At E3 all the way back in June we got our first taste of the upcoming Far Cry 5 when we were thrown into Fall's End, one small section of Hope County, Montana. Now we've been given an ever wider area to explore, and during our recent two hours-worth of hands-on time with the game we saw a whole lot more and got a deeper look into what this sequel will offer us when it comes around, including the co-op side of things as well.
As before, we started out our life in Fall's End, and were pretty much left to do as we pleased. Sure, there were people around us like Mary May Fairgrave to give us story missions, but like the previous entries in the series (and indeed like many other Ubisoft games in general), the order in which we did these was left up to us, as was our engagement with the non-compulsory elements scattered around the map.
Well, that last part isn't quite true. Much like Ghost Recon: Wildlands our task is to take down the individual leaders of the cult, and to do that we need to 'piss off' (as Ubisoft phrased it) each one enough so that they're forced to find us and we can face them one-on-one. Of course, story missions help you achieve this, but it's all about increasing a "resistance" bar as you mount a fightback by completing disruptive activities on the map, things like killing cult VIPs, blowing up important vehicles, and stealing their loot. Oh, and there's also strongholds to take, which you then convert into hideouts for your allies.
Once you makes these strongholds friendly you then get access to way more content, from weapon vendors to side missions, so it's worth taking time out of your busy cult-slaying schedule to claim these for yourself. In fact, it's only by exploring the world that you find things in the first place, so it's worth taking a look around every now and then to see what's what. As Ubisoft made clear to us - it's not about climbing up towers and looking around anymore, but exploring the world yourself.
As you start to wander off the beaten track it doesn't take long to realise that there's a hell of a lot of content here, and the map will soon become littered with icons for you to visit, some of which are more useful than others. Fishing, for instance, won't help you rid Montana of the pesky cult, but speaking to the townspeople just might, as they give you useful information about where to visit and what to see. One of them even gave us the location of a stash with some useful loot inside, which was rather nice of him.
Once again it's quite impressive how genuine the world feels, as you regularly come across little events unfolding, like hostages being held by the side of the road, which you can ignore if you can live with yourself. Of course, as with other Far Cry titles, there's plenty of wildlife, and they've still got a hankering for human flesh. In fact, one time we snuck up on two hostages after eliminating their captors, only for a bear to run in and maul one of them to death. It's a hard world in Montana, and if it isn't the bears it'll be those damned wolverines.
It was a colleague of ours that played the E3 demo, and we hadn't played before, so we went into this section of the game expecting gunplay relatively similar to that of Ghost Recon: Wildlands, however, that turned out not to be the case. Cultists take a surprising amount of bullets, so it's not always a case of going in guns blazing (although that is possible) and hoping you can sponge enough bullets to see yourself through. What's more is that ammunition is also relatively limited, so you'll need to keep yourself stocked up by looting everything you find, including fallen adversaries, and investing money in your arsenal.
Also, guns handle in remarkably different ways, and so it's important to pick out the right weapon for the job. One mission, for instance, tasked us with taking down enemies who held hostages on a farm, and we had to do this quietly as they held hostages doused in gasoline who they'd ignite if the alarm was raised. We chose the silenced pistol for the job, but quickly had to change tactics when we realised the guy wielding the flamethrower had extra armour and wouldn't be taken out with a quick bullet to the face. With the multitude of weapons on offer, from sniper rifles to bows and even baseball bats, there should be something to suit all styles of play.
As per usual, medkits don't grow on trees, and your health doesn't fully regenerate when injured, so the game can get pretty hard if you keep throwing yourself into harm's way. It doesn't help that Hope County's roads are littered with jittery cultists ready to open fire at the slightest provocation, and so gunfights can kick off frequently if you're not careful. Sure, the tone is classic Far Cry in terms of light-heartedness, but it doesn't mean you won't be challenged.
As with other Far Cry games, there is a serious side to the story, which we got to see during a very interesting mission regarding a 'cleansing'. We don't want to spoil what happens here, but in this mission we got to see into the inner workings of the cult and one of its main men, John, as well as leader Joseph. It seems the interplay between these head honchos will be a big part of the main campaign, as will your insistent pursuit of them.
The last half an hour of our play session was dedicated solely to co-op play, which for those of you who don't know includes the entirety of the game, from start to finish. Whether you want to fish, tackle the main narrative, or just cruise around, you can do all of this with a friend, and it looks very promising from this point of view. Unfortunately the build we played was rather unpolished and thus filled with bugs, but we could still see the co-operative potential in there, one that reminded us a lot of the open and engaging world that Wildlands offered in the same way.
On closer inspection, Far Cry 5 comes with a lot of the things that the series has become famous for, including the open world littered with activities, hostile wildlife, and guns aplenty, but there's something extra here that sets it apart. The American setting is obviously a big part of this, but there's also the emphasis on organic exploration and a much bigger map to explore this time around. We liked what we saw, and if it's all available in co-op as well, then that just makes it all the sweeter.