Far Cry 5 sticks to the series’ sandbox formula, but past issues return [This Week in Gaming]

Far Cry 5

While Ubisoft Montreal may have positioned Far Cry 5 as a reinvention of its popular open-world series leading up to the title’s release, the first-person shooter plays nearly identical to Far Cry 3 and even Far Cry 4.

The similarities even extend to the game’s often-discussed story, which ultimately is neither as compelling nor as satisfying as I’d hoped, particularly given the game’s messianic villain, Joseph Seed.

But the Far Cry series has always been at its best when you’re shooting and blowing things up. So, in a sense, depending on your expectations for this entry in the series, Far Cry 5 being so similar to its predecessors isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

This time around, you take on the role of a sheriff’s deputy that’s part of a task force sent into fictional Hope County, Montana. Rural Montana isn’t as exciting as a tropical island or a giant, snow-covered mountain, but there are moments where the game’s familiar valleys, plains and rivers shine, especially when running the game in native 4K on the Xbox One X.

Still, I often found myself longing for the more exotic locales of Far Cry 3 and 4; the rural Midwest of the United States just isn’t as compelling as I had hoped.

Hope County is overrun by a religious doomsday cult called Eden’s Gate. The group believes the world is coming to an end and in preparation for the collapse, they’re stocking up on guns and kidnapping new recruits.

As is typical now in the Far Cry franchise, you start the game as a newcomer in a place filled with horrible people. However, they are also individuals willing to aid you in your quest to liberate Hope County. Your job is to take control of the game’s regions by accomplishing goals such as taking out enemy outposts, destroying silos and completing core story and side missions.

Similar to past Far Cry games, your character is frustratingly inept at the start of the game.

You’re only capable of carrying two weapons at a time and abilities like the grappling hook, wingsuit and chain takedown need to be unlocked through the game’s surprisingly intuitive skill tree perk system. As in past Far Cry games, it’s a good idea to upgrade the number of weapons you’re able to carry as quickly as possible.

Far Cry 5 screenshot

Far Cry 5 is also more open than past entires in the series, allowing players to tackle Hope County’s three regions — which are overseen by ‘The Father’s’ lieutenants — in any order they choose. While the game is generally wide open in terms of structure, some missions are easier to tackle once you’ve unlocked specific perks later in the game, which could lead to frustration if you stray too far from Far Cry 5’s story missions.

Ubisoft’s latest Far Cry game is truly at its best when it allows you to tackle its action movie-like missions exactly how you want. The issue here is that you first need to unlock many of these features, which results in Far Cry 5 becoming more fun towards the latter half of its runtime.

The game’s new ‘Guns For Hire’ feature is also essential, especially early on in the game. It allows you to enlist key characters, as well as random supporters of the resistance, to help you out during missions. While I experimented with different companions, I mostly stuck with Boomer, a capable canine companion — who doesn’t want to shoot crazed cultists with a dog friend?

Far Cry 5 screenshot

Despite what the game’s early marketing material promised, Far Cry 5 completely avoids the subject of discussing race. Some of Eden’s Gate cult members are people of colour, though most are white, including the group’s leadership structure.

Themes of extremism, nationalism and white supremacy are avoided by Ubisoft, with the underlying message behind Far Cry 5 being that murderous cults are bad. This is a disappointing move on the developer’s part, as Far Cry 5 seemed primed to provide intelligent commentary on the current socio-political climate of the United States and the broader world.

The only instances where politics do come in to play, such as a side mission where you’re essentially looking for what is the Donald Trump pee tape, come off as Grand Theft Auto-like satire and are at odds with Far Cry 5’s otherwise serious tone.

Far Cry 5 screenshot

The game also rarely addressed the simple fact that this small county in the Midwestern United States had essentially become a war zone, which I found bizarre.

Some of the Far Cry series’ more frustrating elements have also made a return in this fifth entry in the series. In 2008’s Far Cry 2 — which was an otherwise groundbreaking game — relentless rebels attacked you at every turn in the middle of story missions. While these random skirmishes started off entertaining, they quickly grew annoying.

For the most part, Far Cry 3 and Far Cry 4 nixed these frustrating diversions. However, in Far Cry 5, even after putting significant effort into lowering Eden Gate’s control of specific areas of the game’s map, I was still constantly attacked by roving bands of cultists.

Far Cry 5 screenshot

At times, this led to entertaining organic experiences, though. For example, while driving an 18-wheeler cab affectionately named the ‘Widowmaker,’ I was attacked by a helicopter. I managed to shoot down the aerial vehicle, only to watch it smash into a pickup truck chasing me with a mounted gun. It’s moments like this where Far Cry 5 is at its best. In most other instances, the relentless pursuit of murder hungry cultists became a nuisance the game could do without.

Far Cry 5 also features a co-operative mode that allows players to experience the entire game with a friend. It’s important to note that when playing co-operatively, only the host actually makes story progress, with the guest retaining experience and loot.

And of course, since this is 2018, the game also includes a competitive multiplayer mode called Far Cry Arcade, complete with a surprisingly capable map editor that features assets from Far Cry 4, Far Cry Primal, Watch Dogs, Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag and Assassin’s Creed Unity.

Far Cry 5 screenshot

Admittedly, I haven’t spent much time with either of these game modes, but they are a nice addition to the game’s overall package.

While Far Cry 5 ultimately offers a solid experience despite some missteps, I’m beginning to question how long Ubisoft can continue on the franchise’s current path before it begins to feel stale.

Far Cry 5 is available on PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4. The game plays in native 4K (4096 x 2160 pixels) on the Xbox One X with HDR. On the PlayStation 4 Pro, Far Cry 5 runs at 2880 x 1620 pixels with HDR.

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