Also On: Xbox One, PC
Developer: Ubisoft Studios
Far Cry 5 is the latest entry in the long running Ubisoft franchise. Following a relatively mixed reception for both Far Cry 4 in 2014 and Far Cry Primal in 2016, there was a lot of pressure on Ubisoft to get this one right. In a first for the series, Far Cry 5 is set in an alternate take on modern America, Hope County Montana to be precise. Hope County is home to a fanatic religious cult known as Eden?s Gate, and you are a rookie deputy out to serve an arrest warrant on their leader Joseph Seed AKA ?The Father?. The plan goes predictably awry, leaving your fellow law enforcement officers captured and you on the run through the dangerous hills of Montana. Following the arrest attempt, Eden?s Gate takes control of the county and begins ?The Reaping?, which is crazy cult speech for ushering in the end of the world and killing or enslaving all of Hope County.
The new setting and terrifying reality of Hope County brings an entirely new level of depth to Far Cry that was not there before. Don?t get me wrong, I have thoroughly enjoyed most of the Far Cry games to date, but they were never really relatable. They are real enough settings and storylines, but nothing that speaks to me. Far Cry 5 however hits close to home, and is not too far fetched in this day and age. The people that you encounter throughout Hope County feel like real people. A bartender that wants to preserve her father’s legacy, a preacher that wants to protect his flock, a mechanic that wants nothing more than to save his truck from the cult, these are all relatable characters, people you can feel for and actually want to help instead of just quest-giving drones. The dialogue serves a purpose and tells a story, while also keeping you moving forward and giving you the information you need. Most of the voice acting is superb, at least for the main characters that you will encounter.
The villains have always been a high point for the series, but often times are not seen much beyond the opening and closing of the game. They are a face for the evil, but not so much real characters in the world you interact with beyond their scripted scenes. Far Cry 5 presents you with so much more. In addition to Joseph, you will encounter Jacob, John and Faith, his siblings. Each of the siblings controls their own third of the map, giving each area it?s own unique challenges and enemies. To reach Joseph, you must first take down each of his siblings. This does not mean Joseph is absent though, you will see him in cutscenes with his siblings, you will interact with his men, you will attack his resources all while engaging in side quests and other missions throughout the county. Each of the siblings holds their own position within the cult in addition to their land holdings, and each has their own unique personality and manner in which they engage with you. Every one of the siblings could be the main villain for their own game, and they are each given their own fully realized back story. Their areas are uniquely created and populated, yet still maintain the feeling of the game as a whole.
The setting is not all that has changed with Far Cry 5. The way you interact with the world, the map, the character customization, it has all been improved for what is without a doubt the best Far Cry experience ever. Exploration is the biggest aspect that has been vastly improved. The days of chasing down tower after tower to open up sections of the map and 97 side quests all at once are gone, with the map opening up as you explore it. Quests are found as you stumble upon them, and the choice is yours as to which you would like to do first.
Character customization is the next big overhaul. To get new perks you complete in-game challenges which give you perk points, a currency that you spend on the skills of your choosing. You can still hunt and skin animals, but with the sole purpose of selling the skins for cash to purchase weapons, ammo, vehicles and consumables. Far Cry 5 simplifies the entire process, while still making it progression based so that you feel as though you get stronger as you move through the game. The perks change the way you can play the game and the way you interact with the environment. A wing suit allows you to fly from aircraft at will, the grappling hook lets you move up and around the mountains unhindered, stealth perks, additional weapon slots, increased ammo capacity, all of it can change the course of your encounters with the cult.
Combat keeps the same Far Cry feel that the previous games had, while also adding in some elements from games like Ghost Recon Wildlands and Rainbow Six. Bullets hit harder, enemies operate smarter and the entire game feels more solid. If you shoot someone with a .50 caliber round or a .44 magnum, it is apparent. There is a big difference in how the enemies react to being hit with various projectiles. The same goes for your throwable items. If you throw a remote explosive at someone’s feet and set it off, they turn to pink mist leaving very little behind. If they are at the edge of a grenade explosion, they are knocked back and lie dead or stunned on the ground. They seek cover while trying to flank you, making the engagements that much more intense.
The companion system is still in place, but this too has been improved upon. There are fighters that you can hire in the world, no-name NPCs that can come to your aid and increase your chances of winning a fight. These are basic characters with general perks that can be unlocked as you use them. The real help comes in the form of unique characters that you can recruit to your cause and bring along to help. These are named characters with quests attached to earn their loyalty and specific traits that you can use based on your play style. My personal favorites are the ?Fangs for Hire?. There is a unique animal you can get in each region to accompany you throughout the game. Boomer the dog, Peaches the cougar and Cheeseburger the grizzly bear. Why anyone chooses to play the game using anything but these fantastic companions is beyond me, because sending a giant bear into a cult held building and watching the ensuing carnage just never gets old. Also, if Boomer is downed, you revive him with belly rubs. What more does a player need? In all seriousness, there is a companion built to fit your team no matter how you choose to play, and they can mean the difference between taking a camp or losing one. In addition to NPC companions, the entirety of Far Cry 5 can be played in co-op, so bring some friends along and take down Eden?s Gate.
On top of the outstanding campaign, Far Cry 5 has PvP in the form of an Arcade Mode. These multiplayer games are built on the same gameplay that makes the campaign so satisfying, but the real joy of the Arcade mode is the map creation. Ubisoft gives you access to assets from more than just Far Cry 5, they give you Assassin?s Creed, Watch Dogs and previous Far Cry assets that you can use to build the craziest multiplayer maps imaginable. This has all been pre-release game time, but Ubisoft was nice enough to arrange some multiplayer sessions that I was able to join with reviewers from other outlets, so I have not had nearly as much time with the multiplayer aspects as I would like, but what I was able to experience was top notch.
Far Cry 5 is hands down the best yet for the series, and may be the best Ubisoft title ever. I have loved my time with this game, and with the 35 or so hours I have invested so far, I feel that I still have a lot of content left to discover, with more side quests and character missions to do beyond the main story. The areas are unique, the gameplay is tight and the characters are memorable. This honestly disturbing look at an alternate America is the exact thing this series needed stand out and make a name for itself amid all of the other open world RPG games out there. We are still at the beginning of this year, with an enormous host of outstanding looking games on the horizon, but I can almost guarantee that Far Cry 5 will not be absent from anyone’s Game of the Year discussions once we close the book on 2018.
Note: Ubisoft provided us with a Far Cry 5 PS4 code for review purposes.