A few days ago, after some 30 odd hours, I completed my first play through of Far Cry 5.
As most of you probably already know, Far Cry 5 is set it a fictional area of Hope County, in Montana, USA. You play a rookie deputy, and can choose which gender you want from the start. Far Cry 5 re-introduces some game mechanics we haven’t seen since Far Cry 2. One of those is the silent protagonist (you). In Far Cry 3 and 4, your character had a voice. In Far Cry 5 this has been removed. I actually don’t mind this and it allows you to form a further opinion of who your rookie deputy is.
Montana is just a beautiful, open world setting. I think it is one of the best Far Cry games in terms of setting. Game mechanics that help enforce this amazing setting are also present for the first time in the series. After the tutorial mission you can roam the whole area at your leisure, without having to climb towers to unlock each area. The HUD is also heavily minimised, and there is no mini map to speak of. These tweaked game mechanics add a huge amount to the immersion. To get new missions, side quests you effectively need to talk to people, read signs, and explore.
Graphics overall are very impressive, and it is no small feat that the Xbox One X runs Far Cry 5 in native 4k. It looks incredible. I will say occasionally you’ll see some very low quality shadows, and a bit of object pop in from time to time, but this game overall looks incredible. The game is running on a heavily tweaked Dunia engine, which has been used in previous Far Cry games. While looking exceptional, you do get the feeling that the character animations are starting to show their age just a little. There has been better character work done with say, Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice. Still considering how open world the game is you’ll forgive the odd stilted facial animation.
Sound as usual is excellent. During some of the tenser moments of the game, it music is done to good effect. Occasionally the music does get a little repetitive at times, and perhaps could have had a few more songs thrown in. Some licensed tracks are used as well, and while they are good, more should have been used. To date the most impressive soundtrack for any game still goes to Mafia III.
The story centres around a doomsday cult leader and his family who have grown substantial in size and effectively raised an army. They take over the county and continue to either convert or kill the remaining population. It is up to you and the rest of the Hope County police force to try and stop them. The opening of this game is fantastic, and ramps the tension up quickly. This was one Far Cry game I couldn’t put down, and I’m glad I was on holidays for a week because I simply had to keep playing until the main story was completed. Neither Far Cry 3, 4 or Primal did this for me. In fact I think it took me 2 years to complete Far Cry 4. The improved game mechanics, setting, story, missions and decent sized open world of Far Cry 5 kept me going back to this game.
The skill trees have been simplified too, and you can effectively take time out to find “Prepper” stashes to increase your money and perk points. These stashes are very well put together and are almost like “tombs”. You will spend some time figuring out how to unlock the underground bunkers and other areas that hide the good loot. Some of this loot might be unlocking a car, plane or boat. The weapon and vehicle variety in Far Cry 5 is by far the most extensive. It gives you plenty to spend your hard earned cash on.
Perk points allow you to unlock all skills in the various trees pretty much from the start. Very few have pre-requisites. One I found particularly useful to get fairly early on was the “Leadership” perk. This allows you to have two AI buddies to accompany you. This is another game mechanic that has been revived from Far Cry 2, and it is excellent. You can have a choice of nine specialists, plus an additional three civilians, to assist you. You can have up to two at once with the “Leadership” perk (you start with one). These AI buddies are really quite useful and you can unlock a lot of them from the start.
This usually means you have to rescue most of them though, but the missions are varied. Come to think of it a lot of the game is centred around rescuing hostages, specialists or fellow deputies. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but sometimes the story feels a touch repetitive if you don’t break it up by hunting (for money), finding “Prepper” stashes or disrupting the cult. You can even fish, and the game mechanics around catching them are pretty excellent. The specialists can revive you too (revived from Far Cry 2) which is really handy when you f@#k up. It happens a bit more frequently than you think. Sometimes you may get ambushed, other times you are not seeking appropriate cover or the harsh environment attacks you out of nowhere. The wildlife is excellent here, and there are plenty of creatures that will attack you on sight if you get to close. Mission variety overall is excellent, and you have some truly unique quests to do.
Far Cry 5 does include an excellent map editor, and Far Cry Arcade. This allows you to play co-op custom missions created by the community, plus play traditional multiplayer modes. I can see this giving the game some serious longevity if the community gets in and supports it.
Now on to some of the things I didn’t really like about the game. Like most Far Cry games before it, there are the odd glitches here and there. Probably the most noticeable one for most will be when a NPC you are talking to gets interrupted by a world event. For example two of your specialists might be talking to each other (this is very cool) but then a cult member comes along in a car and starts shooting. This will obviously interrupt the conversation because your specialists have to get to work, but then the whole dialogue is started from the beginning when the gun battle ends. I found this happened on multiple occasions and if you are talking to someone to get a quest, you will not be able to get the quest until the dialogue is finished. That means when they get interrupted by cult members or wildlife, you will have to make sure you ask them again to receive the quest. I realise this may be a difficult game mechanic to fix but it still becomes annoying, and is quite frequent.
With some of the earlier announcements Ubisoft announced you could play the entire campaign from beginning to end in co-op. Now that the game is out, the reality is, this just isn’t true. Shared progression doesn’t occur. The only thing your co-op buddy will benefit from is perk collection. The game states that resistance points (points you gather by disrupting the cult, which eventually leads you to fight one of the cult leader siblings) and story progression is not saved for your co-op partner. This is hugely disappointing and shows once again that you can’t trust some of the pre-hype build up. You can play all missions though in the campaign together, and play the Arcade mode as well.
There is a game mechanic that is used to progress the story and forces you to have interactions with the cult leaders, and it just jars. It seems no matter where you are when you get enough resistance points you’ll trigger a hunting party to come after you. The problem here is that you can’t use your honed skills to try and resist. Out of the blue you’ll get hit by a sleep dart and taken to the leader of the zone (there are three main zones). I’ve seen video clips where a player was in a helicopter high above the earth, and the sleep dart game mechanic still triggered. I don’t think this is a decent enough way to trigger the story, and feels incredibly contrived. It might have been acceptable if it only happened once or twice, but it happens at least six times. Some of the essential missions are pretty average too, and I was trying to rush through them.
Finally (and I won’t go into spoiler territory here) the ending wasn’t satisfying at all. Apparently there are several endings to the game, but the “good” ending felt very cynical. By far this is the worst ending of any Far Cry game. When you play for 30+ hours and you enjoy 95% of the game, it is quite disheartening to have it end the way it does. Reading through some other reviews, and reading other gamers comments in forums it seems I’m not the only one who feels this way.
Overall, despite the disappointing ending and some weird story telling game mechanics, Far Cry 5 is up there with the best of the Far Cry games (2 is still my favourite). The excellent antagonists (the Seed family are very creepy), great mission variety, decent sized open world and improved game mechanics make this an excellent game. I am looking forward to seeing what the DLC will have to offer.