Platforms: Xbox One (reviewed on an Xbox One X), PlayStation 4, and PC
Far Cry is a very, very interesting and odd series. It has gone from something super radical, to something very grounded and serious, to something that tries to mix both together with varying results. There have been really great entries, some ok ones, and some ones that people have mixed feelings on. Usually, there’s a pretty good general consensus on each game but with Far Cry 5, I think it’s going to divide lots of people.
We all know the set-up for a Far Cry game at this point: Someone that’s not a local comes into a land of crazy people who are terrorizing the natives. It’s up to you to be the one-man-army that puts a stop to it and restore order while causing as much chaos as humanly possible! It’s like mad libs basically, you just fill in the blanks with the locations, character names, and so forth.
With Far Cry 5, you’re a Montana cop who is brought along with to raid a cult’s compound and take their crazy leader, Joseph Seed, into custody. They’re a bunch of religious wackadoos whose methods are very violent and extreme, so you bring a U.S. Marshall and some local cops to apprehend the self-proclaimed prophet/messiah combo. Things quickly go south as usual and you’re trapped in this fairly large Montana county known as Hope County.
It’s up to your nameless protagonist (only referred to as rookie or deputy) to help the locals liberate three specific regions in Hope County. Each region is controlled by one of Joseph Seed’s siblings/disciples. Faith, a beautiful and manipulative girl with a troubled past who was fostered into the Seed family. She controls her region with a drug known as Bliss, a hallucinogen of sorts. Then there’s John Seed, he’s pretty similar to Joseph but he’s a bit of a loose cannon in comparison. Finally, there’s Jacob Seed. A former war veteran who uses brutal methods to carry out his brother’s will.
A dull story that takes several dozen hours to complete with only an hour of worthwhile content
It’s a lot to tackle and it took me about 37 hours to finish the Far Cry 5 (according to the Xbox time tracker but it may be closer to 25 – 30) with plenty of side activities mixed in. It’s a beefy game, I still have lots left to do but the story drags a LOT. The juiciest bits of this game are the gripping intro when you go to seize Seed which has a tinge of horror in it and the ending which is really cool but also feels unearned.
Far Cry 5 presents a very cool and interesting premise but doesn’t take it anywhere. While some people expected this to be a politically heavy game, I don’t care that it’s not. It just refuses to do anything of value with its story despite having the tools to create a potential masterpiece. It feels like after the intro, the story is running in place, constantly repeating itself for dozens of hours.
Far Cry 5 has this odd incessant need to kidnap the player about eight times in the game and deliver you to the leader of the region you are in. Eight. Times. Each time, you’re forced to listen to the boss go on a frustratingly boring and ultimately meaningless monologue about human nature, sin, society, and other “deep” concepts. Far Cry has done this before but never has it been as bad or repetitive as this. Part of this comes from the lackluster villains (Joseph Seed not included), they’re all just very cliche and uninteresting and they drone on and on.
Ubisoft seems to have fallen into the “quantity over quality” trap where they realized the strong suit over this series happens to be the villains. Everyone loved Vaas, everyone loved Pagan Min, so let’s just add four different psychos! It was the wrong way of handling this and sort of undermines Joseph Seed since he sits back on his remote island out on the lake and lets his henchmen do all the work.
The problem with the story of Far Cry 5 isn’t that it fails to do what it sets out to do, it’s that it fails to do anything at all. As you play, you will begin to realize you’re playing the same missions over and over again. You raid a bunker three times, you run out of them as they’re exploding, you steal trucks and vehicles for people constantly, it’s this constant cycle and it becomes tiresome. The game has a lot of fat that needed to be trimmed, it’s a 20 – 30 hour game that could easily be 5 – 8 hours. If they want it to be longer, they have to earn it and they don’t.
Far Cry 5 is filled with poor writing and moments that make zero sense
The story in Far Cry 5 is also filled to the brim with contrivances. The aforementioned Bliss drug that Faith plagues Hope County with has this almost mind-control ability and causes you to hallucinate things. It makes you question what’s real and what’s not but not in a way that’s like psychological horror, in a way that makes you wonder if they’re trying to cover plot holes with a poor explanation. The whole game is littered with fallacies and makes you wonder how a series that is usually written brilliantly feels like it’s written by someone who just came up with a basic concept and then didn’t know what to do beyond that. It’s messy and treats the player in a way that almost made me feel dumb as if we’re not supposed to notice.
Part of the reason for the messy story may be due to how it’s told in a non-linear fashion. You can jump between regions as you please, take on missions in whatever order you want, kill the bosses when you want. It makes it so the story doesn’t really have to go down this straight path where it hits specific beats at specific moments, it’s an interesting way of telling a story but it’s handled poorly. Director Christopher Nolan did a non-linear story with his latest film, Dunkirk, by providing several different stories that take place at different points in time but eventually intersect and come together to meld one complete story. Far Cry 5 never really has that moment where it all blends together seamlessly, at least not in a way that works.
For the most part, it has the best gameplay in the series
Ubisoft’s saving grace in Far Cry 5 is the world and the gameplay that lies within it. They almost perfected the gameplay in 3 and have been refining it since then with it peaking here in 5. It does feel like it has taken some steps back in the stealth department with some iffy level design in outposts and clunky AI but when you’re doing balls to the wall action (which is probably 85 – 90% of the game) it crushes it.
Far Cry prides itself on its chaotic good gameplay, not chaotic good as in morals more so that the chaos is just so good. The environment has incredible burning effects where fire spreads and can create problems if you’re not careful, the lively world will frequently cause unexpected scenarios like a turkey tackling someone you’re shooting at or a speeding car ramming a bear that’s chasing after you, and of course, all the wild stuff you can come up with on your own terms.
If you want to jump off a mountain and use your wingsuit to fly towards a helicopter, deploy a parachute when you’re close enough, whip out a rocket launcher and shoot it and then proceed to land in an outpost so you can beat everyone to death with a baseball bat, you can do that. Even 30 hours in, there was new stuff happening in gameplay that was unique to me. If you’re looking for something to just waste time on and have a hell of a lot of fun, Far Cry 5 will satisfy all of your needs, especially if you bring a co-op partner along.
A detail heavy world filled with life… maybe too much life
The only thing that’s frustrating is that because the world is so alive, it’s also very, very aggressive and makes it difficult to navigate without being bugged every 45 seconds. Those who have played the previous games will know that there a large number of enemy vehicles patrolling the maps and they chase you from time to time or you might get attacked by a wild animal, it feels like that happens far more frequently now and has even become more frustrating.
For example, there was an instance where I was in my own outpost attempting to get a mission from an NPC and as they were talking an enemy plane swoops down and shoots them mid-sentence. Not only was I under the impression this was a safe haven but it meant that I had to spend several minutes shooting a plane out of the sky with an assault rifle so I could go back to that person and get the quest I needed. This happened on several occasions with cars pulling up on the side of the road after I had rescued someone and they were giving me vital info so they could get shot down.
It becomes tiresome and you could argue that this a case of the narrative crossing over with gameplay, Seed’s grasp on Hope County is so strong that you’re never safe and always feel oppressed but there should be some balance. There’s no balance at all and it results in forcing me into combat every few minutes and becoming increasingly annoyed. There’s a way to handle it in a way that gets its point across without making me kill people constantly, sometimes it’s nice to be able to catch a breath and just soak up the gorgeous world without dousing it in blood, discarded bullets, and fire.
Hope County, Montana itself is really fun to explore when you’re not in a seemingly 24/7 hailstorm of bullets. It’s a breathtaking and otherwise quiet place in America that has rejected the modern ways of materialism and stays true to old American values. You can fish, hunt in the woods, fly planes, go base jumping, and discover hidden stashes of riches in nooks and crannies hidden around the almost Bob Ross-like world that Ubisoft has created.
There’s a lot of great little details in it such as lore enriching notes, phone calls, and other pieces of content to help build the universe around you, blood will cover your weapons as you play, your NPC partners will make unique comments to each other, and more. For as broken as the AI can be, I found it really cool when I strolled up to this animal scientist’s house with my pet cougar, Peaches, and she made note of it in an unscripted fashion. Was even cooler when I brought Hurk along for a mission with my bear, Cheeseburger, and he would make comments about how if the bear gave birth to any babies, he had dibs on one of the cubs. It’s little details like this that make you realize Ubisoft cares about tiny details, things some people will never pay attention to but it gives those who notice it a much better experience. All these little lines that will never be triggered because of all the possibilities and things that have to happen in order for them to happen show an immense respect for the world they’re trying to build.
A plethora of distracting bugs and glitches
As previously mentioned, the AI can be a bit of a mess. Humans will run out in front of your car like deer, they’ll randomly crash their planes for no reason at all, and so much more. While often funny, it can get old and even hurt the experience in the long run.
Far Cry 5 has a host of bugs from wonky AI, overlapping dialogue, weird one-off unexplainable occurrences, and more. It has some charm but can make the game feel a bit unpolished and leaves you scratching your head. The game isn’t really broken but it has a lot of rough edges that don’t hide themselves very well.
Ubisoft has created the Metal Gear Solid V of open-world FPS /semi-RPG games which is sort of a backhanded compliment given how the story and gameplay were handled in that game. They gave us a world filled with opportunities but chose not to capitalize on any of them for themselves, opting to hope players will distract themselves with the meaty gameplay and craft their own stories of merit. Some may think that’s fine, some may feel they’ve had their time wasted and like they’ve been robbed of an engrossing tale of two sides fighting for causes they both think are right that’s filled with depth.
While you likely won’t feel like you’re suffering when playing through Far Cry 5, you may find yourself thinking that Ubisoft had a chance to craft something special but sadly botched it. Far Cry 5’s not a bad game, it’s just a disappointing one with squandered potential.