Reviewed on PlayStation 4, copy supplied by Ubisoft.
Kicking things off with a tense and often horrifying tone, Far Cry 5 is a familiar departure for the series. If that sounds contradictory, it is. It’s hard to look at Far Cry 5’s gameplay and not see Far Cry 4 set in the United States – albeit with a nicer feel. Whilst the game’s narrative is up there with the darkest in the series, it also sticks to an all too familiar formula and struggles to blend some of the typical Far Cry humour with the darker material. There’s a bit to dissect with this one, so let’s get into it.
The narrative in Far Cry 5 seemed to be a brave move when it was announced, wading into the hot steaming pile of garbage that the Trump presidency has created. However, it never really realises that massive potential in any meaningful way. It’s almost like the story was created to try and say something meaningful, but just never really does.
One of the most painful parts of this is the philosophical ramblings of the antagonists. Never before have I wanted to skip cut scenes more than in this game. What should have been a genuinely fascinating glimpse into the nature of cults and separationist political/religious groups turned out to be somehow overwrought and half-baked at the same time. It simultaneously showed you too much and not enough. Interrupting gameplay for a 10 minute speech needs to be done carefully, especially when your world is set up for sandbox fun. Stopping the open ended hi-jinx to hear what sounds like a first year philosophy major’s inebriated take on free will was scream into a pillow level terrible. If you’ve ever overheard a stoned dude with dreadlocks try and sound smart, you’ll know what the dialogue in this game is like.
The Faith Seed segments were particularly hard to get through, as the hallucinations and drug trips in Far Cry have never been solid in my opinion, and these really went overboard. I felt like I watched a Lord of the Rings length movie on the effects of the Cultist’s Bliss drug, without learning anything interesting about the character or her motivations. The narrative alludes to substance abuse and manipulation of people through drugs, but instead of reflecting anything about the opium epidemic in the US, it just turned into a Poison Ivy like story with magical elements.
That being said, it does get better. Certain stories had me gripped, such as one of the side character’s backstory, which showed off some of the darkest sides of the game, with pits of burnt human corpses and prisoners being marched to execution camps. But even these moments of sombre tone feel out of place in a game where you search for UFOs and help that frat bro Hurk be a total fuckwit.
In a lot of ways this entry felt held back by the series’ past. If it let go of the often hit and miss humour and instead doubled down on the mature tone it tries to set up, I would have been far more invested in what it had to say.
Of course these negatives aren’t game ruining, it’s more my disappointment with creative direction at the expense of what could have been. Far Cry 5 is still an extremely fun game to play, and messing around in the immense map is as fun as ever. Whether you want to launch arrows into the faces of some hillbillies or spend hours fishing – there’s so much to sink time into. With multiple weapons to try out and a blend of stealth and incredibly-not-stealth ways to play, the variation is fantastic.
Trying to take out an enemy outpost with a bow or slingshot, only to fail and have to switch to an LMG is silly and addictive fun. Bolstering this is the Guns for Hire feature, that complements your approach with either stealthy companions, bullet sponges or air support.
The only thing that really brings this down is the lack of structure to some of the activities. You can put hours and hours into wandering around and not really get anywhere. Progressing the story requires repetitive actions and mission types to increase your ‘Resistance Level’ to the point where you draw the area boss out of hiding. Resistance Levels also lock the more interesting weapons. What would have been nice is more leveling up options outside of powering through the story, such as being able to craft items with X amount of animal skins like in Far Cry 4. At least climbing endless towers like in every other Ubi game ever is gone, and even sent to its grave with a joke. The map is also fairly restrained for a Ubi games in terms of objective markers and points of interest.
Another point that could use refining is the enemy spawning, which is sometimes comical when walking by foot along any of Hope County’s roads, with endless enemy convoys creating a parking lot of burnt out vehicles as they keep coming in waves. The enemies also have a tendency to rush you at all times, so you can have fun sitting at the top of a ladder picking them off one by one.
Now for the arse end of the game -there are microtransactions in Far Cry 5, but at least they’re only cosmetic, and not based on lootboxes. I’m not applauding Ubisoft for this, but at least it’s not as bad as it could have been.
The game’s market place and economy is pretty well balanced, with weapons being just hard enough to earn to keep you interested, and the cosmetics are pretty great. It’s also nice that you can play as either a male or female protagonist with no weird story dialogue about your choice, but that’s also because you’re a totally silent player allowing the focus to remain on the antagonists, which as we’ve already discussed isn’t always a great thing.
There are a number of glitches too, but fortunately they sit more on the hilarious side of things rather than the game breaking. I’ve put some of the best I’ve encountered on our Facebook page, so be sure to check them out if you feel like a laugh.
Aside from the story there are a few modes to play, with custom made maps to play through in Arcade, and co-op play with friends. I found co-op pretty enjoyable, but not really exceptional. It’s a nice feature, but doesn’t really do it for me considering you need to be at the same point in the game to get any real value out of it. As for the Arcade mode, it’s very much hit and miss at this stage, and with so much to do in your own single player game – you can better spend your time playing through the story and discovering the map’s secrets, prepper stashes and beautifully designed animals. I’m sure some will love Arcade mode, it’s just not really my cup of tea.
Despite my criticisms, I must say that I really did enjoy this game, but in the same way that I enjoy shitty 80s action movies. It’s entertaining and has plenty of explosions, but it just doesn’t really use any of that momentum and attraction to say anything particularly special – even though it really tries to.