Far Cry 5 Far Cry
PC, PS4, XB1 More than just a dull echo of the previous Far Cry games, writes Nathan Lawrence
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.