Far Cry 5: catchup review

  • Format: PS4 (version reviewed), Xbone, PC
  • Unleashed: Out Now
  • Publisher: Ubisoft
  • Developer: Ubisoft
  • Players: 1 (offline), 2 (online co-op), 1-8 (Far Cry Arcade)
  • Site: https://far-cry.ubisoft.com/game/en-gb/home/
  • Game disc provided by the publisher

If there’s a single idea at the heart of Far Cry 5, it’s change. One change that nobody is likely to complain about is the removal of The Towers Of Icon Ejaculation. You know the ones; where you slowly but surely clamber to the top of an inconveniently awkward structure, your reward at the top being a huge number of icons splattered over your map of the immediate area. None of that here. It’s one example of change improving the experience. The problem is, whenever Ubisoft chooses to double down on tradition, the experience suffers.

This latest entry is set in Hope County (fictional) in Montana (apparently non-fictional). A huge rural area of mountains, fields, rivers, streams, and violent Christian extremists. As you explore your wonderful environs, you’ll come across an awful lot of people, some of whom won’t even try to kill you. Talking to NPCs, even ones not tied into the story in any meaningful way, will almost always result in something new marked on your map. A structure, a hunting spot (there are animals, but no more daft crafting), another NPC, and/or a trigger for a new side mission. You can also populate your map by finding and picking up maps or notes. With a seemingly never-ending supply of discoveries, the volume of things to see and do is truly impressive.

But what is there to actually do? Putting the story to one side for a moment, it is to a large extent exactly what we’ve come to expect of the series by now. You’ll randomly encounter enemies (and they’ll randomly encounter you), providing you with the option to fight or run. This will occasionally mean a hostage to rescue, or a VIP to kill. Elsewhere there are outposts to clear, resulting in a new fast travel point and some goodies to loot. Fancy a bit of downtime? Now you can fish; or if you still want a bit of adrenaline, there are “Clutch Nixon” stunt courses. Maybe you’ll steal and then deliver a couple of trucks. That’s not to say that the side missions can’t hold your interest, because they do. Elaboration after the break, folks.

You can use different types of bait when fishing, such as dogs.

Far Cry has always been about doing things ‘your way’, something 5 (usually) makes easier. This is in large part due to the nine AI buddies you can make (you can have initially one and then, through a perk unlock, two with you at a time). Complete a character’s side mission, and you can then (usually) call them to your side whenever you like. Each is best suited to a certain type of approach, or a certain type of mission. Poster dog Boomer is suited to almost any situation. He’s a bit rubbish in combat, but will automatically tag any enemies he gets near. There’s an archer who’s great for stealthy outpost attacks, air support in the form of a plane and a helicopter, and a bear… who is a bear you can command, come on! You’re (usually) free to do what you want, how you want.

You’ve probably noticed all these “usually”s that we’re throwing around like balls doomed to fail at a crooked fairground game. This is partly because, seemingly even more than usual in the series, the bad guys are numerous and determined to ruin your day. Despite the cult leader making it very clear in the main story that you are to be taken alive, every single baddie that notices you from any distance is determined to either fill you with bullets, or cave your head in. The chances of you walking/driving from one place to another without being spotted are extraordinarily low. AI will usually engage them, and can get injured if you leave them trying to get where you’re going.

Every side activity you complete earns a certain amount of resistance points. This means that eventually, whether you want to or not, you’ll sometimes trigger story events. Before the boss fights, this involves you getting dragged away through methods so quick and effective, you wonder why on Earth these methods aren’t used constantly until you stop escaping.

Your sniper AI companion can be very useful, but not great for stealth.

The big problem with the story missions set in the boss bunkers is that they’re so horrifically restrictive in terms of what you can and cannot do, they appear to have been designed by a team that had nothing to do with the rest of the game. This is very jarring, and makes the decision to force some of them onto you without you initiating them nigh-on inexplicable. They’re not bad, but they’re at odds with the spirit of the rest of the game (and, arguably, the rest of the series).

Most of the time, though, Far Cry 5 is a joy to play. Some of the people, places, and events that you’ll stumble upon unexpectedly are surprising in all the right ways. This is perhaps best reflected in the numerous side missions. These optional mini-stories often revel in the more humorous and outlandish side of the series, and are all the better for it. The tasks are usually unoriginal, but easy to swallow thanks to the framing.

On top of the immense main game you also get Far Cry Arcade, which could easily have been sold on its own (for a modest price). Allowing people to create and share their own singleplayer and multiplayer FPS maps, it’s a dream come true for many. You can completely ignore the creating bit if you like, and just enjoy all the free content. It doubles as a way to earn extra cash and perk points for use in the campaign.

One of the best games with the Far Cry tag but also, we would argue, the first one to have a story that actively interferes with your enjoyment. With more work to smoothly integrate this story, it could’ve been the best entry yet. As it is, it’s still well worth your time, and offers better value for money than many of its peers.

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Written by Luke K

Luke plays lots of videogames, now and again stopping to write about them. He's the editor in chief at Critical Gamer, which fools him into thinking his life has some kind of value. Chances are, if you pick up a copy of the latest Official PlayStation Magazine or GamesMaster, you'll find something he's written in there. Luke doesn't have a short temper. If you suggest otherwise, he will punch you in the face.

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