In a time when our senses are beleaguered by claims of fake news, mass conspiracies and a world seemingly minutes away from impending doom, Ubisoft’s Far Cry 5 goes all-in trying to capture these sentiments and meld them with it’s tried-and-true sandbox style. The result is a game that is a familiar, sometimes confusing, but also a hell of a lot of fun.
Reviewed on Xbox One X using a 4K TV.
Set in the fictional Hope County in Montana, Far Cry 5 marks the first time the game takes place in a setting that isn’t a third-world country under authoritarian rule (of course some will debate that comment). Our hero or heroine is a Deputy for the U.S. Marshals Service; at the outset of the game, a cinematic plays showing a squad of U.S. Marshals making an arrest attempt on Joseph Seed at his fortified compound. Seed is known as The Father to his legion of followers, who have claimed Hope County as their own. Following the introductory cinematic, and in true Far Cry fashion, you’re soon stranded in the Montana wilderness working to overthrow the corrupt power of Seed’s cult – the Project at Eden’s Gate.
The game is massive, Hope County is divided into three subsections each belonging to one of the Seed siblings (John, Jacob and Faith). While you’re free to explore any of these areas, helpful NPCs within the game coerce you to first head west to Holland Valley, a farming region and territory controlled by John Seed.
As you complete tasks in any of Far Cry 5’s three regions, a meter begins to fill, working its way toward that region’s oppressor. At certain milestones, players are treated to somewhat unconventional cut scenes or special missions. How you’re brought into these scenes or levels is quite bizarre – unconventionally so. In the case of John Seed, you’re targeted and then tranquilized as soon as you take damage (somehow these mercenaries who can down you on a whim are absent from the rest of the game). With Faith Seed, it’s in the form of hallucinations from a potent drug, and with Jacob it’s an arrow to the leg.
These plot devices seem forced, but serve to further the story. It’s a balancing act, and frankly a difficult one to master in open world sandbox games like Far Cry 5. Regardless, it felt somewhat ham-handed by Ubisoft, often occurred out of place – going from the fun mayhem of liberating an occupied fortress to taking part in a pseudo stealth mission to further the narrative. While I did enjoy these villains, the pace of the game was often jarred by these forced interactions.
Stirring controversy is also the lack of well-defined social commentary that Far Cry 5 fails to provide, especially considering recent world events. While the story isn’t a deep dive into the social issues from the past half-decade, it broaches these topics, albeit with very broad strokes. I enjoyed Far Cry 5’s villains, and frankly the detractors who say they are too monochromatic would be well-served to look back at the blueprint for villains in the series (spoiler: only totalitarian despots need apply). Commentary by games on social issues will always be an interesting thing to engage, debate, and maybe even criticize – but when we get down to it, games are truly supposed to be for everyone. I’m always reminded of this, particularly in Ubisoft games where a title card or note in the credits reminds us that the game is developed by a team of various faiths, and backgrounds.
The truth is that I enjoyed the game’s story: it felt like a much needed breath of fresh air for the series. John Seed is reminiscent of real life cult leader David Koresh, and the cult’s motivations seem to fit the game perfectly. While the game leaves something to be desired regarding backstory and the relationship between the Seed siblings, there’s enough to keep the player going during the playthrough. The setting of Montana was immaculate, and we need more games of this ilk that tackle what’s going on in the world around us, perhaps in greater detail and with greater conviction.
Story aside, Far Cry’s gameplay has always been the standout feature of the series. From the first entry until now, Far Cry’s vast sandbox worlds have drawn players in repeatedly. At first glance, Far Cry 5 plays similarly to other Far Cry games.
The game itself sticks to a basic formula – occupied territories must be liberated, and as you complete missions you unlock liberation points which will ultimately compound into the ability to challenge the region’s ruler. As mentioned in the story review, these missions can be cinematic in nature, or more stealthy than the norm within the game. Typically, however they’re a fun culmination of the best aspects of what Far Cry has to offer. Other missions include liberating fortresses, destroying property, racing the clock and locating hidden prepper stashes which reward the player with perk points.
As Far Cry’s main antagonist is an armed militia, it feels as though this is the first in the series to forgo a lot of the stealthy aspects that made up earlier games. While you’re still able to effectively use stealth in some situations, the abundance of enemies in several of these areas, coupled with the ability to use an NPC sidekick to help you dominate these villains make stealth the less likely option. Bows and slingshots are the best option for remaining stealthy – though admittedly I’d usually end up opting for a more fun, in your face option during my missions or liberations.
Far Cry 5 gives players access to a wide ordnance of weapons from the start, however most of them must be purchased using in game currency (I will delve into this a little further down in a section dedicated to the DLC), and several are locked behind tasks that must be completed during the playthrough (liberation missions, complete challenges, etc.). Every weapon can be customized, but it was here that I was a little disappointed in the effort put forth by Ubisoft, as most of the customizations were very similar for every weapon in the game (scopes, extended magazines, silencers). Further to this, while there was an array of different weapons under each category, and each of these weapons had different statistics, the variations between guns within a single category didn’t really feel wildly distinctive from one to the other in the game.
Of course, that doesn’t really matter when you’re toting a grenade launcher or flamethrower – and Far Cry 5 really cranks up the fun factor when you start raining down mayhem on your enemies, no matter what loadout you choose. Not only are the higher powered heavy weapons fun, but there are a number of throwables that will help make your wrath swift and satisfying.
Players are given the choice of a number of different perks which will enhance their game. It would appear as though we are entering an age where erstwhile hand holding tutorials are a forgotten relic, and players are offered a most perks as options from the outset. While certain perks are unlocked by completing challenges, the perk tree is gone in favor of open choice. This can be a good thing and a bad thing, as early on I chose to unlock parachutes and wingsuits (having played previous Far Cry games). I found that as I was playing in the plains region of the game, the perk went relatively unused, and it wasn’t until later in the game when I was running around more mountainous regions that I started flying around like a squirrel.
Hunting animals is also an additional aspect of Far Cry, once again, and fishing has also been added. Unlike previous Far Cry games most of the time spent on these activities will be done to earn in-game currency or for achievement or trophy hunting, as animal skins and fish has been relegated to currency, not requirement for upgraded equipment.
Vehicles also play a large role in the game, and players are treated to an array of cars, boats, planes and helicopters to traverse the massive landscape. Each vehicle plays a little differently, and there are literally hours of fun being had spending time zipping through the massive Montana landscape.
The bottom line is that there’s plenty to keep you occupied in Far Cry 5. There’s a lot of value in the game and it is a lot of fun to play. While there may be minor grievances within the game itself, the truth is, Far Cry 5 is a classic first person sandbox shooter that will be sure to scratch a destructive itch.
Touted as a cooperative experience, Far Cry 5 boasts a two player mode where users can team up and progress through the game. The one-two punch was heavily marketed prior to the game’s release, and players are offered the superior ability to hit their enemies from two places at once. There are some caveats, however, as player story progress may not carry over between users when playing together. This could be considered either a positive or a negative, depending on who you ask. Furthermore, the host is the only player capable of initiating quests and controlling NPCs, though one wonders if this will change with a future update.
During the single player mode, progressing through certain missions unlocks companion NPCs, however these characters are reactionary in nature. During my flirtation with cooperative Far Cry, I found the ability to strategize with my partner to be a huge advantage. In an era where we’ve got the steep curve of learning on cooperative games like Sea of Thieves, Far Cry didn’t feel as rushed, mainly because we knew we didn’t have to look over our shoulder every few seconds, wondering if there was another human player bearing down on us.
The real gem in Far Cry 5’s multiplayer stable however is Far Cry: Arcade. Following public outcry regarding the ability to create multiplayer maps being left out of Far Cry 4’s map editor, Far Cry 5 takes a page out of the Halo’s Forge mode and gives users the ability to create maps using a library of over 9000 object, 5000 of which are from Far Cry 5. Players have already re-created Fortnite, Call of Duty, Halo, PUBG, Last of Us and Counter-strike maps using the robust editor. The only drawback is the randomness of the multiplayer matchmaking – players join a lobby and are randomly chosen to be the map selector, which seems a little clumsy. Once again, we hope this will be addressed in a future update.
Graphics and Sound
Far Cry 5 may be the best looking game on Xbox One X to date. The graphics are crisp and highly detailed and the colours come through in stunning native 4K resolution. Draw distances are fantastic, which really helps with some of the sniper related challenges in the game. Images are sharp and the attention to detail is astounding.
Having travelled to Montana, you’d be hard pressed to find a game that more perfectly recreates its setting (perhaps Ubisoft’s other major release, Assassin’s Creed Origins’ Egypt). The anti-aliasing is also cutting edge, and as you pan your vision you’d almost believe you were standing in a national park in Montana. While I feel that gaming is just beginning to broach their potential in 4K, Far Cry 5 is truly a leap forward.
The frame rate is locked in at 30 frames per second, and the game plays extremely smooth for the duration. Occasionally during my playthrough there’d be a one off screen tear that seemed to happen when the system was doing some heavy processing, however it should be stipulated that this was so rare it could almost be considered a one-off. Hopefully this is addressed with a future patch. There were other minor glitches with characters walking through doors or popping in from nowhere, but I assume these will also be addressed in future patches.
As far as the audio is concerned, this is also another bright spot. Everything from explosions to animal calls to swimming underwater is faithfully recreated, audiophiles will likely concede. The characters are memorable, and Ubisoft claims it would take nearly eighty hours to hear all of the dialogue from the game. The game’s soundtrack also has a backwoods flair and adds to the ambience of Far Cry 5.
DLC and Microtransactions
Ubisoft is setting the standard for business models when it comes to making compelling games that don’t hinge on microtransactions and downloadable content. With last year’s standout return to form of Assassin’s Creed Origins, there may be some concern that they’d slip back into old habits with Far Cry. Rest assured, Ubisoft has done right by gamers.
In game currency comes in two forms, regular old American greenbacks, and premium silver, which is purchased with real world money, but also found within safes littered throughout the game. While Silver can be used as an alternative currency to purchase some of the locked weapons in the game, it is not necessary. Frankly, by the time I’d completed the first region I found I was replete with money and could purchase any of the weapons I wanted. As you level up and master the skill trees, you’ll find your bags loaded with skins and fish and your wallet having a big chunk of change.
For those like me who are users of Ubisoft club, I’m happy to report that there are some perks, once again that you can purchase and use in game, including clothing and weaponry.
The season pass has also announced that a fully remastered version of Far Cry 3 will be available for download toward the end of May. Also announced are a number of scenario missions for Far Cry 5, including Vietnam, Mars and Zombies. We expect to have more information on these missions in coming months. The Gold Edition of Far Cry 5, which includes the season pass promises more content to come, however also grants the player access to a number of exclusive weapons at the outset of the game. This perhaps made the difficulty curve a lot easier to manage earlier in the game.
Far Cry 5 is a no brainer for me. Ubisoft has produced a genuinely fun game, with some very memorable characters. While there are minor grievances here and there, the reality is that Far Cry 5 will provide hours of fun, and the ability to play with a partner only heightens that enjoyment. With some solid additions planned for Season Pass holders, coupled with the overwhelming potential of Far Cry: Arcade I expect people will be playing Far Cry 5 through the year, and it may be a darkhorse Game of the Year candidate.
Far Cry 5
- Far Cry at its best, this one is a lot of fun to play.
- Graphically stunning, especially on Xbox One X in native 4K.
- As far as content goes, you're getting your money's worth.
- Good characters breathe fresh air into the series.
- Season's pass content looks really good.
- Forced cut scene and action sequences happen out of place.
- Cooperative story progress may not accrue on the non-host account.
- Far Cry Arcade's Matchmaking needs a revision.