Despite having played every Far Cry game minus the original, I never actually expect that much from them. Every single one of them has blatant flaws, whether it’s a cookie-cutter antagonist or a game world that’s sorely lacking. I don’t come into a Far Cry title expecting a masterpiece, I come for the ridiculous mayhem, a tradition which Far Cry 5 gladly continues.
After playing about ten hours or so of Far Cry 5, a wholesale change in the formula similar to Assassin’s Creed: Origins certainly isn’t anywhere to be found. It’s inherently Far Cry with a few quality of life changes over anything revelatory. Where previous entries in the franchise may have thrown up roadblocks to your fun, including the much maligned towers that became Ubisoft’s unwanted mascot for lazy open-world building, Far Cry 5 smashes right through them and offers the most streamlined entry to date.
Things start off on pretty familiar ground, though it’s hard to imagine Far Cry opening in any other way at this point. You meet the cult leader, the charismatic Joseph Seed, and try to make them see the error of their ways before all hell breaks loose. You’re separated from your associates and thrust into the expanses of Hope County as either your playground or a living nightmare.
Obviously it’s going to be the former. With the exception of Far Cry 3’s Vaas, nothing has really “stuck” in a Far Cry narrative, except for maybe The Jackal in the second installment. By and large, the outlandish aggressors and the strife of our protagonist(s) is nothing but a means to an end, the way to facilitate the ability to hunt pigs with a rocket launcher. We’re all here for the carnage; nuts to nuance.
The carnage, and what beautiful carnage it is, comes thick and fast in Far Cry 5, seemingly more so than ever before. The nature of its completely open-world means that you can go from saving a cultist’s captive to then trying to fend off a wolverine with almost alarming regularity. This might be overwhelming to some, but there’s such little downtime in Far Cry 5 that the slender amount of it I’ve played so far feels even shorter. It’s one thing and then onto the next one.
The improvements to Far Cry 5 should be apparent also immediately to anyone who’s played a few of the earlier games before. The series has always had surprisingly meaty gunplay and it’s the same here: cultists go flying with a shotgun blast and crumple into a heap when struck with an arrow. After playing on a keyboard and a controller to get the measure of things, Far Cry 5 certainly seems designed for WASD as it’s the only way you can keep up with what’s going on and land accurate shots to the crazed cultist hordes.
As well as taking away the humdrum filler, Ubisoft have wisely decided to make some of the side distractions more, well, distracting. It seems like even the most mundane of sidequests has more effort poured into them; no mean feat considering how often you stumble into one. They almost all follow the same structure, shoot the things and get the thing, but the attention to detail in establishing them and making them feel more important took me by surprise.
You can still mindlessly collect flowers and animal pelts, but they are no longer necessary for upgrades. Instead, you can trade them in with a shopkeeper to use on upgrades and weapons. I’m yet to properly make my mind up on the in-game economy, but it feels a little stingy. A single weapon costs thousands to unlock, but you only get a few hundred dollars at a time for completing missions. There are also vehicles and clothes for sale, which also aren’t for the frugal — a weapon with an ever so slightly fancy skin costs $7000. I’m going to reserve judgement until later in the game to see just how freely the rewards flow, but the option to buy made-up money with real money to then use in the store has me concerned.
Arguably Far Cry 5’s most substantial change-up is in its buddy system as it now allows you to team up with specialised friendlies rather than just some random militia member who ran over a deer on his way to meet you. I’ve only unlocked three so far: Boomer, Grace Armstrong, and Nick Rye. As a dog, Boomer is my favourite by default, though he is rather handy in a fight. Grace is a sniper who channels the spirit of FPS Doug and Nick provides cover from above in his plane. You can also add still add random members of the resistance to your squad and even level them up over time. I’ve grown quite attached to two of my bland looking dudes with goatees.
My time with Far Cry 5 is still in the early stages, but I found it very hard to pull myself away from it to begrudgingly write this. There’s just so much more to unpack that I will be saving for my review later in the week, but if you can’t wait until then, know that Far Cry 5 is still absolutely the dumb fun we’ve come to expect from it over the years and not much more, and that’s totally okay.