Far Cry 5 was a bold proposition. Exotic islands, African savannahs, and the Himalayas all made way for rural Montana, or fictional Hope County to be exact. A strange setting for a video game, and a game that offered plenty of strange to go with its setting. The religious and political undertones of the game were kept reasonably balanced and there was enough ambivalence in the narrative to make us sit back and think a bit, in between helicopter crashes, psychedelic trips, and massive explosions that is.
One of the things that really distinguishes Far Cry titles from other action games is the tight connection there is between the protagonist and the main villain, in this case, nutcase-prophet Joseph Seed. The game does a great job of addressing you, the player, and making it personal even if you're just sent there as an agent without any true personal stake in Hope County. The Project at Eden's Gate is a strange (there's that word again) enemy; a cult of religious fanatics under the direction of one of three family members, or lieutenants. It may not change up the gameplay too much, but it does make for different sorts of connections with the locals, and the way you pick up missions is certainly indicative of that. The fact that you're completely free to complete missions in the world in any order, shifting the balance and forcing the lieutenants into action in the various regions, is a novel idea that was well implemented, even if there's room for improvement.
Far Cry has always encouraged player freedom, and while it's not a do-it-anyway-you-want kind of sandbox there is plenty of player agency here in how you go about your business and how you combat the Project at Eden's Gate. There's a huge number of tools at your disposal to help you do this, whether you want to go in loud and wild with the shovel launcher or use a bow and arrow to be a ghost.
As you'd expect Far Cry 5 delivers when it comes to explosive action and gunplay. There are plenty of camps to silently infiltrate and take over, and the various vehicles and companions (or co-op buddies) mix up the gameplay nicely. Speaking of the companions, we felt that whether it was Boomer, Nick, or Hurk, they added flavour not just to the gameplay but also to the mood as well, even when we played alongside another real player.
One aspect of the game we enjoyed, somewhat similar to the tombs in the Assassin's Creed titles, were the prepper caches you'll find spread out all over Hope County, providing some extra goodies. Some were simple enough to figure out, while others required you to flex those thinking muscles a bit more, but overall they provided a nice change of pace and rewarded exploration in a way that made for a greater whole.
One slightly controversial part of Far Cry 5 is its ending, and while we're not going to spoil things here, if you've happened to know what the direct sequel - Far Cry: New Dawn - is all about, you'll know things don't end well in Hope County. We'd say that it's an unusual ending, but given the context of the story and what we experienced it didn't feel out of place. There's a lack of player agency, but not all games need to be a hero's journey.
If the main game had us excited, we were perhaps even more excited for the rather out of the box-thinking that went into the DLC for the game that saw us go to Mars, explore Vietnam, and take on zombies. Sadly, it all felt a bit underwhelming, and while it added some variation to the whole package it never felt like it offered the same level of entertainment as the main game.
Far Cry 5 may not be the best Far Cry game (in our opinion Far Cry 3 was more memorable) but it offers all the things we've come to expect from the series (and plenty of it). Some bold choices with regards to the setting and the structure of the game really paid off and we enjoyed the intimate relationship we shared with Seed and his siblings. At the end of the day, it's a game that made us both laugh and think, and there aren't too many games that manage this.
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