Given current events, Ubisoft’s decision to take the Far Cry series to midwestern America is full of controversy. It’s not often that Americans are the bad guys in video games, but the religious cults that surfaced in the 20th century are ripe material for Far Cry’s brand of surrealism. It’s given a more modern slant, of course, but it’s not overtly tapping into current affairs.
The game kicks off with you, a Sheriff’s Deputy, and the rest of your department trying to enact a warrant for the arrest of Joseph Seed, the leader of the Eden’s Gate cult. It should come as no surprise that things don’t go according to plan, your colleagues are taken hostage, and there’s some luck to your ability to escape.
Starting off in the town of Fall’s End, first seen in the E3 demo, I’m sure I could have used my 90 minutes to simply hop in a car and drive from one side of the available map to the other, but that probably wouldn’t have been the best use of my time. Instead I meandered out from the town of Fall’s End and into the rest of this slice of Holland Valley, stumbling from one thing to the next. Without the stereotypical Ubisoft Towers, you’re either going to bumble your way into a situation on your own or have to speak to one of the many NPCs in town to hear word of a cultist base or somewhere that they’re attacking.
Holland Valley is roughly a third of the game map, and it’s home to one of Seed’s three Heralds, John. He’s in charge of the reaping, to take all the resources from the region and stockpile them for the end of the world that Eden’s Gate is constantly preaching about. Elsewhere, Jacob is in charge of raising the army that you’re constantly facing off against, while Faith is in charge of pacification and indoctrination. You could tackle these in whichever order you want after the game’s opening, disrupting their operations enough to draw them out to fight.
Fall’s End is just one of the first places that has started to fight back against Eden’s Gate – fascinatingly, we were told that if you don’t liberate Fall’s End, your actions elsewhere will lead to the local populace going to liberate it for themselves. Most people will probably get there first, and there’s some notable citizens like Mary May, a bartender looking to use her late father’s reputation to instil hope, Pastor Jeffries who’s taking up arms to free the cult’s hostages and Nick Rye and his airplane in the region. For a lighter and more comical tone, there’s also Casey Fixman who’s trying to get this year’s Testicle Festival or “Testy Festy” to run without a hitch. These four are just scratching the surface though, with people handing out missions dotted across the map, in addition to the regular NPCs.
Some of those regular NPCs can fight alongside you as part of the Guns for Hire system. We met Grace, the highly trained sniper, Boomer the dog – Fangs for Hire – and had Nick Rye hopping into his plane to lend your some support from the skies, but these are special characters. You can also just speak to certain locals who’ve picked up weapons and are willing to fight back. That’s exactly what Renee Hopper was doing, as she came with a reflex bow and arrows. Depending on their weapons they’ll support you in different ways, so Renee was stealthy, while someone with a rocket launcher is, well, less stealthy. You can have several at once as well, so you can turn up with a posse at your back.
Combat is fast and punchy with guns that deal a lot of damage on both sides. Enemies might need a few bullets or arrows to actually take them down and they’ll dish out the pain to you as well, if given the chance. The sole exception is the flamethrower, which almost invariably seemed to end up with me getting very very hurt in the middle of an expanding circle of fire. The range is fairly short but when you are close enough that the enemies start burning, they start screaming, they start running towards you bringing the flames with them. It’s fun to use, but be prepared to suffer the consequences.
Eden’s Gate are everywhere. They’ve got roadblocks in place, they’re transporting supplies, they’ve taken hostages, they’re summarily executing people in gruesome ways, and they’ve gone into people’s homes and farms and simply taken over. Those are set up as now traditional Far Cry camps, with gun-toting goons on patrol, alarms to try and disable before they can be used to call in reinforcements, and the obligatory wild animals in cages that you can release. Liberating an outpost is always something of a puzzle if you want to tackle it stealthily, or an all out gunfight if you decide to wade in there.
What better than to do so with a friend, though? In addition to Guns for Hire, you have Friends for Hire, a drop in, drop out co-op mode. You can play the entire game with a friend by your side, which is great news after the disappointment of how limited Far Cry 4’s co-op was. The one thing to be aware is that, while they’ll come with all their own gear and unlocked guns and vehicles, they’re joining your game and your progress.
Every action against Eden’s Gate adds to the Resistance Meter, building up in the region the more you do. Passing certain thresholds means the local people will start to fight back more, being inspired by your actions, but this also causes the cultists to toughen up. So you then have to up the ante, and they come to meet it once again, until you’ve done enough damage to draw the regional Herald out of hiding to face you.
Far Cry 5 is like a taste of home. Admittedly, I’ve barely even scratched the surface of this game, but doesn’t feel quite as zany and silly as the last couple of numbered entries, even with things like the Testy Festy, and pigs in party hats. Even so, you’ve got a lot of the classic Far Cry feel behind the even more freeform world that you’re trying to save from this doomsday cult.