Ever since Far Cry 3, sneaking my way through outposts eliminating enemies one by one has been one of my favorite things to do in video games. I’m happy to report that systematically taking down murderous thugs is just as fun in rural America as it is in the Himalayas, and that Far Cry 5 is another great game in the open-world series Ubisoft seems most willing to have fun with. It may be playing a familiar tune, but all of these combat, physics, and wildlife systems all mix together to create unexpected moments of intense and hilarious action.
This time around you play as a sheriff’s deputy, part of a task force sent into the fictional Hope County, Montana. Rural America may not be quite as exotic or exciting a playground as a tropical island or a secluded mountain, but it’s a gigantic open world where things are constantly blowing up, wild animals are pouncing, and a never-ending supply of cultists are lining up to be your target practice. The mountains, valleys, plains, forests, rivers, lakes, and caves of Hope County make it a place where there’s never a dull moment.
Being stranded and hunted by well-armed militia was a very cool moment.
With all of that scenery and action, Far Cry 5 is a nice-looking game, but it isn’t on the same level as, say, Horizon: Zero Dawn. Even comparing it to another recent open-world Ubisoft game, it’s not quite as attractive as Assassin’s Creed Origins. It’s generally good enough, but I was sometimes distracted by the pop-in caused by the density of the landscape. Even on the PS4 Pro, it’s hard not to notice all the magically appearing trees as you stroll through the wilderness. In fact, other than resolution on a 4K TV, there isn’t a stark difference between the PS4 and the Pro at all.
You can also count the number of unique cultist goon faces on one hand, so expect to be shooting the same faces over and over. Rounding out my technical complaints would be long load times – upwards of 60 seconds – on both PS4 and PS4 Pro, a couple glitched missions I had to restart, and the one time Far Cry 5 completely froze on me.
This dark corner of Montana is controlled by a man named Joseph Seed, a zealot leader who hasn’t left quite the same impression on me that Vaas or Pagan Min did in the previous two Far Cry games. He doesn’t have any particularly memorable lines, and his motivation for wanting to end the world is murky. But the story ends up in an unforgettable place, making this an open-world adventure that is worth seeing through to completion.
I like that, for the first time in a Far Cry game, you can choose between a male or female protagonist and do some light customization. Alas, it’s merely a cosmetic decision, as either way your character will be mute (so there’s no custom voice acting) and most people will refer to you as “The Deputy.” And for a series as bonkers as Far Cry, the customization options here are a little conservative. You unlock more as you progress, so it’s not as dire as it initially appears, but they are few and far between and rarely much more than a shirt or jeans. The one exception is a Far Cry Primal-style caveman/woman outfit, which is fun – I wanted to see more of that. But this being a first-person game, you won’t see much of yourself in the campaign anyway… unless you die a lot.
The vibe is like an ’80s action movie that happens to be set in a conservative state.
While most of the original soundtrack is the pretty standard action movie stuff you might hear in an episode of 24, the menu music is a very pleasant bit of acoustic Americana that I would listen to even if I weren’t playing. There are also a few original gospel songs sung by the cult choir that are both catchy and creepy.
Now, is Far Cry 5 an especially political game? I don’t think so. There are a few things you can point to as commentary on rural America’s relationship with guns and the Second Amendment, and I’ve encountered one character who is a satire of a stereotypical Trump supporter (he has a mission called Make Hope Great Again). But the story doesn’t seem to be making any grand statement about current events or political ideologies. The vibe is more like an ‘80s action movie that happens to be set in a conservative state. Rural America isn’t being ridiculed or laughed at here. Instead of leaning on stereotypes, the people you encounter are well-written, and most are charismatic and funny.
That story takes place on an open-world map that, in true Ubisoft fashion, is packed with so much to find and so much happening at any given time it’s easy to get distracted from the mission at hand. That’s not a complaint – I like games with big possibility spaces. One of my funniest moments was when I rescued a woman being held hostage by the cult and, just as she was thanking me, a wolverine jumped on her face out of nowhere and mauled her to death. Hey, I tried.
I like games with big possibility spaces.
To complement the combat, some light environmental puzzle solving is required to find lucrative treasure stashes. On one of these sidequests, called Long Shot Lockpick, the goods are locked away in a shed high up on stilts overlooking a lake. The name of the quest is the clue, and after swimming to the other side of the lake you’ll find a sniper perch placed just right for peering through a back window in the shed at the lock which can be shot off, providing you access. It’s not The Witness, but these simple challenges allow for quiet moments of thought amidst all the chaos.
While Far Cry’s emergent gameplay recipe remains addictive, there is a certain amount of sameness to it. The tasks required of you, the weapons at your disposal, and the now-cliche supernatural dream sequences are all so similar to Far Cry 3 and 4 that there isn’t much by way of surprises in store. It’s still a blast to play, and the brutal combat remains ever so satisfying no matter where you are (thanks in part to the amusingly unrealistic ragdoll death animations) but Far Cry 5 doesn’t feel like a revelation because it doesn’t do a lot to set itself apart.
The structure of the main quest is a little different, in that in order to get to Joseph Seed you need to draw out and eliminate his three lieutenants (his siblings) first. Each rules over their own area of Hope County, and to get to them you’ll need to build up Resistance Points by liberating outposts, freeing captives, and otherwise killing their vibe. It’s a fun progression system that gives you a constant visual cue of the progress you’re making as you watch that resistance meter slowly fill. It also provides a very “video game” path through several bosses on your way to the final boss. Hope County is truly open, and you can make your way through the three different areas and bosses in any order you like.
I don’t expect any of these leaders will be remembered like Far Cry 3’s Vaas.
The four cult leaders all have…