The Far Cry series, since its return with Far Cry 3, has truly become the biggest playground of ideas for the talented developer teams of Ubisoft. From powerful story telling to amazing main villains and with some of the most memorable action found in recent gaming it is certainly a game series with a lot of hype and expectation to live up to after Far Cry 3 set a high benchmark which was only raised higher with Far Cry 4. From the beauty of a tropical island to the splendor of Tibet, it was quite a surprise to find that for the next installment the setting could be what many would consider more normal and mainstream, the good old US of A. This has been a game that I have been excited to play for quite some time and happy to say, it more than lived up to the hype.
Just from the trailers leading into the release of Far Cry 5, it was very clear to me that this was a game set to raise quite a few eyebrows with both its tone and setting. With the current events happening in America with some aspects actually being more unbelievable than what you would normally find in a video game under President Trump, this was seen by some as a direct reflection to the new Trump America as well as tapping into the hardcore religious element that some cults use to justify their actions.
Far Cry 5 is set in the fictional world of Hope County, Montana USA which for the last year has seen the slow taking over by the religious cult ‘The Project of Eden’s Gate’ lead by the captivating Joseph Seed and his family made up of Jacob Seed, John Seed and the mysterious woman Faith. They have infiltrated every aspect of Hope County with the belief that an end of the world event, The Great Collapse, is coming soon and marks the end of civilization as we know it. The cult wants to prepare for this event by building up supplies and saving as many souls as they can whether they are willing or not. Players take the role of a new rookie Deputy whose first role is in to take part in executing an arrest warrant for Joseph Seed by a US Marshal, something the local Sheriff advises strongly against and soon it is very clear why he was concerned.
The first new aspect to Far Cry 5 is that for the first time, the player is the main character in the story and not simply playing the role of a scripted character suddenly thrust into the story. Though the name and interactions within the game are not gender specific, the player can create their own character by first deciding on the gender and then the physical appearance and cosmetic look throughout the game by purchasing and unlocking new outfits and clothing through playing. This instantly makes the player the hero instead of simply playing the role of the scripted hero such as Jason Brody in Far Cry 3 and then Ajay Ghale in Far Cry 4 and for me it is a very welcomed change.
Next up we have the evolution of the open world style of play in Far Cry and how much freedom the player has in choosing how they play. In Fry Cry 5 this has been taken to a whole new level as players are completely free to decide where they go and in what order they choose to tackle the many story and side missions this game has. In a move that for me was inspired perhaps by how Ghost Recon Wildlands handles its story missions, Hope County is split up into regions run by the Seed siblings, acting as Heralds for Joseph Seed. Players can decide which region they want to explore and do missions in and at any time are then free to head to another region and conduct operations there. I fully appreciated not having the game narrative try and guide or steer me into any one line of activities and instead throws so much content to play that this freedom to just explore Hope County. There are also no levels to grade each region or mission so players can tackle any mission, in any region at any time without having to worry whether or not they are at a high enough level to tackle it. It certainly is refreshing to see Ubisoft take Far Cry in this direction and it works staggeringly well.
As you would expect, the role of the Deputy, as he/she is referred too throughout the story, is to start taking back Hope County by disrupting the operations of The Project of Eden and ultimately the Seed family. Each Herald handles a different aspect to the cult such as Jacob running the Militia and army training for Joseph as Faith handles the spiritual side and use of the strange chemical ‘Bliss’ to turn people into willing followers and John Seed recruits for the cult however his style of recruitment follows the teachings of Joseph a little too literally. Disrupting things may require the clearing of Cult Outposts, breaking their supply chains and rescuing civilians among the many story missions and new characters met along the way. Just about every person in the world can be spoken with and many will give new information and side quests for the player to complete whilst the named characters will provide the main story missions to complete and these will often have a main goal that will effect the region in some way and to introduce a new character that can become a “Gun for Hire”.
Guns for Hire are essentially partners for the player, who will travel with them and aid them in battle depending on their special skills. Who you decide to take with you is completely up to you and more will become available as you progress through each region. You can also completely go solo and not use a partner but this is also where the co-op element returns and far sooner than previous titles. As soon as the prologue and tutorial section is completed, the entire story can be played in co-op, with the player hosting the game benefiting from the help in story progress whilst the guest player will simply keep any XP, loot and money earned from playing the game; however story progress will not be saved for their game. A Co-Op partner will simply take the place of the Gun for Hire for the duration of the time played together and can drop in and out simply without any progress being lost for the host player.
I really enjoyed the diversity in the Guns for Hire and these characters have some interesting skills to aid the player. My personal favorite comes in the form of the ‘Fangs for Hire’ or the animals that can be recruited during the story starting with Boomer the trusty dog who can tag nearby enemies and can also fetch new guns and ammo after a battle skirmish. There really is enough options here to suit any play style that you may want to adopt so completed these missions when available is a terrific help indeed as the action is outstanding yet again for the series. The variety in weapons now is the biggest yet for the series with all weapons having full customization options with attachments and perhaps the most fun change has to be in the melee combat weapons which come in the form of a basic pipe to baseball bats and even a shovel. There is a real meaty satisfaction from the melee combat now especially in the sounds just as using the various guns now have as well which is advancement from previous games. Personally my go to weapon in all the recent Far Cry games has always been the bow and I was so pleased to see that this has also been improved with arrow drop now a factor so you can use distance to best place your shot and I pulled off some amazing archery kills that Oliver Queen himself would be proud of.
The map itself is indeed the largest yet for the series and to help players navigate this map the game has used a fast travel system to help get around quickly and these fast travel points are plentiful, which is great if you do choose to move between regions quickly. Vehicles are now more useful then ever and the choice is abundant in what the game now offers players. The usual cars are back from the awkward quad bike to off road trucks and armoured cars that can be used. Hope County has plenty of waterways and lakes as well so boats and jetskis play a factor here. But the biggest improvement has to be in the addition of helicopters and planes that can now be flown with very accessible controls. Find or pick one with weapons and you can have some fun aerial encounters and dog fights in the skies of Hope County. It just all adds even more to an already delightful array of combat options for players to enjoy.
The writing and voice actor cast for this game is by far the most impressive yet for the series. There is just so much dialogue here and somehow it manages to avoid the stereotypical style of NPC’s all repeating the same boring speeches and instead each character whether it be a main character or just someone you find roaming the land, feels like a genuine person who would live in Hope County. There is also a great self awareness in the writing with many references and nods to the previous games and also some tongue in cheek fourth wall breaking such as very early in the game the player is told over the radio after taking out a radio tower that it will be ok as they wont be asked to just constantly find radio towers to know where they are and see where they are going. This was a fun way of introducing the new freedom of the map which now becomes visible by exploration and not by taking out radio towers for the first time.
The strength of the writing for each of the main characters is outstanding but more so when it comes to the members of the Seed family with Joseph Seed quickly becoming my favourite villain in this series who to me came across as the blending of both the almost insane madness of Vaas from Far Cry 3 and the patient, controlling and organisational skills of Pagan Min. As you progress through each region, there are four stages for each sibling that will bring them into direct contact with the player. The power in the character design will make each Seed member feel totally unique and is boosted by some of the best character voice acting I have seen in a game in a very long time, especially when you consider that this game has almost twenty characters that feature in the story. The cast of actors are off the chart amazing and each scene and encounter is something to be considered a gaming moment and many of which stuck with me even as the end credits rolled.
The sheer amount of fun to be had in this game is staggering and with my first playthrough having a completion time of just shy of 40 hours and still having some side missions and tasks to complete. Whilst the story can be very serious and at times often very dark in tone for this series, it is nicely balanced with some often outrageous crazy side missions and encounters throughout the game such as the stunt missions of Clutch Nixon which really have to be experienced so will refrain from spoiling it here. Players can also go hunting and fishing and some of the side missions can go off at zany levels of craziness which will come as a relief to the more serious main story missions at times.
Far Cry 5 just feels like a game that has taken its own series and refined all the elements players really enjoyed and rethought others that may have gotten stale. I appreciated that the need to wipe out half the wildlife in the area to craft accessories such as weapon holsters and item bags has now been merged into the skill tree system now known as Perks. Completing missions and side tasks/challenges will award the player with Perk points which can be spent to unlock various perks such as more health or abilities such as the return of the grapple hook and wing suit to improving the use of weapons and vehicles. It is a cleaner and simpler way of managing skills and also more wildlife friendly and player progress is fairly rewarded and so encouraged to go and do as many missions as possible to upgrade their player perks.
One element that will have old school fans of the series smiling is the return of the map editor in the form of the Far Cry Arcade mode which offers community created maps to be played either solo or in co-op as well as Multiplayer and is accessible within the game at any time or the main menu. The editor is impressive in what it offers and in the months to come it will also start to include elements form other Ubisoft games in order to create more impressive levels and maps for the community to share and play. This is just another way in which Ubisoft has learned to listen to what the fans are asking for and not just delivering it but making it a real tool for the creative minds out there and offers an infinite amount of new content to be provided for free going forward.
I absolutely loved my time with Far Cry 5 and it is easily one of the best story campaigns I have played this year. The action is non stop and so many themes are visited in the story that reflect not on the state of the US right now but also the political reality all over the world and will have the player questioning just how far they would be prepared to go to stand up to defend or win back their freedoms if threatened. It is also just a blast to play and it has so much content to work through that as I said above, completing the main campaign solo at just less than 40 hours still left me with some activities to complete.
This has certainly been worth the wait and just as Assassin’s Creed Origins took that series to new levels, Far Cry 5 takes this series and opens the possibilities to even more rich stories and locations with the improvements made to what many fans looked for. Joseph Seed has become one of my top villains in gaming but that list could instantly be filled up with all the Seed family members not to mention some of the incredible characters introduced to help the deputy through the story.
Improved and enhanced, Far Cry 5 is the best game in the series yet in my opinion and as the credits rolled I happily sat and reflected on just how good this game is yet eager to jump back in and play it again with a friend.