Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Release Date: 3/27/2018
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC (played on PS4)
ESRB/PEGI: M/PEGI 18
MSRP: $59.99 USD
Written by Rick Warren / gfn21
Set in the fictional location of Hope County, Montana, Far Cry moves to the United States for the first time in the series. With all the entry and exit points blocked off by a religious cult, things seem hopeless and outside assistance is not an option. It’s up to the player to build a resistance and, in typical Far Cry fashion, take down the monsters in charge. All the necessary pieces for success are there, and even if Ubisoft doesn’t always fit them together perfectly, the final product is still a great one.
Pure Far Cry... with some positive changes
Long-time Far Cry fans can rest assured: Far Cry 5 is still very much a Far Cry game. The shooting mechanics are as smooth as ever, traversal still involves a wingsuit and grappling hook, and the open world is genuinely beautiful. In fact, based on a quick glance, an argument could be made that this is “just another Far Cry game”. Many of the weapons and vehicles are similar, much of the wildlife is the same, and the Ubisoft open-world formula is still followed closely. Thankfully, however, there were just enough changes made to make things feel fresh, and to make the formula work better than ever before.
At the end of a tutorial that introduces some of the open world activities, a friendly voice asks the player to climb a large radio tower and flip a switch. It’s a moment that could have been eye-roll worthy, had Ubisoft not broken the fourth wall with a comment like “don’t worry, I won’t have you climbing towers all over the county”. It was a great moment of reassurance, and a clear sign that Ubisoft had heard complaints about their open world activities. In what works as a replacement activity, Far Cry 5 offers dozens of quick mini-missions called Prepper Stashes. These missions usually only last a minute or two and involve solving a small puzzle before claiming 3 perk points and a bunch of money from a locked room. They’re all very satisfying and make for far more enjoyable exploration than the tower climbing quests in previous games.
Speaking of perk points, the new perk system will take some getting used to for returning players, but it’s another quality of life update. Gone are the days of skinning animals to make new holsters and wallets, as hunting now joins exploration and combat as options to unlock upgrade points for your characters. Like Borderlands 2, players will be given a slew of challenges that they’ll complete naturally, like killing enemies with a certain takedown or skinning a certain animal. Each challenge completed will unlock a handful of perk points. This allows players to improve their character just by doing what they normally do and eliminates the need to farm specific animals or grind for upgrades.
Other optional activities include a simple and relaxing fishing mechanic, a series of race courses where players relive the stunts of the fictional stuntman Clutch Nixon, and dozens of side quests. All of these are entertaining distractions, and they also help to progress the story. To unlock new main quests, a certain amount of points must be reached in each region, with a mission unlocking at one of five intervals. It’s a system ripped straight out of Ghost Recon Wildlands, and it fits perfectly in the Far Cry series. Nearly every action a player takes progresses the bar, from random events like liberating civilians to Prepper Stashes and side missions.
Perhaps the biggest addition is the Guns for Hire system. Each of the three regions offers three specialists, and they all have different skillsets. From a hunter to a pilot, they’re all helpful in combat and add variety to gameplay. The Fangs for Hire options are particularly entertaining, with options such as a dog that spots enemies and steals their weapons to a diabetic bear named Cheeseburger that tears through every enemy in sight. Whether a player prefers to go loud, be stealthy or something in between the two, this system allows for all the different options.
While the gameplay is the best it has ever been in the series, there’s still some progress that can be made. The AI is as average as they come, and rarely do they offer a true challenge. Further, the removal of the animations when skinning animals or picking up plants and weapons is a head-scratcher. It’s a small thing and far from game-changing, but it’s details like that which have always helped to make the Far Cry series stand out, and it’s disappointing to see them go away.
The Despot, his Disciples and the Deputy
As always, one of the greatest strengths of Far Cry is its villains. Joseph Seed, otherwise known as The Father, is as wonderfully acted as Pagan Min and Vaas. Thankfully he gets a bit more on-screen time than the usual Far Cry antagonist, largely because he makes two appearances in each of the Heralds’ stories. These Heralds, Joseph’s two brothers and adopted sister, are nearly as interesting as he is. In fact, they are by far the best supporting villains in the series. John Seed balances preaching with torture and suffered through child abuse. Jacob Seed is a former soldier who was trapped in a warzone with a squad mate and had to cannibalize him to survive. He now believes “the weak have a purpose” and uses those too weak to fight as food. Faith Seed is a girl who became suicidal after she became addicted to drugs and forced out of her community, but once she meets The Father, her will to die fades away. Each of their stories are incredibly strong, but they suffer a bit due to two things: the game’s tone and protagonist.
Since its third entry, the main games of the Far Cry series have always attempted to balance ridiculous humor with mature storytelling. The writers always did a decent job of keeping things afloat, but in Far Cry 5, the tone begins to become an issue. It’s possible to go from a mission where The Father tells the disturbing tale of what happened to his wife and child, to a hilarious Trump parody or a mission where players are asked to gather bull testicles. The levels of the game that are designed to be serious work, as do the levels that are supposed to be funny, but the tone varies so drastically so often that it becomes distracting. The outlandish things that can be done in the game are not cleverly woven in like with a Wolfenstein title, and instead create a feeling that these were two completely different teams of writers. Far Cry 5 is not a serious study of cult activity or commentary on real-world issues, but there are moments where it tries to be. Far Cry 5 is packed with humor, but that humor occurs five feet away from a dead family or a cult member drowning someone. Ultimately, the game offers a blend of maturity and over-the-top humor that are constantly clashing and never flowing together effectively.
Far Cry 5’s other noteworthy storytelling issue comes from the exact place Far Cry fans would expect: the protagonist. The series has always struggled to create interesting main characters, and it’s a problem that continues into this game. Players take the role of a nameless, voiceless deputy sent to arrest The Father, and the lack of personality grows to be a bigger and bigger issue as the story progresses. With no voice and nothing of his/her own to say, the deputy is constantly being captured and monologued at. It’s a move that allows all the villains to shine, but with each capture and escape, the encounters begin to feel cheap and repetitive. The brilliantly acted scenes could have played out in more unique ways if the protagonist had a voice, but for whatever reason Ubisoft chose not to include one. They instead offered customization options for the player-made deputy, which was a nice touch but not nearly enough to justify the decision. I appreciate that this was an attempt to fix the series’ protagonist problem, but it is definitely not the answer.
Still, even with a tone that never stops shifting and a protagonist that offers nothing interesting, the Seed family always makes things interesting and keeps the story afloat.
Far Cry 5 is the first game in the series to introduce Arcade mode, and it’s a tremendous addition. A far more in-depth version of the map editor in the other games, Arcade mode allows players to create nearly any map they can dream of. The tools include buildings, lighting effects, wildlife, and character models from multiple Ubisoft games, allowing far more freedom than what would have been possible with just the assets of Far Cry 5. Even if players aren’t interested in content creation themselves, they’re free to access an unlimited well of singleplayer content online by jumping into a random map through the Arcade Hero option, or by using the browser to find something that they find interesting.
Singleplayer and co-op levels include outpost-clearing and assassination missions, as well as “journeys”, which can be races or obstacle courses. From a terrifying maze-like house filled with manikins that tells the story of a nightmare to a prison break where players take control of escaping convicts, there are already some great player creations available. Multiplayer maps are solid as well, with a plethora of Battle Royale maps and Hunger Games parodies ready to be played. As of now only Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch modes exist, but hopefully more options will be added down the road. Arcade Mode offers a tremendous amount of replayability, and it’s a great way to extend the lifespan of Ubisoft’s singleplayer properties. Hopefully, Far Cry 5 is only the beginning for this new service.
In both its flaws and its strengths, Far Cry 5 is a true Far Cry game. A completely forgettable protagonist can be accepted due to the great antagonists they face off against. The tone is a mess, but the writers handle both humor and tension so well that the constant jumping between the two is still entertaining. The game is far from the reinvention that Assassin’s Creed Origins was for that series, but then again, it isn’t trying to be. Ubisoft has made enough positive tweaks to the open world formula for the game to feel new, and with a great addition like Arcade mode, it’s likely to be the most replayable entry in the series yet.
Though it has some problems, Far Cry 5 is yet another great entry in the Far Cry series.
Excellent Villains +3
Updated open world formula works +2.5
Arcade Mode has serious potential +2.5
Guns/Fangs for Hire make for a fun addition +1
Perk system makes upgrading feel natural and less grindy +1
Tone and Protagonist issues -1
Average AI -.25
Removal of small details -.25
FINAL SCORE: 8.5