take them down. There are multiple stages to these and whilst some are interesting, they are actually the weakest content in the game — more on those later.

So the core of the Far Cry experience is all there for you: story missions, side missions, animal skinning, random organic encounters (with bears!), pepper stashes (effectively little puzzle rooms which reward you with money, ammo and perk magazines) along with companion missions and the always ridiculous, often frustrating flying and racing missions. To top off all of this mayhem is a spot of fishing, which is as you would think, completely calming and not at all in step with the rest of the game — that’s by the by though, sometimes to get away from it all as well as trying to score some more cash for an upgrade, it’s good to do a spot of fishing.

Don't shoot, let them burn

One of the best parts of Far Cry 5 is the way in which it allows you to organically progress through the areas. The removal of towers and high points which usually need to be scaled to unlock all the local activities are gone and Far Cry 5 tries something different with fantastic success. Simply moving from location to location is enjoyable, as you cut through bad guys, meet new people who give you juicy data, and locate notes found all over the different regions, Each note reveals new places and unlocking missions, keeping the feeling of progression completely organic and natural. This feeling of forging your own path helps greatly stave off that feeling that you are just playing another open world game and ‘creating your own adventure’ feels like less of a industry buzz phrase. This is no more evident than when you jump in to a friend’s game as Far Cry 5 can be played entirely in two-player co-op. Jumping in to a friend’s game and witnessing them go about their business in a completely different way to you really showcases the freedom the game gives you with its open structure. The only real negative to playing in co-op as ‘the friend’ is that you don’t progress your story alongside the main player so you are very much another hired gun, much like the companions found in the game.

As you battle through the regions you will be directed to a wealth of freedom fighters that can be recruited to fight at your side, along with some rather amusing companions. Two can be mapped to your D-Pad at any time and called in to assist if things get a little dicey. The beauty of the companions is that not only are the associated missions frequently hilarious with some fantastic stereotypical characters but, once acquired, their skill sets can be used to turn the tide of an engagement at ease. Watching a huge grizzly bear who listens to your every command tear apart a series of cultists all the while your buddy in the plane above is performing strafing runs on the rest of the cultist crew is fantastic and breaks the ‘one man army’ feeling that games of this nature instill.

As mentioned earlier, Far Cry 5 also takes a slightly different route to character upgrades through the use of perk magazines dotted around the world and found in numbers within the pepper stashes. The perk system is wide open from the beginning and as a result you can improve your character in ways which will benefit your play style and as with the aforementioned mission structure it helps further that feeling of freedom.

Single-player campaign aside Far Cry 5 has a new multiplayer mode to tempt you to keep playing even when you’ve completed the war with the Seeds, Far Cry Arcade. Sadly as far as multiplayer modes go, whilst on paper this might sound awesome, it is in fact really quite poor. User-generated content has been a stable of any online marketeer for the last ten years and here it’s pushed front and centre. Arcade allows users to create their own multiplayer experiences with a map maker, enabling users to create not only the arena in which battles take place but also the setup and scale of the battle. It also includes several maps and setups made by Ubisoft but the mode relies heavily on user-generated content and whilst many a forum-goer will think they are amazing at being a game level designer, it’s actually a really skilled job with balance being at its core. As a result what you find this early on in the product's life cycle are underdeveloped, poorly structured and optimised maps which we assume Ubisoft will be looking for the community to fix over time. As a result this mode, whilst heavily pushed in game, feels massively tacked on and literally left to the players to create and enjoy.

Fair to say this guy has seen better days

Far Cry 5 has a beautiful open world shown off in glorious native 4K with HDR utilising the Xbox One X and a capable TV, it really is a feast for the eyes with fantastic lighting and draw distances. The sumptuous visuals really enhance the feeling that you are running around a US state complete with bible-bashing rednecks that need to be taught some manners, rather than some randomly generated map full of NPCs.

As gorgeous and open as Far Cry 5 is with its frequent over-the-top combat and wealth of activities to partake in, fatigue is a word often thrown around with games of this ilk. Despite Ubisoft’s efforts, throwing in not one but four batshit crazy hardcore religious cult figures to take down and a reasonably interesting initial premise, Far Cry 5 isn’t immune from this. Fair to say actually that the decision to go from the usual single unhinged bad guy to four doesn’t improve the situation, it dilutes it and the forced boss encounters (literally forced as you can be captured to take part in one while flying a plane, go figure) are too easy and aside from some decent one-liners, devoid of any real sense of danger or fun. A full playthrough experiencing everything the game has to offer will take you up to fifty hours and it’s unfortunate that whilst the opening is fantastic, quickly followed by the really impressive organic way in which you tackle the open world and its many delights, by the time you reach the third area fatigue will begin to creep in. This isn’t to say that the game is a bad one, far from it, but it definitely feels like it runs out of steam just when it needs to hit a crescendo.

Frequently stunning on the eyes, often adrenaline-filled and continuously bonkers, Far Cry 5 will delight right up until the point that it can’t any more. A fantastic premise which ends up playing it fairly safe given the way America is today, along with arguably too many key characters to keep track of (and kill) just cannot be saved by the sumptuous fun gunplay and the outstanding graphics. Far Cry 5 does a lot of things really well, providing an awful lot of game for the asking price, but it’s not quite as fantastic after many hours of play.

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Far Cry 5 is gorgeous, fun and at times a little bonkers, but sadly not immune from the open world fatigue that often creeps into titles in the genre.
Andrew Phillips

I've been playing video games for 25 years, own all consoles and have no affinity to any specific brand - I go where the games are.

Frequently described by gaming buddies as the Leeroy Jenkins of the group - no regrets.