It’s been one hell of a year for Ubisoft so far. First they announce The Division 2, then they reveal a deal to extend their presence in China, furthermore extending their reach via the opening of two new divisions, and more recently, they’re finally free from the clutches of Vivendi. When all is said and done, you just cant help but respect their position in the industry. Though, above all else, Ubisoft has some stellar IPs to draw from, one such IP being the remarkable Far Cry franchise. The last installation in this series was the polarizing Far Cry Primal, which indeed offered a great deal of depth, but didn’t appeal as widely as its immediate predecessor. Now, however, here we sit with Far Cry 5. The question on everyone’s mind is, does this bring the series back to true form? Yes, it absolutely does. Far Cry 5 doesn’t just excel, it takes everything that’s made this series so compelling, and refines it further through an excellent cast of characters and a massively engaging plot. In a nutshell, Far Cry 5 may well be the best game in the series, to date.
The game takes place within the confines of the fictional Hope County, Montana. Here, a religious fanatic known as Father Joseph Seed has gained almost complete power over the County, spreading fear and oppression wherever his gaze takes him. Establishing the devastating and far reaching gathering, Eden’s Gate, Joseph and his followers are out to enhance their numbers, whether the citizens like it or not. Not too unlike the first season of hit TV series Justified, players take on the role of a U.S. Marshal that’s tasked with taking on this religious cult and liberating the county of their evil doings. It’s immediately captivating, and never really allows you to wriggle out of the grasp of its compelling story structure. You’re immediately given the choice between a female or male character with a few creation tools to take to, to which you’re then dropped into the game. Arriving in Hope County is quite the eye opener, and highlights just how brainwashed and lethal Father Joseph Seed’s followers are. It’s quite a gritty welcoming, but the scene that’s set is set in such a way that you cant help but feel way out of your depth.
You’re sent in to extract Father Joseph Seed from his church, following a video that’s been released that shows him squashing out the eyes of a betrayer to the self proclaimed faith. Alongside another U.S. Marshal, a County Deputy, and a County Sheriff, you approach the church by struggling through an angry mob. Father Joseph Seed has certainly made a name for himself, and even the County Sheriff is cautious of this mission. Upon entering the church, Father Joseph Seed is seemingly prepared for your arrival, and foresees it as the “first seal”, the beginning of the alleged “collapse”. Surprisingly enough, Father Joseph Seed comes willingly, repeating time and time again that God will not allow him to be taken. Before long you find yourself back in your helicopter, with one Father Joseph Seed strapped in for the ride, that is until the shit hits the fan, literally. One of Seed’s followers throws themselves into the helicopter’s blades during takeoff, resulting in a swift crash landing. You awake to find Seed and his goons nearby, getting ready to put you down in retaliation for breaking the aforementioned seal. What follows on is the beginning of your fight to take out Seed, his immediate and equally as insane family, and his many many followers.
Wildlands’ El Sueno to the side, Ubisoft’s ability to create a compelling antagonist is outstanding. Father Joseph Seed is no exception and easily rivals (maybe even surpassing) Far Cry’s most notable villain, Vaas Montenegro. Make no mistake about it, Father Joseph Seed is a prick. His younger brothers, Jacob and John, are pricks. His younger half-sister Faith, you guessed it, is a prick. Though with that being said, each of these antagonists are so well voiced, so well written, and so well injected into the game, that I couldn’t help but want to know more. Hope County is split into three regions, each of which is controlled by one of Father Joseph Seed’s siblings. The only way to flush him out is to liberate each region, but this isn’t a job that any singular person can take on, which is why you’ll be working with the resistance. Early in the game you’ll meet up with a man named Dutch, who just so happens to be leading said resistance. Liberating Hope County is going to take some doing, and even with the resistance behind you, it’s clear that you need more hands on deck. Dutch quickly briefs you on how to achieve this; saving civilians, clearing outposts, and taking on side missions. Sure, this is hardly new for a Ubisoft game, but I can wholeheartedly say that this system works magnificently well in Far Cry 5.
Hope County is a dangerous yet stunning location. The action is thick and fast, giving you barely any breathing room or space to gather your thoughts. It constantly seems as though your life is risk with each and every second that passes by. One thing that particularly stood out for me, was Far Cry 5’s ability to truly make you feel like an outsider. It’s been a long while since a game went that extra length to relay that feeling to me, possibly as far back as Resident Evil 4. You see, despite being overpowered, you never feel like you’re in control here, and that’s just one product of this game’s excellent web of design choices. Surprisingly enough, Far Cry 5 doesn’t follow that tried and tested Ubisoft formula that has us taking on a countless amount of side missions. These side quests are present, yes, but they’re not peppered left, right, and center. Even hunting is laid back, and simply serves as a means to sell goods in exchange for minor reward. What I’m trying to say is that the pacing in this game, regardless as to how you go about it, is balanced excellently well. It helps of course that the County is diverse and enticing, continuously treating the player to a whole host of different locations and themes.
Small towns, wide open farms, compact forests, mountain ranges, and so on and so forth, everything within is a visual feast. The care and attention to detail isn’t just something I found myself appreciating, but respecting the developer for their commitment to put forward a vast environment that never wavers its quality. In an attempt to encourage players to spend less time watch-tower hunting, Ubisoft has thrown out this irritating system in exchange for more engagement. In Far Cry 5, you’ll be overpowering outposts in return for covered ground, which in effect will enable you to approach new quests and fast travel points. This system feeds directly into the story, too. For instance, once you cover enough ground and work hard to free a region from a Seed’s grasp, they’ll start gunning for you. The resistance gauge is something you’ll want to take note of. This will gradually fill up for every action you take against the Seeds, before inevitably taking them out, one by one. You’re free to do pretty much what you want, when you want, how you want. You can liberate one region at a time, or move from one to the other and chip away at Seed territory in any order you see fit.
There’s a light structure that you need to follow, but for the most part, Far Cry 5 is as wide open and as free as you make it. While the Seeds are all cut from the same cloth, each of them is fascinating in their own unique way. I really cant commend this game enough for its flawless writing and voice acting, not to mention how each of these characters push you in different ways. I often found myself so compelled by the writing that I almost wished I didn’t have to kill these assholes. I’m not going to say that there’s a hidden meaning in all of this, or that their actions are justified or glorified, but some of the dialogue is so intense and so rich, that I never wanted it to end. Each encounter with the individual siblings also brings some fun and unique gameplay segments, which I wont ruin. What I will say is that these sections of the game stand out particularly well, simply because they’re unexpected and often pad the story with added depth. In any case, Far Cry 5 is a dark game. So dark that scenes and interactivity can prove to be disturbing, however, that’s part and parcel of the experience. It’s a hard story to walk through, but one that has one hell of a payoff come the endgame. That’s as far as I’m going to go, trust me when I say that this is one plot you need to witness firsthand.
In regards to the actual gameplay, Far Cry 5 once again excels. Shooting is extraordinarily balanced, and the controls, on-foot or in a vehicle, remains smoother than ever. Crafting has also been simplified to take away much of the weight that was present in previous installations. Most of your materials can be scavenged from fallen foes, giving you quick and easy access to a wide selection of tools. Hunting, as previously alluded to, takes a backseat, but that’s not to say that hunting isn’t important. You’ll still need to hunt to complete set challenges, which will reward you with points to unlock new perks and skills. Challenges are not exclusive to hunting, as you’ll also need to explore and be proficient with your weaponry to complete wider challenges, but this overall system never feels as taxing as it once did. Perks range from giving you extra ammo capacity, to the more vital necessities, such as lock picking. Unlike Assassin’s Creed Origins, the unlock system doesn’t demand too much effort to chase after each perk. Running alongside this is (what I call) the tag-along system, which grants you the ability to bring some backup from the resistance.
Guns for Hire, on the other hand, is where the meat of the matter rests with this functionality. There’s a total of nine participants that you can unlock, each of which brings their own spin on how they deliver support. Boomer, for instance, will retrieve weaponry and scout out an area for Seed’s followers, referred to in-game as Peggies. These allies can be incapacitated, which forces you to wait a set amount of time before you can call them back in. The co-op on the other hand, is somewhat less desirable due to the lack of progress carrying over. This is hardly a secret, seeing as Ubisoft were quite upfront about how this feature will work prior to release, but playing through it only highlights its ignorance. Joining a friends game to give them a helping hand is a heap of fun, there’s no denying that whatsoever. The problem is, you don’t get to keep any progress you make in a buddies world. You will indeed be able to keep any points or money that’s been earned, but any missions you complete in a friends world, will still need to be completed in your own world. It’s not a huge gripe, but having to take it in turns visiting each others world was somewhat of a dampener. It would have been great to see progress tied to the multiplayer, because without it, it shaves a layer of necessity away. Still, there’s a lot of fun to be had here, and this one omission doesn’t derail that.
There’s a meaty selection of vehicles and weaponry to obtain. Each of which typically comes tethered to their own pros and cons. You can visit a shop once you’ve liberated an outpost to buy new outfits, consumables, and weaponry, as well as being able to earn new weaponry from your opposition’s corpse. It doesn’t always help to go into any situation all-guns-blazing. Of course, you can liberate a stronghold with a well placed stick of dynamite, a rocket launcher, and a few clips of ammo, but the option to play it tactically using stealth kills can be equally as rewarding. This may well be more time consuming, but you run less of a risk of alerting added enemies if you play it safe. It’s quite easy to die in this game, so it pays off to scout the lay of the land to ensure you know what you’re about to dive on. Far Cry 5, much like Wildlands, caters for a wide range of play-styles. This is further heightened by the unlocks that you can work toward, such as nabbing yourself a wing-suit or improving your stealth stats. The depth here is outstanding, and thankfully the AI is actually challenging and smart, which makes a change.
When all is said and done, Far Cry 5 can be played however you like. This game gives you plenty of tools, and the freedom to execute those tools lies solely at your own discretion. The longevity of the game is bolstered by the inclusion of Far Cry Arcade, a mode in which you can create your own maps and missions, or play from a selection of online uploads. Ubisoft state that this mode will use assets from past Far Cry games, Watch Dogs and Assassin’s Creed, which should make for some very clever mashups. You can custom make your own co-op missions, or craft PvP maps. I can see this feature easily taking off in the long run, and wouldn’t at all be surprised if we see support for Battle Royale somewhere down the line. The price vs the content value, is tipped well in your favor. Far Cry has always been a game of over the top action, insane villains, and chaotic gameplay. Far Cry 5 takes everything that’s made this series stand out, refines it all, and dishes up an explosive journey that will stay with you long after the credits roll. This isn’t just the best game of the series, it’s the best shooter of 2018 so far, and it’s going to take a lot to rob it of that status.
Far Cry 5 is a masterpiece. Ubisoft has refined the core formula and delivered what may well be the best shooter we’ll see this year. The story, writing, and voice acting, remains remarkable throughout. The gameplay is every bit as energetic and chaotic as it ever was, with more depth than ever before. Far Cry 5 is stunning, well designed, and thoroughly engaging.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.