The Far Cry games have always been hit-and-miss with me because of the often humdrum nature of the series’ open-world and empty checklist gameplay. However, to Ubisoft’s credit they’ve always had captivating antagonists (at least recently). Far Cry 3 is probably the pinnacle of the series for a lot of people, largely thanks the excellently written and voice-acted bad guy Vaas, and Pagan Min from Far Cry 4 was another notable adversary, even if the game felt like more of a side-step for the series. However, in order to give the series a fresh appeal Ubisoft has tweaked the blueprint with Far Cry 5, bringing us some of the most engaging narrative in the series in recent times. As a result, there is a new contender for not only the best Far Cry villain, but for the best Far Cry title to date.
The Father, the sons and the holy daughter
FC5 is set in the fictional Hope County, Montana, America, where players play as themselves (a first for FC) as a rookie deputy who assists the resistance against the religious cult known as Eden’s Gate. The cult – which is led by the charismatic leader Joseph Seed (also known as The Father) – believes that the Great Collapse (read: end of days) is upon us. As such, Seed, his loyal siblings (known as The Heralds) and his devoted zealots (known as Peggies) increase their efforts to ‘save’ as many people as possible, with those who are deemed unable to be saved facing the violent wrath of the religious group. I’ve rarely felt engaged with a Far Cry title to the point where I couldn’t/didn’t want to stop playing, but FC5’s story and characters had me hooked right from the incredible opening sequence.
On the surface it’s the tried and tested Far Cry formula; it’s a lush and expansive open world, there’s a plethora of missions (campaign and side) to complete and guns and vehicles to unlock. There are also a myriad of skills and perks to gain access to, and like always there are animals to hunt, someone to save or something to blow up. It’s a recipe that guarantees hours of gameplay, but in the past it’s all felt rather monotonous after a while. Thankfully, Ubisoft has recognised some of these elements and has made adjustments that give players a far more engaging experience.
Hope County – God’s country
The writing features an excellent blend of seriousness and humour which easily creates the best Far Cry narrative yet
First and foremost there are no more radio towers to climb; they are done away with. Instead players simply discover the areas and its contents by exploring and finding maps. Secondly, there is no set path that players have to complete missions in, you are free to roam and do missions in the order that you wish without being forced down a linear path. The gun combat seems to have been given extra weight, with the guns feeling extremely satisfying to shoot. Driving has always been a bit of a chore in FC, but thankfully the mechanics at Ubisoft have been at work making the driving much more enjoyable. It’s hard to put into words the enjoyment I got from mowing down packs of Peggies who were running across fields or sneaking up on an outpost and stealthily taking them out by one.
Hope County is split into three regions, each controlled by Joseph’s siblings, John, Jacob and Faith, all of whom you’ll need to take down before tackling The Father himself. Each region has its own set of missions which aims to see you and the resistance wrestle back control from Eden’s Gate. Furthermore, each region has its own resistance headquarters and contacts, and some of these characters provide significant help in your efforts against the cult. A new feature in FC5 is the ability to play the entire campaign in co-op, which thankfully doesn’t feel like an arbitrary tacked on multiplayer mode. If going solo is your style, then you can utilise the Guns for Hire feature which allows up to two AI companions fighting alongside you. This opens up a new level of tactics that’s not been seen in a FC game, with different companions providing different boons, meaning you can tailor your sidekicks to your playstyle. Also, did I mention that your sidekicks aren’t limited to humans either? You want a dog or a big intimidating bear as a mission companion? Just say the word. The only negative remark I have to make is that perhaps the world is too big and there is too much to do, as it can take away from the pacing of the story. Part of me wishes that Far Cry 5 was a more compact and concise experience. You aren’t forced to do each and every mission in the game to get to the final showdown, meaning those who want to focus solely on story can do so, but it’s a bit distracting nonetheless.
Double the guns, double the fun
The teams at Ubisoft have nailed the religious and remote setting of Hope County. Cult outposts litter the land with various forms gospel emitting from the speakers around the garrisons. Large billboards promoting the group’s message are scattered across the county, as well as public displays of victims who defied the cult’s commands. Moreover, the woods and meadows are home to some dangerous animals that care not for religious beliefs nor the resistance. It’s worth noting that FC5 looks phenomenal running on a PS4 Pro. Hope County is full of idyllic vistas that would make for great lock screen galleries that you’re too lazy to change. The only other niggling complaint I have is that the loading screens before and after cutscenes can become a bit of a nuisance.
There’s no doubt that FC5’s narrative is carried by the performances of the lead antagonists, none more so than the megalomaniacal yet believable Joseph ‘The Father’ Seed. His undying commitment to his faith and project is evident through his compelling rhetoric, to the point where I almost felt myself drawn to his cause. His oratory skills aren’t lost on his siblings either, with each cutscene showing a different yet equalling enthralling personality and collection of sins thanks to some of the best voice-acting and writing I have ever witnessed out of Ubisoft. The Heralds aren’t the only ones to produce stellar performances, with several of your colleagues putting in superb showings. The writing features an excellent blend of seriousness and humour which easily creates the best Far Cry narrative yet.
For those wanting more Far Cry than you can poke a stick at, FC5 comes with Far Cry Arcade Mode, which allows players to play on maps created by other players in the community. These maps can be played solo, co-op or multiplayer depending on the map rules. Furthermore, players can bring back rewards earned in Arcade and use them in the campaign (such as skill points). The editor tool includes a huge amount of resources, including some from other Ubisoft games to utilise to ensure that no map is ever the same.
Ubisoft has been on a renaissance of sorts recently thanks to its ever-improving open-world formula and writing. Much like Assassin’s Creed: Origins, Far Cry 5 has taken the Far Cry series to the next level. Even though it’s the same Far Cry you’ve to come to know and love, the refined gameplay mechanics and the exceptionally compelling antagonists ensures that Far Cry 5 is an insanely fun and addictive experience, and one that will no doubt be contending for one of the best releases this year.
Reviewed on PS4 Pro/ Review code supplied by publisher