Playing a new Far Cry game at this point feels like slipping on a familiar pair of shoes, and despite minor token innovation throughout each release, extensively feels like going through the same motion. Far Cry 5 may be the biggest step away from the series’ usual tropes so far, yet I can’t escape the feeling I’ll be doing precisely the same stuff in a different setting. It’s a new region to explore, a new story, a new villain – yet feels very much the same as the games that came before it. Retreading familiar ground, Far Cry 5 throws players into an isolated region, tasked to liberate it from an oppressive cult. It’s wearing a new coat again, although this time Ubisoft made some welcome changes to make the experience less redundant. Don’t expect full blown progress, however, as we’re still playing by the same rules established in Ubisoft’s sandbox titles back around when Far Cry 3 came out. That said, there is a reason many enjoy the series, and won’t leave that comfort zone for innovation. Far Cry 5 is a solid entry once more, but four games in, the magic of its experience is starting to wear off no matter what Ubisoft attempts to change for a new release.
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal, Toronto; Publisher: Ubisoft
Released: March 27, 2018; Reviewed on: PC
Testing specs: Core i5-6500 3.2 GHz, 16GB RAM, GeForce GTX 1070
Reviewing Far Cry 5, I simply cannot avoid the vast comparisons it shares with its numerous predecessors, and only the few improvements it brings are worth a mention. You’re still dropped into a large open world, and given as many tools as possible to cause absolute carnage while you uncover the plot and liberate the land in the process. The gameplay design hasn’t deviated much from the formula, and still brings the typical mix of sandbox elements seen across a range of Ubisoft’s franchises. It’s a mix of shooting, stealth and vehicle chases we’ve seen since Far Cry 3, and the fifth title once more expands the arsenal of tools at players’ disposal, though keeping the game rooted in familiar design.
In its visual style especially, Far Cry 5 again doesn’t change by much, slightly evolving on its Dunia engine to incorporate new animations, but otherwise you’re looking at almost the exact game to previous titles. I personally liked the move to a more grounded location set in rural America, despite inconsistencies with the game’s tone, and the environment provides a vastly different look to tropical islands, the Himalayas, and Stone Age we’ve experienced from the series. The beautiful forest ranges interjected with rural towns and long stretches of farmland look spectacular, showing off a diverse palette of colors in the game’s world. On the hardware side, Far Cry 5 is not particularly taxing, and if you’ve managed to run Far Cry 4 and later on highest settings, this title won’t run particularly different or require a significant change in graphics options.
The few changes that are here feel surprisingly welcome, and Far Cry 5 tries to shed some of what’s made the series stale over the years. You’re no longer required to climb radio towers, for example, revealing the map organically through quests and dialogue instead. This opens up the game to exploration, where the environment is no longer just part of a background fill and on the opposite requires significant investment from the player. Far Cry 5 really shines here, and the overhauled UI serves to change up the game, although it’s something it heavily shares with Assassin’s Creed: Origins. One can at least appreciate that developers made the effort to streamline some of the systems and create a better open world, even if this approach is not particularly unique. Another thing to like is introduction of aircraft, with players able to pilot helicopters and planes. It’s the biggest addition we’ve seen yet to the Far Cry toolkit, and expands the range of gameplay options available, despite some odd balance issues.
Apart from it, if you’ve played a Far Cry game before, Far Cry 5 doesn’t surprise by any means, and the mechanics here will feel instantaneously familiar, giving you a vast arsenal of tools to go completely nuts. You can pick off enemies one by one as a quiet predator, or go into a camp guns blazing, plus you can now bomb the place from a helicopter if you want. Far Cry 5 doesn’t introduce any major overhauls to the formula, but Ubisoft keeps iterating on its FPS sandbox in meaningful ways to make it stand apart from similar predecessors. There’s a wider selection of tools available here, enabling players to grow powerful in early stages and diversifying variety in gameplay approaches. Like in the past, the map is splattered with side missions, enemy camps and random events to keep one busy in between story missions, except progression is tied into the open-world events this time. There’s a certain requirement of resistance points to collect before you can advance a branch of the story, making it necessary to complete side activities and random events. Thankfully, Far Cry 5 also gives you plenty of reasons to cause carnage, and its emphasis on random events is much broader than before.
There’s now an extensive range of events you consistently run into, whether it’s enemy patrols, lone vehicles, or fully equipped armoured convoys. It sometimes feels like Far Cry 5 wants you to spend too much time on them, though, which tends to kill the pacing significantly. The amount of times I died running into random foes so far amounts to significantly more than I ever did on missions, which tended to frustrate me over the course of the full game. Similar complaint goes against enemies in planes, which just won’t stop chasing you wherever you go. While they can’t damage the player to a significant degree due to high speeds, their presence alone distracts from the overall enjoyment of the game, and forces a lot of unwanted mobility. Endless vehicle convoys can also easily kill you, and about every single time I drive anywhere I end getting chased, which really killed my enjoyment of spending time in vehicles. It’s nice of Far Cry 5 to offer much more than its predecessors, but at the same time, I feel like Ubisoft stuffed too many unnecessary encounters.
To further add to the list of design issues, the game’s tone is set all over the place, and can go from depressing to over the top in a matter of moments. You may finish an intense story mission, witnessing abuse and murder of individuals, only to go to the side mission that has you collect alien artifacts or murder bulls for a festival. A lot of activities don’t go along with the story’s serious tone about a religious cult operating outside of government jurisdiction and exercising brutal authority. Albeit it is fictional, the idea of a militaristic cult roaming unrestricted in the state of Montana, and its enslavement and murder of the general population, just doesn’t compliment the whacky nature of Far Cry as much as Ubisoft hoped. The complex topics its plot involves makes Far Cry 5 seem to take itself way too seriously, and the twisted villains perform some brutal actions that will make players pause and question the purpose of them. There’s nothing specifically wrong with either the plot or side events, but the game’s indecisiveness about whether it wants to be wacky or depressing creates this obvious separation.
Plot aside, gameplay is where Far Cry 5 still very much shines, providing players with a diverse set of fun tools to create their own fun. Enemy encampments remain the best part of the sandbox experience, giving you the option to approach them in whichever fashion preferred and make best use of the environment. It’s still entirely possible to break the game by forcing the wildlife onto enemies, but it’s expectedly fun to watch a bear tear up the enemy camp. If you prefer a more silent approach, you can always use a bow and sneak around, or snipe everyone off from the distance without a sound – it’s entirely up to the player. Weapon selection has always been a strong part of Far Cry design, and doesn’t disappoint yet again here. You’re given everything from basic pistols, auto shotguns and assault rifles to grenade launchers and odd sci-fi weapons thrown in for good measure. But if you run out of ammo, you’re not completely defenceless, as the protagonist also happens to carry a bunch of different explosives around that aid in dispatching any threats. Signature weapons and vehicles round off the complete arsenal, and provide sweet-looking mid- and end-game gear that comes at a high price, but delivers a strong punch with customized parts. There’s no shortage of diverse weapons in Far Cry 5, which provide fun and entertaining means of dealing with the endless supply of cult followers.
This wouldn’t be a Far Cry game if it didn’t have layers of extra systems merged on top of the open-world shooter experience, and the fifth entry takes existing elements to new depths. The skill points system has been changed over here, and new abilities now have a perk system tied into it, which at least encourages gameplay experimentation to grow most powerful. Perks are awarded through completing a long list of gameplay challenges tied into performing kills with different weapons, or finishing certain objectives. This requires more extensive player involvement in place of a standard leveling system found back in Far Cry 3 & 4, although may slow down progress if you’re not paying attention to the challenges you complete. Starter skills just simply don’t work a few hours in, and the general idea is to keep upgrading your character throughout the whole game, as enemy density notably increases as you move between the game’s three underbosses. The Project at Eden’s Gate, in-game’s crazy cult, is also packing a vast array of deadly weapons that conventionally don’t make sense in the rural setting of Montana, but bring a lot of challenge to players in between main events.
Further, there’s a “Guns for Hire” system, which enables recruitment of NPCs in the world to aid in combat when you’re playing by yourself. They specialize in different skills, and work pretty effectively to dispatch enemies alongside the player, most notable being Nick Rye who is a pilot and brings strategic carpet bombing at a press of a button, and Boomer, a dog you can hang out with on the downtime between missions, and who’ll also attack enemies at your command. Guns for Hire prove to be useful from time to time, but I more often forgot entirely about this system, and didn’t see the need in analyzing each of the character’s benefits. It’s not one of the systems that feels entirely out of place, but doesn’t offer enough incentive for using it to be frequently engaging. What does feel out of place is the character customization system, which offers an extensive array of visual outfits for the protagonist to wear, and in a first-person shooter, its products are entirely dismissable. Players can also choose between a male and female genders, which continues with Ubisoft’s trend to gender-diversify their titles. With this, Far Cry 5’s protagonist completely loses any sense of personal identity, and doesn’t engage in dialogue at any point throughout the story, while always being referred to as the Deputy. Looking back at Far Cry 3 from this, some of the more interesting parts in the story were the protagonist’s personal struggles and identity crises, which made Jason Brody just as engaging as some of the colorful cast. Here though, you’ll never see any personal moments, which makes the protagonist a blank slate, and customization options don’t add much depth besides offering co-op partners a view of your character design skills. On the overall, Far Cry 5 is a hit and miss with some of its systems, some of which offer welcome design improvements, while others detract from having fun.
The vast expanse of Hope County, the game’s fictional setting, is controlled by three members of the Seed Family, above which sits Joseph Seed – the cult’s maniacal leader. Your objective in each region is to earn as many resistance points as possible to force a final boss encounter, after which you move on to the next location. The system is pretty fluid, and every single task in the open-world awards you some, although enemy camps and missions give you the most for resistance points. Prior to final confrontation with either John, Jacob or Faith Seed, certain story bits involve capture of the protagonist by the villain, usually followed by a display of violence or a deep conversation about one of their life’s ideals. These occur when you collect a certain amount of resistance points, and trigger getting marked, whereby endless waves of enemies spawn to purposefully take out the player, after which you wake up in a villain’s stronghold. Once you’ve defeated all the underbosses in the end, you get a final confrontation with Joseph Seed to liberate the region from his oppressive rule, which surprisingly concludes the game in full. Far Cry 5 doesn’t give you a chance to get back to its open world after the end of its plot, so players have to make sure to at least complete everything they want before the final encounter.
While the move to change up the game design for the series hasn’t served Far Cry 5 to be outstanding, and a few issues proved to be cause more distraction than be worthwhile, the overall experience still packs everything I ultimately want in a Far Cry game. With a bigger emphasis on the open-world activities this time, it encourages players to cause as much mayhem as possible, while also providing a vast arsenal of fun weapons to play around with. The story didn’t grab me, and the whole concept seems a bit over the top, but it provided some interesting settings for objectives to take place in, and lets one use the full capacity of their character’s abilities. With some smart new introductions such as custom vehicles and aircraft, Far Cry 5 lets players truly get creative in its sandbox, which is where its strengths ultimately lie. For existing fans, the game offers new ways of completing the series’ signature open world events and a new setting is always welcome to experience, presenting the extensive detail Ubisoft packs into its sandbox environments. The formula hasn’t changed much, but smart design alterations make Far Cry 5 feel fresh and free of some more annoying elements the series has come to be criticized for. There are some issues, and not all of the changes are notably welcome, but the experience overall remains in the familiar language Ubisoft created for its open-world shooter franchise. Far Cry 5 is worth picking up despite its few shortcomings, and once features extensive content to keep players engaged over long periods of time, although if the series’ formula is feeling stale, this game won’t make you change your mind any time soon.