Far Cry has become somewhat of a yearly expectation; a franchise favorite that always seems to sell well, despite players knowing what they’re going to get for the most part. Maybe it’s this consistency that keeps us coming back or maybe it’s the slight tweaks and improvements from title-to-title that makes this nearly yearly release worth it. Far Cry 5 aims to continue the growth and make its mark with the “larger than life” villains that have made Far Cry such a compelling franchise to watch year in and year out. There was somewhat of a break between Far Cry 4 and 5, however with primal landing in between the two mainstays, Ubisoft had a promote the latest title a little bit differently than the previous titles. The concept is a bit more extreme, the location a bit more close to home for some, and the concept a bit more on the nose than usual. Does Far Cry 5 deliver on quintessential Far Cry experience and still expand on the original premise, or is it just a game where you’re killing some simple Montana folk?
Far Cry 5 starts out pretty similarly to what we’ve come to expect from the series, the silent protagonist who find themselves in an isolated area, forced to fight for not only their lives but the lives of loved ones. There is a bit more player customization this time around, with the option to pick basic cosmetic options like sex, skin tone, hair and clothing the players are given a bit more control. Character customization doesn’t have much of an impact. The customization choices don’t seem to play any role in the single-player portions of the game and are just options to help players stand out a bit more in multiplayer.
The campaign for Far Cry 5 is presented a bit differently this time around. Ubisoft certainly put in the effort to decentralize their quest systems and relied much more heavily on exploration and communicating with the NPCs scattered rather densely around rural Montana. To make the gaming experience feel a bit more natural, Ubisoft has removed the requirement to climb towers as we saw in Far Cry 3 and 4 and eventually became a very repetitive experience. In a somewhat ironic turn, however, the game still feels like it’s following the “Ubisoft recipe,” the exploration didn’t necessarily feel like a Far Cry game at the start, but it did do a great job at reminding me of another recent Ubisoft title, Assassin’s Creed Origin. Both games seemed to want to crack the exploration mold a bit, and they ended up doing so in a way that’s very familiar to one another.
Questing in Far Cry 5 does feel more natural as the players expand. There’s also a refreshing collection of things to do that aren’t connected to the primary quest lines. Clutch Nixon, a local Dare Devil, has set various stunts records and timed races for players to get through that are both satisfying as well as frustrating as all holy shit. The fishing mini-game is also a lovely way to unwind and relax with the game or just a calming filler in between missions. It’s a well-executed change of pace that adds a nice flow to the game that isn’t in another Far Cry game. While fishing is a mini-game, there’s quite a bit to do with it, and it can easily keep a player occupied for hours on and off during a play-through. It’s possible to fight a massive fish for 8 to 10 minutes, reeling them in, only to nearly snap your line and have to give it some slack, which allows the fish to put some distance between the two of you. Sometimes the only way you’re going to catch the fish is to tire them out. Similarly, there are also hunting quests that the player is sent out. While fishing, death-defying stunts, and a carefully executing hunting excursion are a welcome break to capturing outposts and playing missions, not all of them seem to hit their mark. A lot of side quests don’t seem to fit, not really; for the lack of a better term. The story of a cult leader running amuck in Montana is a fairly serious topic, yet a lot of the side quests seem to do their best to detract from this. Hurk senior for instance, is a mouthy hillbilly who is running for local political office and uses the player to, let’s say pack the ballot box. These missions don’t add much lore to the world and other than giving you access to our old friend, Hurk Jr. there’s not much to offer. Not all of the side quests feel out of place, but you’re likely to find a couple throughout the game that doesn’t feel like they fit the experience that Ubisoft tried to craft. While this was likely a conscious decision during development, these kinds of quests that feel like they’re trying to break the tension just don’t hit the mark and has a tendency to feel forced and in some cases, insulting.
The main quest is quite engaging, the villains the player has to deal with are all charismatic in their ways. The Father, Joseph Seed is a fascinating character who sets himself apart from the stand-out cast of villains like Vaas and Pagan Minh from previous entries in the series, where these characters have a menacing presence to them. Father Seed, however, has a twisted warmth to him that we’ve not seen in a Far Cry game before, as a character he very quickly identifies as a fatherly figure, both in a literal and more figurative, religious sense of the word. Joseph Seed very much plays the role of the disapproving father for our protagonist. There’s a lot of mystery that seems to surround the man and his family that’s kept vague. Unfortunately, a lot of the mysteries surrounding Father Seed are just not addressed beyond the character’s flowery speech and biblical flare. Other characters, like Faith, are interesting, but ultimately her segments feel pretty disjointed from the rest of the experience. By itself, her portion of the game is perfectly fine. It’s beautiful and serene in its experience, but when it’s connected with the rest of the game, it feels like a weaker experience compared to the rest of the game. Some of the quests and mechanics in this these parts of Far Cry 5 feel a bit nonsensical at times. Bears will randomly turn into wolverines or cults into deer, as an example. It’s meant to expand on the hallucinogenic and vision quests of the previous titles in the series, but it all seems like it’s been laid on pretty thick this time around.
At first glance, the weapons selection looks deep. Players will open the weapons menu for the first time and see a plethora of weapons to choose. What won’t take long to recognize however is that lot of these weapons are the same with different skins applied to them. It feels like one of the more shallow weapons experiences in the Far Cry series, which is a particularly odd feeling since Montana being a very second amendment friendly state would have a ridiculously robust collection of firearms, everything from the useful to the utterly ridiculous. It’s a small point of American culture that Ubisoft seems to have entirely missed. Not only do gamers love a wide selection of hardware. The people Ubisoft is portraying seem to have skipped the fact that small-town America enjoys their options when it comes to guns. There are only two AR-15 style weapons in the game. One is a marksman rifle, and the other is automatic. There are different skin options and even a couple of “unique” weapons, the problem? They are all the same firearm with a different paint job. With the number of options and hardware available for the AR platform, it seems a bit ridiculous that these supposed preppers are all going to have the same firearms uniformly across the county. It’s a small, but noticeable problem with the game that I just couldn’t get beyond. All the cultists use the same weapons as the local militia factions and the AK-style rifle no one seems actually to carry regularly, and you’ll likely have to buy before you can even try it. There’s a lot of enjoyment to be had with the bow and the slingshot, but it’s a novelty that wears thin after a few hours. I continually changed my load-out to keep things fresh, but halfway through the game, I’d already used all the weapons I’d unlocked. There are custom boss weapons and the re-skinned, “improved” weapons that cost significantly more money, but share all the same stats as the previous hardware that’s unlocked, there just isn’t much to look forward to after the mid-point of the game where weapons are concerned.
Far Cry 5’s progression system’s a pretty standard affair for a Ubisoft title, which if you’ve played the latest Assassin’s Creed, then you’ll be right at home with the basic premise. Players collect points and accomplish goals to gain yet more points so you can add or improve skills that your character has already. Most of them are pretty useful; some aren’t at all. An example of this would be an early upgrade that allows the player to hold their breath longer while swimming. It seems useful, but you’re likely not spending too much time swimming, what with boats being available all the time and the ability to navigate around these bodies of water entirely. There are a few quests that require the player to swim, of these missions I did, the upgrades weren’t necessary to be successful. While it’s an excellent option to have, it’s a bit of a waste of a skill-point early on, when it can be used to unlock something better, like a health upgrade, parachute or wing-suit that helps the player get around the world, or save themselves from a clumsy death.
The audio and soundtracks for the game are phenomenal, a lot of the music was made especially for it, which added a tailor fit experience. The music that plays when players enter the menu system is a beautiful track that is surprisingly relaxing for a shooter like this. I found myself just hanging around an area to finish the song or cruising around in a stolen cultist pickup, just listening to tunes and run over deer, enemies and the occasional pedestrian that had the misfortune to run out in front of me while I was at top speed. It’s a secondary aspect of the game but adds a believable soundtrack to the experience that fits the location well. Sound effects were also made with care, audio queues from locals and cultists alike are interesting to eavesdrop on, and the sounds of combat echoed through the valleys and the hills throughout the game that adds a feeling of distance and scope to the title. While it’s pretty similar to previous Far Cry titles, especially Far Cry 4, it seems like there was a little more care taken this time around in using audio queues to top the experience off, granting it some unexpected depth.
While Far Cry 5 is fun and pretty immersive experience, it’s not all gravy. The game’s got some pretty peculiar hangups, quite literally. The collision system in the game can get pretty wonky at times. The effect can be as hilarious as it is frustrating at times. For some reason, hopping out of a vehicle will sometimes cause it to rocket forward at top speed as if it were ass-ended by a big rig going full speed. Other times, a loose fence post or sign that’s on the road will cause a vehicle to flip end-over-end, half the time exploding and killing the occupants. Funny when it happens to enemies chasing you, but maddening when you’re the one sitting in the middle of a fiery wreck. As a general rule, it’s recommended that if your vehicle starts taking impacts from absolutely nothing, put some distance between yourself and the vehicle, then just watch it for a few seconds. It’s likely to go careening wildly off into the forest, lake or even launched into the sky like some redneck version of a Space X rocket. Other than these laughable collision problems, the game doesn’t seem to experience any wide-spread bugs. There is one particularly filthy little bug that has to do with the parachute and interacting with uneven terrain. When a player pulls the chute around the time, they would have hit the ground, cliff, hill or what have you, instead of dying the player falls through the map and takes a very slow descent into foggy, white oblivion. It’s stable, and after nearly 40 hours of play, I’ve not experienced a single crash on the PC, which is excellent compared with some of the earlier Far Cry titles.
Ultimately, Far Cry 5 doesn’t break the mold, it barely even flexes it most of the time. Fans of the previous Far Cry games would likely enjoy this game quite a bit, if you haven’t played one for a while, it may be something you’re interested in picking up. Gamers that are a bit bored with this brand of open-world shooter may want to skip this installment for now. While it does switch some basic game mechanics up, it’s nothing wildly experimental and does not deviate too far from the what we’ve come to know as the Far Cry franchise. While it’s not going to add much to the experience that players haven’t seen in a Ubisoft title before, it does an excellent job at refining and honing some of the more repetitive aspects of the game. There are however some shortcomings with the latest installment that may have some players attention span waning after 20 hours of playtime. As a long time fan of the Far Cry series, I think this game’s worth the investment, but if you’re bored with the standard brand of “Ubisoft” open world experiences, this one’s likely going to be a pass for you.