From the third outing onwards, the Far Cry series has a blueprint; colourful cut leader has to be taken down by unlikely hero in a hostile environment and Far Cry 5 embraces the trend, providing a christian-style religious cult lead by tattooed ‘holy man’ Joseph Seed.
The American Wilderness is the new playground, the hills, valleys and open water of Hope County, Montana the setting. The area has been pretty much sealed off by Seed’s Eden’s Gate cult and it’s only you and a bunch of resistance fighters (mostly wild eyed preppers) who’ve managed to escape the cult’s brutal initiation (which boils down to join or die) to set the area free from the ‘Peggies’.
Early on in the game it feels like Montana could easily be swapped out for either of the past two locations and it wouldn’t make a huge difference. The wild animals might look different, but they pretty much attack the same way as before, with the notorious Honey Badger from 4 replaced by a Wolverine and other creatures pretty much standing in for their Far Cry 3 and 4 counterparts. Shacks hold weapons and collectables, people you meet give you missions and the ongoing story tells you as much about the people you’re siding with as the ones you are fighting. But then you get to the top of a mountain and realise you can see other points of interest across the map, or stumble upon a new fishing spot in a section of the map you haven’t yet liberated. It’s at this point that the changes Ubisoft have made start to become clear.
One area that hasn’t really changed is the graphics engine. Montana looks great, but it’s not any more detailed than Kyrat. Playing on Xbox One X, however, does make the game look better thanks to the 4K enhancements that Ubisoft have provided and it certainly felt like a smoother game overall on Microsoft’s current top end console. Character models, at times, feel lifted from the previous game, too. Physics and AI have been improved to some extent, but aircraft take a bit of getting used to and remind me of trying to control unwieldy planes in Ghost Recon Wildlands.
In a refreshing change to Ubisoft’s usual open world game style, the map itself isn’t littered with 100 icons each telling you to do another piece of busy work. Yes, the small side-missions are still there, plus fishing (which earns a huge amount of cash and is, surprisingly, satisfying in its own right), crazy flying sidequests and car stunts to break up the killing and hostage rescuing, but the map is relatively free from waypoints telling you to do this or do that. This is an overhaul of the Far Cry game-plan, though not a complete one by any means and you can still feels the old game engine tugging away underneath. In other ways, though, it still feels like the last 2 games, with a peppering of Primal in place when you first come across a dog which can be used as a scout and an aid to attacking enemies, followed by a bear that is just a joy to have as support, but that’s no bad thing. In fact, I’d have liked to have seen even more animal support available. The support angle also adds a little of Wildlands stealth to the mix as well, which is a very welcome addition.
It’s not just about this single big bad villain this time around, either. Joseph Seed may well have top billing as the evil cult leader, but his family are just as memorable and the map is divided into a section for each of them, waiting for you to come face to face with the Seed family and defeat them before you head off to fight the big brother. Faith, John and Jacob Seed are dotted around the map but thankfully it’s all open for you to explore. If you get bored of one region then you can always start liberating another. Eventually, you’l earn enough points on a resistance meter by liberating areas or taking on side missions that you’ll trigger the next piece of the story, bringing you nearer to the next Seed family member to take down.
Fans of structured gameplay aren’t going to like this but it feels like a fresh approach for Far Cry and works well in this wilderness setting. There are some missions, however, that are pretty much essential to undertake as soon as possible. Getting air support and unlocking Fangs For Hire, the ability to have animal support, will make the task of facing the cult a whole lot easier and the game does gently push you towards them. You also have Perks which require points to unlock, including a much needed extra holster for weapons (no crafting of weapons pouches here, despite being able to skin animals you’ve killed) and the wingsuit to help move faster around the map where Fast Travel points aren’t available.
While Far Cry 5 dabbles with the new and holds on to the old in equal measure, there’s still a lot of fun to be had here. It may not say much about the religious cults or American society, despite the subject matter, but if you expected a Far Cry game to go there, you’re obviously not tuned in to the way this franchise works. Maybe it doesn’t do quite enough to move it on in the same way Assassin’s Creed Origins has rebooted that particular franchise, but Far Cry 5 gives you yet another playground full of guns, evil enemies and mayhem and lets you loose inside it and that’s good enough for me.
Far Cry 5£48.00
- Makes the world far more open than previous Far Cry games
- Interesting setting
- Good use of support AI, especially animals
- Some stealth gameplay provides a nice change
- Some elements feel old as they've been used in the last 2 games
- Character models feel ripped from Far Cry 4