Another Far Cry, another huge open world to explore, another bunch of crazy people to get rid of. The formula for Far Cry 5 remains much the same as the previous titles in the series, not that it should be seen as a negative for that to be the case. There are some key tweaks as you’d expect and some new ideas to enjoy and benefit from, and between these and the tried and tested formula that’s made it such a well-liked series Ubisoft have managed to yet again pull something out of their open world bag that’s great to play, keeps you busy for hours and remains as enjoyable as it’s ever been.
Hope County has been taken over by a religious cult run by four siblings, each offering their own personalities, traits and dangers. After your initial escape from a life-threatening situation (so far, so Far Cry) you start to claw back some control of the county by chipping away at the three regions of the map, each one overseen by a different crazy leader, and while the opening few moments have you climbing a radio mast to unlock the map – a move which sparked a feeling of “not this again” – a clever dialogue line makes it clear that climbing up structures isn’t on the agenda this time round. Instead, you find out what’s on the map by talking to people, finding or buying maps, or actually going there yourself and seeing what’s around. Imagine that, finding stuff by actually exploring!
And there’s a huge amount to find. You’ve still got the strongholds that other Far Cry games have offered, but the approach to these has been tweaked a bit. Yes, there’s still small bonuses for going unspotted, but they’re not always major enough to warrant panicking if things don’t go to plan. Throwing yourself into a battle with guns blazing and explosions ripping through vehicles is entirely acceptable, and while being spotted might end up with a call for reinforcements, you just need to take out the one or two alarm panels before causing chaos and there’ll be no way for the bad guys to get help. I still had huge fun trying to silently clear out these areas without being noticed, carefully scanning with the binoculars to highlight the enemies, and using my bow and arrow or silenced sniper rifle to take them out in a precise order to minimise the chance of them being seen quite as dead as they are. And that’s without even thinking about the fact that you can use the help from other people…
As you work your way through the game you’ll help out key people who you can take on as hired help, following you on your travels. Getting stuck into fights and letting you order them around, take certain positions or attack certain enemies. It’s always handy to have someone who’s a crack shot with a sniper rifle picking people off from distance, or the brilliant redneck guy with a rocket launcher who’s very handy when it comes to taking on planes and helicopters who have taken a disliking to you. But that’s not all. I say “people” can help you out, but that’s not the whole story. Some missions, some non-essential missions, have you finding, rescuing or working with animals which lead you to have the option of “paws for hire”. You’ll find a dog first, a very useful friend who will highlight enemies for you and attack them quickly and quietly. But keep pressing on and you’ll find a bear and a cougar, both of which devastatingly deadly and both useful in certain circumstances. Each partner you find has their own helpful ability, such as the sniper previously mentioned, or being able to offer air support in a plane or helicopter. There are several to find, and depending on how you’ve upgraded yourself through the progress tree you’ll be able to have up to two fighters supporting you at any one time.
As for the upgrades, it’s not really a tree at all. While some unlocks are only available after opening up the previous perk (such as the extra health perks) you can mostly pick and choose whichever ones you want as you go. It’s not a tree as much as an open selection, a sizeable number of possible improvements and upgrades that let you tailor your progress to however you like to play. Those with a more direct approach might want the ammo upgrades, or the extra health. More sneaky types might want the perks that reduce the noise you make while running. But the range of more than enough to give you a choice that almost nobody else will have used before, and lets you give the game a second run using a different way of playing. The game does encourage experimentation though, with your perks being aided along by completing challenges that quietly tick along in the background, like counting how many sniper rifle kills you’ve made, or how many headshots with a bow. It encourages you to try out different weapons, and while you’ll undoubtedly find a balance that works for you and you’ll stick with, it’s nice to have that incentive to give each weapon type a try.
So with this rich, gorgeous looking county to explore, loads to do and a storyline which is run nicely by some key characters running the show, it’d be easy to think it’s the perfect game. It’s not, of course, but the issues aren’t anywhere near enough to ruin the game. Some missions can feel a bit samey, and there’s a definite consistency to how the bad guys look. There are also various times throughout the game when the relevant person in charge of the area of the map you’re currently liberating will capture you, making you work through certain trials or tasks which take you away from the open world you’ve come to enjoy. Initially it’s interesting and unusual, but after a couple you just wish they’d leave you alone for a bit and wonder why they never just kill you instead of toying with you the whole time.
But, small things aside, I loved my time in Hope County. It’s huge, it’s addictive, and it feels great to play. This is the Far Cry game the current generation of consoles needed all along. It’s finally arrived, and it was well worth the wait.
Reviewed on PS4