Far Cry 5

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Release Date: March 27, 2018


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Xbox One Review - 'Far Cry 5'

by Adam Pavlacka on May 8, 2018 @ 12:23 a.m. PDT

As the new junior deputy of fictional Hope County, Montana, players will find that their arrival accelerates a years-long silent coup by a fanatical doomsday cult, the Project at Eden's Gate, igniting a violent takeover of the county.

Buy Far Cry 5

[Editor's Note: This review contains End of Game Spoilers - For a spoiler-free review, check out Redmond's thoughts on the PS4 version of the game.]

When you start playing Far Cry 5, it could be any old action game. Things start out normal enough. You're a nameless rookie cop who is heading in to arrest Joseph Seed, the leader of a militant cult that is aggressively taking over the fictional Hope County in Montana. When you arrive, things appear to go well enough, up until the point where the cultists drop any sense of bowing to authority and attack the police chopper. A high-pressure escape follows, and then you're alone, with no one but a doomsday prepper feeding you information over the radio.

For the initial section of the game, your exploration is limited. You can't leave Dutch's small island until you've completed all the training missions, and gotten up to speed with the game's controls. Far Cry 5 does a solid job of making the training bits feel like regular gameplay, even allowing you to self-direct some of it. There is a bit of fourth-wall-breaking early on, with a crack about climbing radio towers, which is something that you thankfully won't have to do much of here.

The strongest element of Far Cry 5's gameplay is the bespoke feel of the missions. With open-world games, it can be very easy for game designers to fall into a trap of repetition, with missions feeling like copy-and-paste affairs. That's not the case here. When you take on a mission in Far Cry 5, it generally stands alone. The only repetition comes in with the handful of collect-a-thon side missions.

Fighting against a militant cult is not a one-person job, so you're going to run across helpful friends as you progress. Some will give you missions and intel. Others can be hired as specialists, who bring special abilities (hence the name) to the table, along with the ability to revive you if you happen to be downed. Each of the nine specialists (including three animals) have their own specific story missions to complete before they are unlocked.

In addition to the specialists, you can also have up to three guns-for-hire in your roster. These fighters are more generic, with their ranks being filled by the random NPCs that you meet in the world. That said, you can push NPCs into a specific role by making sure that the first weapon they pick up is the one you want them to use as a primary.

In the early hours of Far Cry 5, you can only have one specialist or gun-for-hire active at a time. Later on, you unlock the ability to have two. For the most part, these AI support characters are always available, but there are a handful of missions where you have to go it alone.

Far Cry 5's story is open in that you can choose how you progress through the world, and it is fixed in that the game never lets you get ahead of certain checkpoints. None of the world is ever locked off, as I found when I made an early beeline for the Seed compound right after the start of the game, but story beats will happen on schedule, whether you want them to or not.

A story element that quickly took shape as I played was the extreme level of hate that Hope County residents had for the cult members. Much of that hate was justified, but some residents, like the Whitetail milita, took their hate to the extreme. There's a bit of cognitive dissonance when you're sitting there watching a supposed ally offer up a mission, while at the same time torturing a captured cult member with a kiddie pool and a car battery. This is just one example, but it's somewhat reminiscent of the themes behind "Inglourious Basterds."

The game plays with this idea of a moral line not mattering as you progress through each segment of the story. There are attempts at sympathy for the cult, which are followed up by further information that is meant to disgust the player. This is where the narrative is at its weakest — not because of how the game tries to push and pull the player's emotions, but because the decentralized nature of the plot doesn't allow it to really go all-in. Each of the three major regions essentially has to stand on its own (they're separate enough that Far Cry 5 probably could have shipped as an episodic game), which means no single story thread can really go all-in, even if some bits can be skipped.

That's right. If you don't follow the game's suggested path, certain plot threads will automatically resolve themselves. As an example, in my review playthrough, I opted not to head directly to Fall's End. This is the town that the game suggests as a first "real mission," and the same one that Ubisoft showed off in early demos. I spent enough time doing other missions that the townsfolk simply liberated themselves.

Ultimately , the story ties back into the cult and Joseph Seed. Once you've killed all three of his lieutenants, it's time to face off against Seed himself. The final fight is somewhat surprising in its simplicity. It was the concluding story thread that really stuck in my mind after playing.

[Editor's Note: Last-Chance Spoiler Warning!]

Unlike many games that offer up at least one good ending, Far Cry 5 only has bad endings. In what appears to be the "real" ending after you defeat Seed, it's revealed that the religious nutter was right. The world is coming to an end by way of nuclear war, and your actions fulfilled the religious prophecy of the end of days. All of your agency was an illusion. You were merely a tool. The only two survivors are Seed and yourself, with you being his prisoner, as both of you wait out the bombing in a shelter.

It's something of a gut punch that's incredibly risky for an AAA game to attempt. Yes, there have been indie games and plenty of arthouse films with "bad" endings, but this is the equivalent of a blockbuster action film where the villain wins, or more appropriately, you find out that the supposed hero is actually the villain. I'm thinking of the original "I Am Legend" novel here.

Could it have been done better? Yes, there are ways it could have been improved. Would I have preferred a "good" ending? In the moment, yes (my initial reaction was along the lines of "that sucked"), but the more I thought about it, the more I came to appreciate how it all tied together in the end. As a story, the twisted ending, which steals agency from the player, is as much in line with the game's overall plot, as it is a meta commentary on AAA gaming itself.

Outside of the story, Far Cry 5 is also a technical achievement on the Xbox One X. In short, when played on a UHD HDR screen, it's at the head of the pack as far as visual design goes. Take away the UI, and it would be easy to mistake some of the outdoor scenes as photos. Assassin's Creed: Origins looks good, but Far Cry 5 gives it a run for its money. Swapping over to the original Xbox One, there is a noticeable visual downgrade (lack of HDR, noticeable aliasing in diagonal lines, many small details get blurred), but gameplay doesn't take a hit. I played a solid eight hours on the Xbox One, and the only thing that suffered were the visuals.

Finally, there is Far Cry Arcade. If the single-player adventure is the main course, Far Cry Arcade is the dessert. One of my complaints with prior Far Cry games was always that once you were done, you were done. With Far Cry Arcade, there is literally hundreds of hours of additional content available. No, it's not story content, but it is mission-based combat and outpost liberation. It's the kind of action that is there specifically to present a challenge, and it's where the Far Cry engine shines.

Far Cry Arcade includes a varied selection of levels made by Ubisoft, as well as custom levels made by end users. The included level creator takes some work to learn, and it's likely easier to use on the PC version of Far Cry 5, but for those who want to put in the time, you can produce content that looks and plays like a professional level.

Far Cry 5 is not the game that it pretends to be. Far Cry 5 is also not the game that most reviewers thought it would be. Ubisoft has crafted a brilliant open-world shooter, but the company has also presented a subversive take on the hero's journey that is both engaging and disturbing. Most importantly, it's a game that makes you think, which is something you don't often see.

Score: 9.0/10

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