FBT plays not the best Far Cry, but the best of Far Cry.
‘Far cry’ means “very different from” which is not how you’d define the Far Cry series. The original yes, that was a trailblazer but since then they’re the same game in a different setting; Primal even nicked from stablemate Assassin’s Creed, the undisputed king of the reskins.
All sequels follow the same pattern or they’d not be sequels, but FC is so repetitive the law of diminishing returns dictates that by now, FC should be washed up. FC4 was pretty much a wash out. Will this be a far cry or another Far Cry?
In a chopper flying over a Montana-inspired valley called Hope County, we’re a rookie deputy alongside our sheriff, fellow deputies and an ATF-type looking to arrest Joseph Seed, aka The Father, who runs a religious isolationist compound where hundreds of followers await “the Collapse”; and here we are.
Seed is much like the other megalomaniac villains we’ve faced in FC, but he’s more realistically threatening, with a David Koresh look and feel to him; and here we are, walking into Waco. Surrounded by ‘Peggies’, the nickname for Seed’s followers, the jumpy Sheriff implores the bolshy Marshal to not serve the warrant. Seed lets us take him, but naturally the Peggies are unhappy; unhappy enough to jump into the chopper’s rotor blades causing us to crash. Seed declares our arrival the Collapse’s catalyst, and orders the Peggies to round up locals and supplies to survive the apocalypse. Cut off and the only chance for the region, it’s all on us. So Far, so Cry.
True to form we’re recovered by a survivalist local who fills us in. We don’t need much of a fill, this is literally Far Cry 1/2/3/BD/4/P, but for the first time we’re on US soil. And the soil looks amazing. FC5 is beautiful and a great deal more relatable than FC’s previously exotic locations. I was expecting Redneck Rampage or Deliverance the Video Game but the locals, while dressed in lumberjack shirts and mullets, are genuine and not outback clichés. Well, apart from the lumberjack shirts and mullets.
Although the overall goal is to weaken Seed’s control, you spend most of your time just running about in America’s backyard helping folks out like one of those wandering heroes in ‘80s TV shows. There’s tons of people needing help, who then tell you about other people who need help, who reveal locations that need exploring, that open up other things to do. Like fishing. Real fishing is boring, but for some reason I spend ages trying to land fish. Seems like a nice spot to watch the Apocalypse, and for a while I’m obsessed with upgrading my rod instead of my rifle. Half the time I kill Peggies because they’re scaring the fish away. Obviously, this annoys Seed; which is weird, wasn’t Jesus’ emoji a fish? Come on Seed, grab a rod and let’s talk this out over a couple of beers by the lake.
Seed has three lieutenants, aka ‘the Heralds’. But rather than go through them in a linear plot we can chop and change between their regions and stories, and piss them off as we please. There’s Faith who controls a forest area and manages production of ‘bliss’, a hallucinogenic which keeps Seed’s followers faithful and turns some into zombie ‘Angels’. She’s like Poison Ivy meets Lana Del Ray, and the most compelling villain within the game, conflicted about her role, almost wanting us to save her; but we’re told not to believe her. She appears randomly to whisper and implore you to stop fighting, or maybe that’s down to us running through Bliss fields and hallucinating; often you’ll see a cute little deer or injured animal, only to have it change into a Cougar or worse when you get close.
The animals of FC5 are all great. Skittish deer roam about, but there’s also wolverines and skunks who spray, along with easily annoyed bears, bison and moose which are great, if painful fun to tangle with. Thankfully no crocs this time, but the Cougars have a sixth sense for attacking locals just as they’re about to tell me something. And there’s Eagles again. But the eagles are not the only thing in the sky.
As you piss off Seed’s lieutenants, they’ll start sending war parties out, and that can include airborne ones. Choppers will scan the ground and drop off Peggies if they spot you and there’s planes that patrol, shooting down other planes trying to escape and doing strafing runs on you. It’s loads of fun/annoying to get zeroed in by them, and the surprisingly easy-to-control planes and choppers make for fantastic dogfights or bombing runs. Or just for the views.
FC5 is one of the most beautiful games in years, you can almost smell the countryside, and you start to become invested in protecting it, like a heavily armed Vegan. Although the game is strictly for meat-eaters. We help an animal rights guy take down a Peggie farm, only to have it spectacularly backfire and there’s one mission where we have to batter pigs to death; I’ll happily kill any animal I come across in the wilderness but hitting pigs with a baseball bat for a perk just seems mean, but that’s nothing compared to a quest where we have to collect Bull testes for a cook-out, by killing a bull during mating, running one over with a tractor and burning one alive. Savages.
The regions are similar but the world never gets boring, we’re basically in Yellowstone Park and in-keeping with the isolationist and apocalypse themes, there’s bomb shelters, nuclear bunkers and hording going on like a pre-bomb Fallout which, given FC New Dawn, is exactly what they were going for. This would have made a killer Fallout prequel.
FC5 is huge but it doesn’t feel overwhelming or padded because it’s so well-observed, so distracting and busy that you can spend hours just fooling about, and the deputy might be nameless but they’re not useless. Whereas FC3 and 4 were fish out of water heroes, here we’re a bit more capable. Crafting with skins is gone, instead you Rambo-up by crafting ammo and explosives in the wilderness, and weapons fire in arcs – once you get your eye in, you’re pulling off incredible shots. There’s tons of vehicles too, but once you get hold of Pack Hunter, Widowmaker, Nancy, and Tulip, it’s on.
Outposts are the same as ever but they’re all varied and challenging, and strafing them with choppers or planes is great – especially as they call in plane and chopper reinforcements. There’s ‘prepper stashes’ – abandoned stockpiles which are exploration adventures ranging from hunting under waterfalls to a Haunted House, key Herald installations to destroy (a standout is a huge statute of Seed that needs razing), tons of random Peggie events, and followers to get onside – they're pretty basic, and there’s the sniper and stealth types but two are airborne support which is so cool, seeing a plane or chopper strafing in the middle of a fight or coming along for the ride.
We also get furry followers again; Boomer, a scrappy mutt who will retrieve weapons in a firefight, a Bear that fights like a tank and a mountain lion called Peaches who uses stealth attacks. I was surprised the Owl from Primal wasn’t back as an Eagle but hey, I’ll make do with a plane and a bear. And, I admit it, occasionally Hurk. He’s in his element here.
The devs still have a love for Blood Dragon, rightly so. There’s a sub-mission dedicated to helping make a straight-to-video actioner based on it, a car with neon, and a brutal sniper rifle with BD detailing. There’s quite a few comedy missions too, such as trying to get a pregnant woman to a hospital in time; it plays like one of those typical timed missions where suddenly there’s obstacles and problems that aren’t usually there but this time the whole place goes nuts like the riot scene in GTA:SA with planes and cars crashing while the woman’s screaming and asking why those things are happening; it’s full of sly meta-humour - Hurk innocently asks if we’ve met before, we have to climb a radio tower while being promised we only have to do it the once, and a mission-giver says his next quest will be largely the same but with just enough differences to justify it …
There’s still quirks; I bailed from a flaming helicopter but had to put out the flames before opening the parachute. Priorities. Once I was on a hostage mission and freeing them gave me enough XP to trigger a main mission, but I still had the hostages to deliver; if I tried, the game failed the main mission. If I went to the marker it wouldn’t trigger with the hostages in tow. So, I cancelled both, went looking for an XP bump to trigger the main mission, did so but arrived via helicopter which the game didn’t seem to anticipate and wouldn’t trigger. Restart. I landed a distance away, got the trigger, then walked into the rotor blades.
Pretty much every action you perform from taking outposts to random events like stopping forced baptisms increases the levels of annoyance against the Heralds. Thankfully gone are those trippy, daft boss fights but each time you frustrate a Herald enough, a scripted kidnapping will take place, although that makes no sense – once I was in a plane miles in the air and they still kidnapped me.
Each of the Heralds try to appeal to you – Faith wants you to submit, John (the cult’s evangelist hype-man) wants you to repent while Jacob, the gang’s muscle wants to see what you’re made of, physically and mentally. Mostly it’s cut-scenes where they explain their reasoning but the problem with FC5 is Seed; he doesn’t grow on you.
In FC3 you at least recognised Vaas’ psychosis and in 4 gained some perspective on Min’s dictatorship, but is Seed a charlatan? If he uses drugs and threat then it’s all a façade not faith, yet there’s hints the Collapse might not be in his head (and that we might be triggering it) so which is it, prophet or pretender? Doesn’t matter, we’re just a silent hero who can’t be swayed by his sermons, so all his Old Testament raging falls on deaf, cut-scene skipping ears rather than be an opportunity to explore Koresh-type self-styled Messiahs. If we could be indoctrinated or explore how someone thinks God is speaking to them or preying on people’s insecurities, then it could have gotten meaty but this is classic FC ‘save it for the end’ where we make a Hobson’s choice that we’re not invested in; he's just evil as far as we're concerned.
FC5 was criticised for not following through on its set up, and it is frustrating; besides our inability to consider Seed’s preaching’s or any exploration into the man, FC5 shies away from the satire of current world politics that you expected; it was marketed as as Far Cry MAGA, and if this had been another remote locale I’d not have cared but being set in the US it can’t use isolationism, patriotism and extremism as just excuses for trapping us here. There’s so much to be explored, but FC5 stays right where it’s comfortable. Fun, but comfy fun.
FC5 is just another FC, that’s a given, but to have promised so much then not delivered on any of it is a real kick in the reskin. It deserves to be dismissed as tired and repetitive as well as a hollow promise and yet … I loved FC5. Like, really loved it, more than FC3 at times loved it. It’s ironed out the annoyances, streamlined the experience and doubled-down on the bits that worked. Replacing radio towers with NPCs to reveal locations was a master-stroke; now I roam to find missions and because of that I get to see what we’re fighting for, get involved in the place as something more than just a landscape to run through.
The locals of Hope Country are all awesome, rounded folks. Long gone are the clone NPCs saying ‘this was a beautiful place once’ over and over, now there’s tons of NPCs, mission givers, followers and personalities to get mixed with, invested in; even Hurk and his disapproving Dad work in this context. You really want to help those folks living in this idyllic land. Even if the apocalypse is coming, I’m gonna make sure everyone’s free to enjoy it.
While Faith might be an interesting character, dealing with her isn’t. You have to listen to dreamy, wistful blather then she’ll attack somewhere you have to save, before facing off in a health-bar boss fight straight out of the 90s. But the other Heralds are, while being a bit one-dimensional boo-hiss, still top-notch bastards that build to the point you’re screaming for a showdown.
John, the TV evangelist broadcasts messages offering freedom from guilt through the ‘power of yes’ and his farm-land region is filled with billboards and a huge Hollywood-style ‘Yes’ sign, but he’s a smug, sadomasochistic prick who enjoys hurting people until they break. Taking out his Yes sign is a must, just to hear his barely contained rage betray his forgiving persona; then immediately go and take over his home too. I rinsed his region just to piss him off. Of all the Heralds, his finale is the best, a sequence of horror followed by a breathless chase that ended for me in the skies as I chased him back to his silo; I actually killed him as I fumbled for the parachute; my crashing plane landed on him. Say Yes to that.
The third Herald, Jacob is an ex-military man who trains the Peggies from a mountain area and is more interested in the apocalypse than salvation. He views people as soldiers or sheep, and intends to find out which you are, which is great/horrible and can have repercussions depending on which ending you chose; as always with FC, both are at best bitter-sweet. Okay, they’re both awful, but not terrible like FC4.
As I bring Hope County under control, I’m conflicted. FC5 is the biggest missed opportunity in years. The Peggies were once neighbours - FC5 is essentially what’s happening in the world right now, so to then fall back into typical FC ‘takeover this region’ gameplay instead of go all the way with it's MAGA tone is insanely frustrating. And there’s a lot of reskinning going on; the wolverines are just the honey badgers for example. Then again, I haven’t enjoyed an open-worlder this much in years either. It’s just so well done. This kind of up-to-you shooter is standard now, from the sad (Borderlands 3) to the silly (Just Cause 4), but FC5 finds a sweet spot between them. I don’t want this to end, but I can’t wait to introduce Seed to the God he claims to know, and that at least shows how much I got into it.
The ending pissed off a few critics who argued the cannon ending (picked up in FC New Dawn) undermined the game but that’s bollocks. For the first time, I actually really liked a FC ending; it hammers home the frustration that we can’t dig into Seed and his message, but it’s a cracking, subversive twist. And, if you recall Min’s offer to enjoy the Crab Rangoon in FC4, you might be advised to listen to the Sheriff not the ATF guy when you first arrive at Seed’s compound.
As I watch the final events unfold, in amused shock, I’m looking forward to the Game Plus mode and pissing off John all over again while I wait for New Dawn to break over the sales. FC5 didn’t deliver on its promise, but it does take some baby steps. Maybe it’s the start of something new in the Far Cry world. As Hurk’s dad says, Let’s Make Hope Great Again.
2018 | Developer; Ubisoft Montreal | Publisher; Ubisoft
Platforms; Win (Uplay) | PS4 | XO