Being chased by a strangely aggressive skunk, I run and jump off a mountain, deploying my wingsuit to hurtle across the gorgeous valley and down towards the nearby bay, only to have to swerve to avoid an enemy helicopter which is hunting me down.
I get by the chopper, feeling smug and pretty cool with my amazing escape, only to pull my parachute too late and smash into some high trees, leaving me on the ground, almost dead and surrounded by angry cult members and some hungry wolves.
What a welcome to Hope County.
Far Cry 5 is the newest instalment in the long-running series, and after a year off we’re brought to the continental United States instead of a more remote, far-flung part of the world, which brings with it a ton of new opportunities but also new challenges, especially in the current climate of more Americans calling for gun law reform.
You take the role of the new Deputy in town, tasked with helping a US Marshall to arrest Joseph Seed, the leader of a dangerous cult, Eden’s Gate which has been kidnapping, killing, torturing the people of the fictional Hope County, Montana.
Of course, things don’t go quite to plan and you’re left to help the local resistance of (mostly) good and honest Americans to fight back against the cult. The rationale is that if you tried to escape and call for help, you’d be caught and killed before you could make it, so you’re better off helping to take down the cult from the inside so to speak.
Mechanically the game is quite similar to previous Far Cry titles, but thankfully here the more repetitive elements have been removed, so no more climbing towers in each area to discover activities or places of interest and no more hunting and gathering to upgrade your equipment.
Ubisoft has clearly been paying attention to trends, and it seems to me that Breath of the Wild had an impact on Far Cry 5. Apart from the comically loud driving-line, the HUD is practically non-existent, the waypoints are tiny and don’t get in your way, and there’s no mini-map at all.
Instead, you’re left to explore the world as you see fit, with only slight nudges here or there. The map tells you which area belongs to which one of Joseph’s siblings and marks a few main story-related points of interest but beyond that it’s more of a “if you see it, just go towards it” style of open-world exploration and it couldn’t fit Far Cry better.
On the areas and siblings, there are three main areas, the North held by Joseph’s brother John, the West held by his brother Jacob and the East by his sister Faith. Each area has its own style of missions, side-quests and enemies. Faith for example dabbles in a drug-like substance called Bliss, which she uses to manipulate her troops into mindless zombies, but she also uses it on you.
Being under the effects of bliss causes you to hallucinate, hear music and see Faith herself talking to you as she dances around in the middle of a vicious gunfight. Her area is definitely the most surreal of the three and depending on how realistic you want your Far Cry, either start or finish your time there.
The world itself is absolutely gorgeous and genuinely makes me want to visit Montana, minus the murderous cult of course. The contrast between beautiful wilderness and crucified, mangled bodies actually help amplify both aspects of the game. You feel hatred towards the cult almost more-so because not only are they murdering innocent people, but they’re spoiling such a nice area in the process.
While the main plot is probably the most believable Far Cry plot so far, (party boy-turns murderous Rambo in Far Cry 3 still irks me), it does push the boundaries a little bit.
The ability to choose your own gender, race and appearance is a good step, and you being the Deputy makes narrative sense, but your inability to speak really breaks the immersion at times.
At times, you can find yourself silently fighting alongside a grizzly bear named Cheeseburger against a group of drugged-up, zombie like cult members while explosions pop all around you.
On one hand, those moments can break the immersion and make it feel a bit too “gamey”, but on the other, the Far Cry series has always been known for over the top, crazy action and overall while it can get hectic, practically ever fight or encounter is a lot of fun.
Sound is great, gunfights are intense and the roar of a cougar as it sneaks up on you are terrifying, even more natural sounds like a running stream or wind through the trees sound great. I have a particular love for the soundtrack, from the background theme in a fight to the little victory jingle which plays when you complete a mission, it fits so well with the theme and the world.
The main story is good, if a little bit over the top and cringey at points. I interviewed the developers of the game last month and while they claim that it wasn’t modelled off off any current political situations or sense of division in the US, it’s hard to deny the parallels. Mentions of “putting up walls” or “look who’s in charge” sound along with visions of nuclear mushroom clouds and the end of days.
If you try to view the story as pure realism it’ll fall apart in your mind, especially with some of the aforementioned crazier moments, but if you keep an open mind and remember that at the end of the day it’s a game, more of a hyper-realised version of America, it falls into place and is much more believable.
Ubisoft have claimed for a while now that you can play the entire game co-op with a friend and while that is technically true, they fail to mention that only the host player will have their story progress. Unfortunately for the second player, the only stuff that carries over is money, perk points, unlocked perks, and consumables.
This means that while your character will get better and richer if you join a friends’ game, you’ll have to essentially do the story twice, again on your own (cutscenes and all) if you want the achievements. It’s an unfortunate stain on an otherwise great co-op experience. It’s not often a non-co-op based game will allow co-op play from start to finish, so it has to be lauded for the option alone, even if the implantation was a bit bungled.
If you’re a Far Cry fan, it’s likely that you’re gonna love 5. The gameplay remains largely the same, with most of the changes being welcome and positive and a solid story with interesting characters and a wide range of options as to how to tackle most missions.
If you’re not a fan of the series or you feel burned out by the repetitiveness of past games, this might be a good time to jump (back) in. It’s still a Far Cry game at heart but feels fresher than ever before, and with a fun co-op and 6 v 6 online mode, there’s a lot more to it than chasing preachers.
Far Cry 5 was reviewed on an Xbox One X with review code supplied by Ubisoft.