Far Cry 5 Far Cry

PC, PS4, XB1 More than just a dull echo of the pre­vi­ous Far Cry games, writes Nathan Lawrence

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In some key re­spects, Far Cry has long been the open-world­shooter se­ries that could. The po­ten­tial has al­ways been there. Get­ting caught up in those un­scripted mo­ments of gun­play, when the brown stuff hits the fan, but you man­age to shoot, ram, or ex­plode your way to vic­tory have al­ways felt sat­is­fy­ing. But whether it’s tacky pro­tag­o­nists, lack­lus­tre sto­ry­telling, or un­der­cooked me­chan­ics, Far Cry has con­sis­tently fallen short of be­ing down­right ad­dic­tive.

Ubisoft Mon­treal is gun­ning to change this for Far Cry 5. From the out­set of my hour-long hands-on time with Far Cry 5, in gor­geous 4K on a PS4 Pro, it’s clear the devs are lean­ing heav­ily into cham­pi­oning player em­pow­er­ment. The best and most ob­vi­ous way to achieve this goal in any sand­box shooter is by con­tin­u­ously tempt­ing play­ers with equally com­pelling choices.

The fic­tional Hope County set­ting feels like a lived-in place with plenty to do and, more im­por­tantly, a whole mess of po­ten­tial for those emer­gent game­play mo­ments that make these types of shoot­ers much

fun to play. My first main choice was for a com­pan­ion, and they all changed the way I played.

Of the three choices, I first went with Boomer, an Aus­tralian Cat­tle Dog-look­ing ca­nine who’s less Dog from Mad Max 2 and more Ghost from Game of Thrones. He’s not mas­sive, but he is an obe­di­ent and seem­ingly om­ni­scient mutt who switches be­tween guid­ing, fol­low­ing, and rip­ping out throats. The lat­ter is ac­ti­vated by the player and makes it eas­ier to main­tain a stealthy state.

I felt com­pelled to stay quiet, at least ini­tially, with Boomer as my com­pan­ion. As soon as I was spot­ted, though, I shifted to my favourite loud-and-proud mode, and quickly no­ticed how great Far Cry 5’s gun­play feels. The en­e­mies work to­gether to take you down, team­ing up and flank­ing in re­fresh­ingly wide arcs to get the drop on you.

Re­coil man­age­ment is a must when the lead is fly­ing, as it’s easy to miss seem­ingly straight­for­ward shots with an as­sault ri­fle or SMG if all you do is spray. What’s more im­pres­sive is how easy it is to move around the world, es­pe­cially when you’re un­der fire. You can tap jump to au­to­mat­i­cally smash through win­dows or vault over low cover, and doors don’t even re­quire any in­put: just run into them to bust through.

This means clunky or ab­sent me­chan­ics aren’t get­ting in the way of play­ing how you want to, and im­mer­sion is main­tained thanks to a lack of ar­ti­fi­cial move­ment hur­dles. My first run at that open­ing skir­mish ended with me lob­bing dy­na­mite at a petrol tanker to fin­ish off the few re­main­ing cultists. Hold that dy­na­mite for too long, though, and you risk re­vis­it­ing the respawn screen.

The next time I played the open­ing skir­mish, I did it with bush pi­lot Nick Rye as my side­kick. Rye is built for run-and-gun play­ers. He cir­cles above your po­si­tion in an Amer­i­can­ised (read: mil­i­tarised) sea­plane. He’s about as good at spot­ting en­e­mies from above as Boomer, but his sig­na­ture move is drop­ping bombs: more of the ex­plo­sive than the f-bomb va­ri­ety.

Whether start­ing or fin­ish­ing a fight, watch­ing Rye bank in for a bomb­ing run as I cack­led ma­ni­a­cally at the sub­se­quent epic ex­plo­sions never got old. I imag­ine he’ll be tweaked for the fi­nal ver­sion of the game, be­cause the op­tion to drop un­lim­ited multi-kill bombs on en­e­mies felt more than a smidge over­pow­ered.

The fi­nal com­pan­ion on of­fer for my Far Cry 5 demo was sniper Grace Arm­strong. You can di­rect her where to move, which is why I put her in a high van­tage point above the ini­tial band of bad­dies. I was able to mark the en­e­mies I wanted her to pri­ori­tise, but she didn’t fire un­til I’d taken the first shot.

As I took cover while reload­ing, I could hear the boom­ing shot of

her sniper ri­fle, and popped my head up to see the deadly ef­fects of her work. These three com­pan­ion choices em­pha­sise the free­dom for play­ers to play their own way, and to have the sup­port re­quired to fa­cil­i­tate those game­play in­ten­tions. As­sumedly, in the fi­nal ver­sion, you’ll be able to mix and match com­pan­ions to suit your mood.

Even with­out a part­ner in open­world crime, Far Cry 5 is ac­tively try­ing to dis­tract you away from what you thought you wanted to do. Main mis­sions and side quests are par for the course in sand­box shoot­ers, but they’re only part of the temp­ta­tions for swelling your things-to-do list in Far Cry 5.

For in­stance, I wanted to go fish­ing: an odd urge, but a first for the se­ries. The idea is that off-brand tasks like fish­ing will be part of the player-choice puz­zle in Far Cry 5. I jumped in a pick-up truck, and was im­me­di­ately thrown off by the Hill­song-like mu­sic blar­ing through the ra­dio. It was only a few hun­dred me­tres to what I was told was a de­cent fish­ing spot, so I tol­er­ated it.

Not even a minute into my drive, the Chris­tian soft rock gave way to the an­gry yells of a cultist on a trac­tor with a mean bit of farm­ing equip­ment on the front of his ride. He rammed me and started fir­ing. I put him down eas­ily enough, but then I was dis­tracted by a field full of cows.

I tried my hand at cow tip­ping, and dur­ing my at­tempts, I

Pretty fly fish­ing

I even­tu­ally did make it to the fish­ing spot, but I couldn’t ac­tu­ally man­age to wran­gle a catch. The first hur­dle was a fel­low fisher who was steal­ing my bites. I made him sleep with the fishes. Fish­ing isn’t sim­pli­fied, and aside from an el­e­ment of ran­dom­ness for which fish will bite, there’s a lot of skill in­volved in reel­ing one in. in­ad­ver­tently pissed-off a bull. This alerted more nearby cultists who sig­nalled for re­in­force­ments. Run­ning away from heav­ily armed God-both­er­ers, I chanced upon a bear, which started chas­ing me. I led the bear back to­wards the cultists, and hid while the bear started maul­ing the reli­gious ex­trem­ists.

As it turns out, I was hid­ing be­hind that same trac­tor. Cover be­came a weapon, as I jumped in­side and used it to mulch the fi­nal few cultists and, if we’re be­ing hon­est, a cow or two. Another 'lib­er­ated" area later, and I was do­ing my best Rye im­per­son­ation, tak­ing part in a fly­ing mis­sion that in­volved bomb­ing sta­tion­ary tar­gets, straf­ing a con­voy, and get­ting caught up in a dog­fight to a Top Gun-like sound­track.

I’ve al­ways played Far Cry games with some­what curbed ex­pec­ta­tions. Af­ter my time with Far Cry 5, my mind is reel­ing with pos­si­bil­i­ties for the kind of crazy ad­ven­tures I’ll be able to have in the fi­nal game, ei­ther alone or in full cam­paign co-op with a buddy.

Road safety rules re­quire you to stop for all crazed cultists driv­ing bull­doz­ers into other crazed cultists.

DE­VEL­OPER PUB­LISHER PLAT­FORM RE­LEASE DATE Ubisoft Mon­treal Ubisoft

PC, PS4, Xbox One 27 Fe­bru­ary, 2018 Your com­pan­ion dog, Boomer, is a faith­ful ri­fle re­triever.

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