Far Cry has always impressed me, from the feral roots of Instincts on the original Xbox to the lush open world of Far Cry 2, and the crazy but effective antagonists in Far Cry 3 and 4.
I’m not ashamed to say I wasn’t all that excited about the release of Far Cry 5, playing an early preview build there just didn’t seem enough that felt fresh and exciting, and even the vastly reduced game area was buggy and crashed on the hosting PS4 twice in three samples. I was somewhat pessimistic and even overlooked much of the pre-release hype about Far Cry 5, but believe me it was all worthwhile, because now in the days after release, I can see how well Ubisoft have done with the best Far Cry game so far…
Far Cry 5 begins as you take control of a rookie deputy with a small group heading out to Hope County to arrest the barbaric cult leader, Joseph Seed. The Father as he’s more affectionately know isn’t quite the psychopath Vaas Montenegro was in FC3, but I did prefer his role as an antagonist to that of Pagan Min in FC4, Instead the Father doesn’t feel as terrifying as an individual, but the power he has over his followers and the lethal ideals that his group will happily carry out on his behalf is every bit as chilling.
Back to the story and past a short helicopter ride and brief (but welcome) customisation options, our nameless hero follows the local Marshall and Sheriff into the heart of the cult regime to the church where the Father is holding a service, is cold, awkward and intense, but you soon end up alone, running like the wind in the hope of saving yourself. There’s the prompt realisation that things go far deeper and with a little help, you set about ending the Father’s reign of terror. Anyone that’s played a previous Far Cry game before will feel at home, my initial thoughts about Far Cry 5 not feeling like anything fresh where right as the core game is very similar to both Far Cry 3 and 4, however there’s various elements which don’t just match, but excel the latest installment above all before.
Firstly there’s the story and progression system, closer to what we saw in Ghost Recon Wildlands, you will need to work your way through a few secondary antagonists if you want to catch up with the Father, The project at Eden’s Gate might not sound terrifying and brothers John and Jacob don’t quite live up to the glamour of the father, but Faith and her hallucinogenic drug ‘Bliss’ present some impressive (if slightly bizarre) sections of the game.
Individually none of the Seed family feel like much of a threat, but as part of the bigger picture, Eden Gate is every bit as memorable as Pagan Min’s solo performance, I really liked the feeling that I was fighting against a large group and not just working my way to an individual as it gives a realistic impression of weakening the enemy as you progress, this feeling of war requires a little commandery and you’ll soon have a friendly NOC or animal following you around and ready to attack at your command, the AI is pretty impressive and (usually) does a great job of handling themselves, but with co-op available throughout you can always take a friend with you if you need someone to blame.
Graphically I couldn’t ask for more, sure there’s not quite the visual fidelity of Assassins Creed Origins, but I was equally as impressed with the performance on the Xbox One X, everything just seemed to click gravel, wood and stone are among the most impressive you’ll see in any video game and the One X produces native 4K at all times making it a fantastic example of the consoles power and it didn’t stop at the visuals, the feel of the guns where all incredible, bullets felt deadly and I found myself going back to Rainbow Six 3 to find a game where it truly felt defined by your accuracy, spraying a clip of bullets you could pin-point the exact bullet that crippled the enemy or the precision headshot which felt as instantaneous as you could hope.
Audio is a pretty big deal in the Far Cry franchise and once again you’re not let down, rural America is a little easier for people to relate to than tropical islands, African plains or Mountain districts, so while it’s easier to be critical of a setting you’re more familiar with there’s greater rewards if you nail it. Ubisoft certainly have, with sound effects, the usual top quality voice acting and a deep, engrossing and realistic atmosphere surrounding everything you do.
The story will last you quite a while and the beautiful presentation of Hope County will leave you wondering away from the beaten track time and time again as you postpone your current mission to carry out all manner of side quests, or even just explore the surrounding area, there’s a great variety in locales, missions and the people you meet which means it’s near impossible to put a time limit on things, especially with the RPG progression allowing perks and enhancements such as the grappling hook, and wingsuit, you’ll soon become a fan of taking a helicopter and winging it down to your next objective, best of all most of these perks carry over and add to the longevity when you take a look at Far Cry Arcade.
Far Cry Arcade is presented as a 80’s Arcade game cabinet, you will find a few dotted around towns you’ll come across, or simply through the main menu, and like recent Far Cry titles you have a wide selection of options for customizing maps and modes to create mini-quests for the Arcade, other users can challenge your levels for a little extra XP and there’s a strong community aspect as you’re regularly given a wide selection of the curated mini-levels to try out and still encouraged to move on and try one more, and another, oh and before you go to bed, why not try these five as well, at launch the content is somewhat limited for playing, but most enjoyment can be found creating maps and if you’ve got the patience you’re in for some impressive results.
It all combines to form an impressive package, sure it’s not groundbreaking revolution, many game franchises shy away from innovation in the hope of retaining fans, but Far Cry 5’s shortcomings feel very much intentional, a less impressive main antagonist does accentuate the Project as a whole, and while there’s little innovation we do have a near perfect blend of all the best bits from previous games with a snip of genius from other titles, such as the Map/Story progress of Ghost Recon or the more defined gun-play from Rainbow Six.
Far Cry 5 is my favourite Far Cry titles so far, it’s crazy and varied but deep and intriguing and I’m sure it’ll be quite some time before I walk away from Hope County.