Review by Derrick Carter
Long since the series’ conception, the FAR CRY games have shown themselves to be rather experimental first-person shooters…as opposed to a repetitive generic series of first person shooters (cough, CALL OF DUTY, cough). At any rate, FAR CRY 3 mixed open-world qualities with adrenaline-pumping action and made for one of the most acclaimed shooters of the 2010s. Two years after that fantastic game, FAR CRY 4 was released and met with almost universal disappointment from fans. Now, FAR CRY 5 has come and proven itself to be the best of the bunch. Not to sound hyperbolic, but FAR CRY 5 is one of the most fun and strangely profound first-person shooters I’ve had the pleasure of playing.
Welcome to Hope County, Montana. It’s a friendly enough place, with the exception of a violent doomsday cult that’s brewing within a Waco-like compound. You (a nameless rookie) have been tasked to accompany a Sheriff and a few federal agents to take in notorious cult leader Joseph Seed. However, things don’t go according to plan (do they ever?). Your helicopter crashes and you’re stranded smack dab in the middle of a county that’s overrun by cultists and yet still has a small band of resistance fighters. You’ll have to save your officer friends, make a few new friends (both humans and animals), and take out the notorious Seed clan (Joseph and his three vicious siblings) if you want to get out of Hope County in one piece.
One common complaint that I’ve been hearing over and over is that FAR CRY 5 is the exact same game as every other FAR CRY game. I beg to differ. I feel that Ubisoft did their damndest to make this the best FAR CRY so far and they succeeded by (appropriately enough) a country mile. Things immediately kick off differently in that your protagonist is completely customizable towards your preferences. You decide if they’re male or female, how they look, and (in true open-world fashion) what their combat strengths are. While FAR CRY 3 was jokingly described as SKYRIM with guns, I’d argue that FAR CRY 5 actually more wholeheartedly lives up to that comparison.
FAR CRY 5 also allows you to have a follower (or two, if you earn one of the games best perks). While FAR CRY 4 had a “Guns for Hire” system, it was flawed to say the least and usually sent a generic guy who only existed to fight until he was inevitably gunned down by one of the more annoying heavily armed foes. FAR CRY 5 actually gives you nine supporting characters with colorful personalities that you can complete missions with and then have them fight alongside you. These special followers range from a very handy pilot to a goth archer (my favorite character in the whole damn game). However, followers also include tamed animals…like Boomer (the cutest dog ever), Peaches (a cougar), and Cheeseburger (a fucking bear that becomes one of your strongest allies ever). The truth is that I felt connected to these supporting characters and got legitimately angry when cultists shot at them or briefly incapacitated them.
Unlike previous FAR CRY games, where hunting was an essential part of the story and almost felt like a chore in certain spots (especially FAR CRY 4), FAR CRY 5 lets you upgrade your skills with perk points that you earn through various challenges. These challenges include some hunting (but that’s totally optional), but mostly involve getting a certain amount of kills with different weapons and followers. This game actively encourages you to vary your approaches and try new things in order to advance your abilities. It’s kind of brilliant on the part of the developers and it really helps players hone in on what weapons, combat styles, and followers they like best.
Besides letting you choose your look, your play style, and your followers (or lack thereof, if you prefer to fly solo), FAR CRY 5 is also structured in a way where you choose what order you play through the main campaign. There are three main regions in Hope County and each region is home to a Herald (a main underling of the cult). By completing general chaos, side quests or story-related quests in each region, you attract the attention of that region’s Herald and engage in confrontations with them (including three wildly different, but amazingly cinematic big boss battles). You can choose to tackle them one at a time (the approach that I took on my first play-through) or plan to take them all down simultaneously. The latter would be building up towards an undeniably action-packed two-three final hours of adrenaline-pumping gameplay (this is the approach that one of my friends took and I plan for my second play-through). At the end of the day, it’s a ton of freedom left up to the player, making this the possibly most choice-driven first-person shooter in ages!
Speaking of the Heralds and Joseph Seed, this game’s villains are simply awesome. FAR CRY is a series that functions on delivering truly psychotic baddies (FAR CRY 3’s Vaas is a fan favorite for good reason and the underused Pagan Min is definitely the best thing about FAR CRY 4). FAR CRY 5 gives us, not one, not two, but four(!) big bads that you have to tackle throughout the game. Each of Joseph Seed’s siblings is drastically different, making each region feel unique as a result. My favorite of the underling bosses is Jacob (a military man driven by a “cull the herd” philosophy) and providing a few borderline nightmarish moments in his encounters. However, Faith is the most unusual of the bunch as she provides a slightly sympathetic side to her evil ways and also induces loads of hallucinations that you have to survive (including drugged out moments that randomly occur outside of your encounters with her).
FAR CRY 5 takes lots of risks as far as its storytelling goes, but ensures that no two players will have exactly the same experience with this game. This is one of the most open-world games I’ve played in that it just lets the player forge their own path and forms the plot around their choices. I’d also argue that the “good” ending of the campaign is one of the ballsiest conclusions that I’ve seen in any video game ever and the effect it leaves is absolutely chilling. There’s a lot to be said in the feelings it leaves you with and to say anything more, would be doing a disservice to players who haven’t experienced it yet.
As far as the technical aspects are concerned, FAR CRY 5 has realistic graphics and only a few technical glitches that I encountered. The much-dreaded microtransactions are purely cosmetic and you can 100% ignore them and still have just as much fun/skill as players who dump extra money into their weapons and vehicles. Also, the game has a phenomenal soundtrack. Nothing beats the feeling of a perfect song hitting at the exact right moment, whether it was programmed to be a story-specific sequence (a long hotel shootout against Jacob’s militia ranks as one of my biggest highlights in the entire game) or random bits (like a rock song hitting as you’re driving around rescuing random hostages from heavily armed cultists).
Though some people have argued FAR CRY 5 is more of the same, I’d point out that they changed and improved on so many things for this fifth (official) installment in the long-running open-world first-person-shooter series. While games like the new GOD OF WAR are undeniably amazing achievements, I still think that FAR CRY 5 is the most fun I’ve had playing a new game in ages. If you’re a FAR CRY fan, this is explosive, chaotic heaven. If you have never played a FAR CRY game at all, there’s no better place to start than here. FAR CRY 5 is an adrenaline-pumping, hugely entertaining, and frequently shocking blast. I love every second of this game!