If it isn’t already, Far Cry’s motto should be ‘freedom’. For years now, its modus operandi has been to set a challenge and give you as many ways to beat it as possible while a sociopath monologues over the radio. The latest instalment continues this trend with a few differences, first by stacking the psychopath deck with even more magnetic maniacs, and second by giving you even more freedom.
Far Cry 5 is set in Hope County, a fictional slice of Montana, America, and fans of the series will instantly be able to see why this appeals. America, ignoring its current political quagmire, is a stunningly pretty country and Hope County is no exception. The environment is full of screenshots waiting to happen, covered as it is in picturesque forests and lakes with little cabins. America is also, let’s say, eccentric in just the right way for the quirky nature of Far Cry’s characterisation to fit in quite well.
Characters are as eccentric as ever, but with an American tint to them. The number of mullets in this game would trigger some kind of warning siren in real life, not to mention the alarming regularity with which flannel is visible. Some will demand your help in exchange for them not having already shot you when you ventured onto their property, whilst others will complain about “Canadian immigrants coming into our country and spreading political correctness.” The game stops short of any real commentary on the troubles of modern day America beyond poking some fun, which is almost anticlimactic, but that may be welcome for those of us who want to escape the ever worsening state of politics.
There are a lot of other changes to the game as well. The level up and skill tree systems have been replaced with a perk system, in which you earn perk points by completing challenges such as a certain amount of kills from range, skinning a certain number of grizzly bears, or wingsuit for a particular distance. You can then use these points to purchase perks that will give you new abilities, from carrying more ammo to unlocking your wingsuit. The difference here is that these perks can be unlocked in almost any order, with only a few having requirements beyond the price, and this allows you to more effectively tailor your character to your preferred style of play.
Another welcome change is that hunting animals is no longer required to upgrade your inventory and equipment. Instead, these upgrades are perks that you can purchase and no longer have multiple levels, so you only need to buy one perk to carry all the rifle ammo you can. You do get perk points from certain hunting accomplishments, but hunting animals mainly just gives you skins that you can sell at shops, which you will need as money isn’t as easy to come by as it once was in the series. Specifically, all the little valuables you could find in previous games just to sell for cash are gone, so your income depends almost entirely on completing missions and hunting or fishing. This means you may take a tiny bit longer to unlock that gun you’ve had your eye on once it’s available to purchase, because you keep spending all your income on ammo for your mad suicide runs.
Speaking of shops, there are now cars, planes, helicopters, and boats to purchase as well as guns and their attachments. The cars, boats and helicopters handle pretty much how you would expect, but planes are a little floatier than I’d like personally, even though they work well enough. Some planes and helicopters have bombs and/or rockets, but only four ammo for each, which must be refilled by paying $1000 whilst you’re flying. That’s a lot of cash, but you can just fall back on the machine guns with regenerating ammo. Weapons and vehicles can also be bought with silver bars, which is a currency that is purchasable via microtransactions. It doesn’t seem to be intrusive and shouldn’t impact game progression, but the cynics would say this is why cash is harder to come by.
Far Cry 5 comes with a whole family of unhinged lunatics this time around. Atrocities in this game are carried out by the cult members of Project Eden’s Gate, which is led by Joseph Seed, or The Father as he is called. He and his three siblings believe the end of the world is coming, like many actual cults, but this one is building bunkers and taking military control of an entire county. The siblings, John, Jacob and Faith, are Joseph’s heralds and have each been given roughly a third of Hope County to maintain in their own, uniquely disturbing way.
These characters are all very well written and performed. John is a violent, twisted psychopath, whereas Jacob is a war vet who dabbles in brainwashing, and Faith has a rather heavy reliance on a drug called Bliss, which the cult has been growing and using to brainwash, control and murder people in the county. This Bliss is a welcome excuse for all the bosses to have abilities that make more fun than sense, like disappearing or even floating around, allowing the bosses to be inventive without having to resort to quicktime events. They are fun to fight, each in a way that makes sense for their character, and fascinating to watch. Each of them is distinct, from John’s emotionless stare, Jacob’s drawling accent, to Faith’s bliss causing hallucinations of her appearing out of thin air whilst you’re exploring, or animals that turn into others when you shoot them – a placid moose turning into an angry bear is always a nice surprise…
Liberating the county of these cultists is done by blowing things up and shooting things, with everything from completing missions to rescuing civilians from roadside slaughter helping to build the Resistance Meter in that region. There’s no more Ubisoft Towers™ to climb, but talking to people can add objectives, signs you pass tell you where wildlife lives, and so on. There’s no prescribed order, and building the resistance triggers certain game events and sends more cultists into a region to fight back.
As ever, you are given guns, bows, and explosives to take out objectives however you prefer. From the beginning, your character has access to molotovs, remote explosives, and all the other toys, though there is no explanation for why you’re so familiar with crafting them right from the off. You can sneak through a camp hitting people with baseball bats if that what you prefer, you can fly over in a plane and drop bombs, or snipe from a distance whilst you send in some Guns for Hire.
You can now call upon Guns for Hire that can be some of the many randomised civilians for some generic help, or unlock specialists by completing their respective story missions. Your help can be anything from a grizzly bear named Cheeseburger to Nick Rye and his plane that pull bombing runs for you, and both at the same time if you unlock the right perks! Replacing an AI buddy, you can also have a real world friend to join you for online co-op, which naturally leads to even more excessive shenanigans.
Really, the gameplay is where Far Cry 5 excels the most. It’s equal parts fast and considered, depending on how you go about things, and although you occasionally end up being inexplicably swarmed by cars full of enemies on nondescript roads, the interaction between all the systems in place results in all manner of delightful moments.
It’s not perfect though, and there are quite a few small bugs to be found. NPCs are very sensitive to nearby enemies and unavailable to talk to when in conflict, often resulting in frustration as you keep trying to get a mission from them but they’re too distracted trying not to die, the selfish bastards. I also experienced some pop in issues, with whole convoys materialising just down the road and one mission objective that wouldn’t materialise when I needed to bomb it from a plane. The latter cleared itself up and the former is a minor lack of polish and/or a limitation of the base PlayStation 4. Most bugs tend to just be amusing, such as when my plane for hire decided to take out another plane by flying directly into it, which I can only imagine wasn’t intended behaviour, but was still pretty hilarious.
Far Cry 5 is another improvement to a series that hit its stride quite a long time ago. It gets a recommendation not because of any of its individual features, but because they all combine together into a game that becomes paradoxically funny and horrifying, occasionally at the same time. It depicts a part of America lovingly with its tongue very firmly glued to its cheek, but when I close my eyes, I still see Joseph Seed staring back at me.
Version tested: PS4