Review: Far Cry 5

Far Cry games are known for pitting players against eccentric wannabe Bond villains in exotic locations filled with extremely aggressive wildlife. Far Cry 5 continues this tradition, with the main antagonist being Joseph Seed, aka The Father, leader of doomsday cult Eden’s Gate that has taken over a large part of Hope County in Montana. The Father believes the end times are here and is making sure everyone is saved, whether they want to be or not. He appears as a charismatic preacher, but is in fact a homicidal demagogue and Eden’s Gate is much more of paramilitary threat than a typical church congregation.

The story begins with the player taking part of an apprehension mission with sheriff’s deputies and US Marshalls to arrest Joseph Seed during one of his sermons. In order to prevent Far Cry 5 from being one of the shortest games ever made, this arrest attempt goes horribly wrong and the player ends up stranded in Hope County and not too popular with the local religious fanatics (if they follow orders that is). The idea of a cult taking over such a large region with no military or law enforcement making a serious attempt to overthrow it does require a certain amount of suspension of disbelief, but once we achieve that, the story does provide an interesting premise for this open-world adventure.

Hope County is divided into three different regions, each controlled by one of Joseph Seed’s siblings, John, Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt and Faith who act as the Herald for each region. Each of these individuals has a different function and style of leadership but rest assured each one of them is bad. Prior to the Project at Eden’s Gate, John was a lawyer but is now known as The Baptist and controls the Holland Valley region. His function is to acquire people’s land and possession to benefit Eden’s Gate. He considers death an appropriate punishment for anyone who opposes Eden’s Gate, that is unless he can think of a more beneficial use for them.

Jacob controls the Whitetail Mountains in the north. A former Army Marksman, his chosen moniker is The Soldier. He is charged with assembling a militia to help Eden’s Gate remain in power and also has an elite army of wolves called The Judges who have undergone experiments with the mind-altering substance known as Bliss. Faith, nicknamed The Siren, controls the Hebane River and serves as an extension of Joseph’s voice, proselytizing his message and converting followers through spirituality, music and drugs. It could also be said she helps keep the members of Eden’s Gate in a state of Bliss.

After the initial attempt to bring in The Father on kidnapping charges fails, the player finds themselves in Hope County and has to basically turn into Rambo if there is to be any hope of breaking the stranglehold the Seed family has on the rural community. Once the player completes the early mission that serves as the tutorial they are free to take on the Seed siblings in whatever order they see fit, or of course they could put them to the back burner and choose to engage in the numerous side missions or various other activities Hope County has to offer.

Far Cry 5 is designed to have a nonlinear story progression, so different choices the player makes can impact how the story plays out and the player can choose which characters to meet and what activities to engage in. Each region has a resistance meter, which is an indicator of how much the player’s actions are effecting the region’s particular Herald. Completing story missions, liberating outposts, destroying symbolic structures and generally disrupting cult activities will cause the meter to rise, showing the increased irritation of the Herald and increasing the general difficulty of the area by making the cult increase their level of aggression against the player. When the meter is raised to its maximum, the player will get to face off against the region’s Herald.

The overall gameplay of Far Cry 5 should feel familiar to any veteran of the series. The first person shooter includes an RPG leveling system where the player can develop different perks to become a more efficient survivalist and the weapon wheel for quick access to the myriad weapons available, such as RPG launchers, handguns, rifles, baseball bats and many other instruments of death. Locations can be safely scouted out from a distance with the aid of the trusty camera, and vehicle travel allows many quicker ways to get around Hope County, though this time access to planes has been added to the vehicular options. Story missions are given by the various citizens of Hope County, and there are plenty of cult strongholds that need to be liberated. The player can take on a direct approach but it’s probably smarter to throw in some attempt at stealth and not just run in with reckless abandon. As is tradition with previous Far Cry and Assassin’s Creed titles, animals in Ubisoft games are about as big of jerks as Sebulba and will try to kill the player on sight. Especially skunks. Being sprayed by one of those is just so disrespectful.

Like previous Far Cry titles, Far Cry 5 features an open world to explore with many secrets to uncover. With the resistance meter and different regions controlled by different Heralds, progression in Far Cry 5 feels less linear than previous installments. As is the case with most sandbox sequels, the world map is the largest one to be featured in a Far Cry title. More effort has gone into creating NPCs that bring the world to life and make quest giving and world building feel more organic than previous installments. The people of Hope County all have different reasons for hating the members of the Project at Eden’s Gate, or Pegis to use the colloquial term, but a lot of them aren’t exactly thrilled about the player’s presence either. Mary May Fairgrave of the Spread Eagle Saloon is one of the more prominent quest givers, and while the game provides enough of a backstory on her to not make it required reading having read the book Far Cry Absolution does help add more layers of depth to her character.

In addition to advancing the story of Far Cry 5 there are several activities in which the player may engage. Hunting and fishing aren’t that surprising to be included pastimes, but in addition to regular animals there are exceptionally powerful animals called Failed Judges. These are unique creatures that have undergone Bliss experiments and have essentially become super villains of the animal kingdom. Prepper stashes are secret locations that include weapons, ammo and money. Clutch Nixon is the greatest stuntman to come out of Hope County, and there are locations scattered about that allow the player to try to reenact some of his greatest feats. Cult outposts pepper the land, and removing the cultist infestation of these will allow resistance members to take over and offer resistance quests. The landscape of Hope County is quite beautiful, and assorted wingsuit locations will allow players to take on a new perspective to enjoy the view. Convoys have returned in Far Cry 5 but depending on which region these may be in the form of helicopters, trucks or boats. Either way, regardless of what vehicle is being used it should be pretty self explanatory on how to handle them. One of the most important things to do is just explore the world, talk to people and learn how everything interconnects with each other.

Even though the player is essentially taking on Eden’s Gate as a one person army, even the Rambos of the world need a little help from their friends sometimes which is why there is a For Hire system. This isn’t the first time in Far Cry where some NPC help can provide assistance but the system has been tweaked to be unique for Far Cry 5. There are Guns For Hire, which are different NPC characters that have different fighting styles, preferred weapons and unique abilities to help out the player, such as being able to revive a player who is “killed” by an enemy or accidentally set themselves on fire through the mishandling of a flamethrower. There are also Fangs For Hire, which are like Guns For Hire except they are vampires animals, so their names are what actual species they belong to and not dating site profile titles. These critters include Boomer the dog, Cheeseburger the bear, and Peaches the cougar. Like the human companions, these furballs have different attack styles and behaviors except the killing power of the Fangs For Hire is deceptively hidden under their cuteness. Players can have up to three active hirelings at a time.

Friends For Hire is incorporating online multiplayer into the For Hire system. How this works is the player serving as a host invites one of their friends into their game. Every mission in the Far Cry 5 campaign can be played co-op with the convenience of drop in, drop out. Mission completion, story progress, resistance meter changes and things that effect the overall world or story will only be saved to the host player’s file. However, any experience, traits, money or items acquired by the guest player will return with them to their world when they return to their own save file. Voice chat is enabled during co-op, but Xbox Live and PlayStation Plus memberships are required to take advantage of this feature.

The in-game editor has been revamped and returns in Far Cry 5 under the name Far Cry Arcade. This mode becomes available after Dutch Island is liberated early on in the campaign. This can be used to create and upload maps that use assets from various Ubisoft titles from the universes of Watch Dogs, Assassin’s Creed and previous Far Cry titles. Maps created in Far Cry Arcade can be designed for solo, co-op or competitive game modes. The single and co-op modes include outpost, which is eliminating all enemies in an outpost in order to liberate it. Assault which is kill every enemy that appears on the map. Bounty is taking out every target that is marked and Journey is simply making it to the end of a map, which could not include any combat at all. The multiplayer modes that allow up to twelve players are Death Match and Team Death Match, which basically boil down to which individual or team ends up scoring the most kills. Other modifiers help keep this mode interesting, such as the ability to alter a map’s gravity or enable one shot kills. An internet connection is required to play Far Cry Arcade maps but the editor may be accessed offline. Future assets are scheduled to arrive as DLC is released.

Far Cry 5 does have high quality production values. The fictional Hope County is filled with beautiful scenery and realistic looking character models. Certain events may place the character in a Bliss induced hallucinogenic state that look appropriately trippy and the creative freedom and graphical quality allow for some Far Cry Arcade Maps that are quite surreal in appearance. The voice acting and use of accents and dialect help make Hope County feel like a real place, though there are a few characters that are just plain nuts and obviously included for comic relief. The use of religious themed popular music on vehicle radio stations is a nice touch in making Hope County feel like a regular community, but also adds a subtle element of something being not quite right.

Closing Comments:

Far Cry 5 doesn’t deviate too much from the Far Cry formula, simply expanding upon what the series is known for. The ability to play the entire campaign as a cooperative venture is a nice inclusion, though that is not to diminish that this is a rewarding single player experience, with Far Cry Arcade adding more multiplayer value and serving a creative outlet for the player. The story of the doomsday cult taking over this rural community is one of the more interesting aspects of the title and Joseph Seed is a worthy addition to the history of memorable Far Cry antagonists. Far Cry titles have been criticized for following the same template across each entry. The new features, updates and overall expansion of scope in Far Cry 5 help separate it from other titles, but even though this is arguably the best entry since Far Cry 3, it might be too similar for people burnt out on the franchise.