By Tanner Kinney
Disclaimer: This playthrough is based on the PS4 version of the game. This copy of the game was provided by the developer for review purposes.
The “Ubisoft open-world” game has become somewhat of a joke among the gaming community. Since the underwhelming Watch Dogs and Assassin’s Creed: Unity hit the market, Ubisoft began receiving a lot of flak for producing underdeveloped, buggy, and cookie-cutter open world titles. Assassin’s Creed Syndicate didn’t make anyone more hopeful, and Far Cry Primal allegedly re-using the map from Far Cry 4 just looked lazy. However, Ubisoft actually took a lot of these criticisms to heart, and brought what used to be annual franchises back into their game development oven for a bit more cooking. Watch Dogs 2 turned out to be a bit of a sleeper hit, and Assassin’s Creed Origins revived a lot of what people were looking for in that franchise by providing an interesting new location and much improved gameplay.
With the release of Far Cry 5, Ubisoft hopes to repair the name of that franchise as well. And despite a somewhat bumpy journey at points, they’ve managed to create one of the most truly open worlds in gaming. This game surpasses all expectations, and creates a Far Cry game that even surpasses the greatness of Far Cry 3.
Provide salvation to a troubled county in any way you can possibly imagine
Far Cry has always been known for giving the player choice on how to tackle situations. Generally though, the choices have only been “stealth or shoot.” In Far Cry 5, thanks to the additions of some cool new mechanics, the game becomes a pseudo-tactics game that can be played both stealthily and shootily, which are now woven together, rather than picking one or the other.
The player, a deputy of Hope County, Montana, is thrown into a battle with a cult that has completely taken over the minds, hearts, and homes of the members of the community. After a failed attempt to capture the cult leader, a charismatic and terrifying Joseph Seed, the player must recapture Hope County from the inside out. The first area is pretty linear, serving as a tutorial for the different game mechanics within the game. Once cleared, the entire map opens up for the player to run around in all of the grand Montana mountain country. Honestly, it was a little daunting being thrown into this unsafe world with nothing but a trusty handgun, but after clearing some missions and getting used to the game, the amount of choice becomes a massive boon.
To push back against the cult, the player must clear objectives that are covering the map. These objectives could be clearing out cult outposts, or destroying shrines, or simply helping out civilians that crossed paths with the wrong people. Quests are also given to people who want a more narrative experience. The player is given tasks by the colorful cast of NPCs to do missions that, admittedly, vary in quality. Yet, the player isn’t forced to do one thing. The game is most optimally played just running through the countryside, taking whatever quests and clearing whatever objectives are stumbled upon. There is complete freedom for the player to finish the fight however they want, on their own terms.
Freedom doesn’t just come in the variety of objectives to handle. Freedom also comes in how those objectives are tackled. Take a cult outpost for example. The goal is to take out every enemy within. Simple enough, right? Well, just that one simple task can be handled in a number of ways. One way is quietly stealthing through the facility, knocking out every goon like you’re playing as Batman. Another method is to pull out the trusty 12-gauge shotgun and blast those goons into pieces like the Doom Marine. You could also weave in and out of cover, taking smart shots against the enemies with an assault rifle. Or, you could sit back and enjoy a cold beverage as your dog Boomer tears all of the cultists’ throats out. Far Cry 5 provides a toolkit with a huge variety of tools, and players can choose whatever one fits their playstyle. Although, I would experiment with the different methods of play, because certain missions are more easily handled by changing up strategy. That, or just sicking Boomer on the enemies. Boomer is a good boy.
An alternative to the AI-controlled and player-commanded guns/fangs for hire is, well, actual, real people. Co-op is a major addition made for Far Cry 5, and it promises that every single mission can be played in co-op. The game is already fun on its own, but the ability to have another person join in an open-world adventure is always a fun thing. Games with co-op are always appreciated.
It isn’t all perfect though. The best parts of the game involve wandering and striking down cultists as they are stumbled upon. The cult outposts are the most entertaining objective to handle in the game, even more so than the story missions. The story missions might honestly be one of the worst parts of the game. A lot of them are gimmicky and dull, forcing the player to play a specific way with no other options. It’s understandable that the developers wanted to give those different gameplay styles a chance to shine on their own, but turret sections became rotten years ago and there’s nothing shining about controlling the vehicles in this game.
Cars control like bricks on wheels and seem to be able to cross any terrain no matter what. That’s certainly entertaining, but breaks any realistic atmosphere this game tries to build. Boats are essentially cars on water, which is slightly better, but not by much. Planes are absolutely the most frustrating to control. Flying them is easy enough, but when they throw in aerial combat that provides no feedback on landing or taking hits in dogfights where the AI can leave the map boundaries when the player is forced to play in their sandbox, it can become incredibly frustrating. The fact that a necessary story mission for clearing one of the major areas requires aerial combat is even worse, as all these frustrations with flight controls are forced upon the player. It doesn’t overpower the rest of the game, not even close, but it is still frustrating.
Shockingly dark narrative with a cast of vibrant personalities
The story of freeing an entire county from an insane religious cult is one that concerned me at first. Generally, talking about religion in games leads to commentary as subtle as a sledgehammer that screams when it’s swung. Far Cry 5 manages to tackle the issue without touching any raw nerves. There doesn’t seem to be anything too controversial within the game’s content. That doesn’t stop the narrative from still being dark and chilling. It can be a sharp contrast going from shotgunning a small army to being stuck in a dark, cramped room while watching people being tortured, but that just makes it better. The writing is excellent and makes Joseph and his siblings all both believable leaders while also being terrifying villains. Some are even sympathetic in a way, particularly John Seed during the player’s confrontations with him. It creates an engaging narrative that drives the action, even if the story missions themselves can be like pulling teeth.
On top of the writing comes a cast of likeable ally characters and wacky NPCs. The guns/fangs for hire system allows these used-to-be faceless NPCs to come to life, with their thoughts and personalities on display for the player to discover through simply traveling around. The guns for hire aren’t overly chatty though, and rarely did I notice lines of dialogue being repeated over and over again. Quests can also be completed for the guns for hire, allowing the player to really explore the lives of their favorite characters. Side quest givers are also given a surprising amount of personality. A bright spot is a crazy man with a flamethrower named Zip, who seems to be a parody of a popular crazy radio host. His dialogue legitimately creates sensible chuckles and gut-busting laughter. Even though it takes a backseat to gameplay, the writing and characters were given plenty of attention to detail, which helps the game tremendously.
Presentation that creates atmosphere thicker than Montana fog
Ubisoft, even in their worst games, always nails the detail they give to the worlds they build. Far Cry 5 is no different. The mountains of Montana not only provide a breath of fresh air from the jungles of previous installments, but also allows for more interesting environments and arenas for the player to take down opponents. The environments are beautiful, looking great and running smoothly on PS4. Wrestling with the flight controls is almost worth it to just take in the world. There also weren’t too many instances where I noticed drops in performance, which is great for a console title. Character models are also well animated, though the randomly generated NPCs tend to have stiff Bethesda movements. Lighting also plays a big role into a lot of scenes, and creates a fantastic atmosphere for the darker scenes within the game.
Working with the graphics to create atmosphere is the excellent sound design. The general sounds of the game are good, with the shotgun being particularly satisfying to use thanks to a meaty sound that goes with it. The music that plays during firefights and while driving vehicles is very appropriate for the Montana environment, with lots of guitar twang that was unexpected for this type of game, but much appreciated. The real winner, however, is the score that plays during the cutscenes involving the cult leaders. The haunting choral chants turn familiar tunes into something dark and twisted, much like how the cult themselves twisted religion into something that is pure horror. The opening cutscenes of the game were genuinely terrifying because of how effectively the music was used. There may not be any earworm songs, but the tunes worked for the game, and that’s all they needed to do.
The only major problem with presentation comes from lack of consistency. The graphics and sound design lead to a more realistic experience. For example, every time the player steps outside of a building during the day, they are blinded by sunshine, which is a touch on realism. Despite that, there are a number of little things that ruin that realism experience, particularly with some undamageable objects. There were also a few minor graphical glitches throughout my time playing, which isn’t unexpected, but it’s jarring when compared to the beauty of the rest of the world
Featured Image from Polygon
Far Cry 5
‘Far Cry 5’ manages to break free from the “Ubisoft open-world game” tropes, providing a gameplay experience that stays consistently fresh throughout the entire playthrough. The game may not be perfectly designed, but manages to be fun even during the most frustrating bits. The story and characters also surpass expectations, being very compelling to learn about throughout the journey. Ubisoft continues to nail their stellar presentation as well, this time in a whole new environment. It may be a rocky road at times, but the journey through it is definitely worth the trouble. Hope County is definitely worth the visit for those who’ve either never experienced this type of game before or for those who’ve become burnt out on the open-world genre.
Tanner is a Film and Media Studies major and a Digital Media minor. His Neo Yokio review won a second-place CSPA Golden Circle award for the 2017 semester. He enjoys playing JRPG’s of any variety, regardless of how obscure and strange it is. Tanner is also the host of Byte at the Movies, the premiere movie discussion live-stream.