Hope (County) can set you free

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If Heath Ledger’s Joker had a favourite videogame, it would al­most cer­tainly be this. Why? Be­cause Ubisoft’s glo­ri­ously un­hinged open-world blaster rev­els in ex­actly the sort of free-form chaos the Clown Prince of Crime would adore. Also, it has an Achieve­ment for beat­ing up a bi­son with a shovel. That would to­tally tickle the Ace of Knaves’ ribs, right?

Set a wolver­ine on fire with a molo­tov cock­tail. Catch a 27lb pad­dle­fish with Old Betsy, the ul­ti­mate fish­ing rod. Stealth­ily in­fil­trate an en­emy out­post as a burger-lov­ing bear and the best doggo in games watch your back. Far Cry 5 may have one too many phoned-in, cookie-cut­ter mis­sions, but in mo­ment-to-mo­ment game­play, it’s one of the most lifeaf­firm­ingly chaotic videogames you’ll ever play. Oh, and you can co-op the en­tire thing with an on­line friend, too.

This is the first time the se­ries has set foot in Amer­ica, and the fic­tional Mon­tana re­gion Ubisoft Montreal has cooked up doesn’t dis­ap­point. Hope County may be the most vis­ually di­verse en­vi­ron­ment to ever grace Far

Cry. Rugged val­leys and lush forests com­bine with invit­ing farm­land and lovely lakes to form an en­vi­ron­ment that’s a plea­sure to in­habit. Whether you’re stalk­ing elk through the moun­tains near Baron Lum­ber Mill or leisurely hook­ing Arc­tic graylings near Widow’s Creek, Hope County is filled with dis­arm­ing sights and emer­gent an­i­mal an­tics. Cult and run It’d be an idyl­lic place to live… y’know, if it wasn’t for all those pesky cultists, an en­tire dooms­day cult to bring to jus­tice. Eden’s Gate may try to pass it­self off as a soul­sav­ing con­gre­ga­tion, but re­ally, it’s a mil­i­taris­tic group of ego­ma­ni­a­cal bul­lies, ni­hilists and a cer­tain wo­man who’s sam­pled one too many hal­lu­cino­genic flow­ers.

The cult is lead by Joseph Seed: a mono­logue-lov­ing ‘saviour’ who clearly stud­ied at the same chat­ter­box, ex­tra evil night school as Vaas Mon­tene­gro and Pa­gan Min. Joseph is backed up by three lieu­tenants who con­trol each of Hope County’s three re­gions. There’s Ja­cob Seed, a de­ranged sol­dier who con­trols the White­tail Moun­tains to the north. Then there’s Faith Seed in the east­ern Hen­bane River re­gion. An­noy­ingly, this trippy true be­liever ran­domly pulls you into a drugged up dream realm, known as the Bliss. Fi­nally, you have cocky yes-man John Seed. And no, he’s not a gorm­less lick­spit­tle; he’s lit­er­ally ob­sessed with the word ‘yes’. So much so, a gi­ant Hol­ly­wood-es­que sign of said af­fir­ma­tive re­sponse sits atop the hills that over­look his do­main.

Pre-re­lease cov­er­age may have led you to be­lieve Far Cry 5’ s story would have a lot to say for it­self when

it comes to con­tem­po­rary pol­i­tics. Spoiler: it re­ally doesn’t. If you were hop­ing this sand­box would de­liver some sort of sar­cas­tic, scathing cri­tique on Don­ald Trump’s Amer­ica, you’ll be dis­ap­pointed. There’s the oc­ca­sional joke aimed at the cur­rent Pres­i­dent’s ad­min­is­tra­tion, yet Far Cry 5 is mostly tooth­less in this re­gard. Truth­fully, the story never de­liv­ers in gen­eral. Though the main an­tag­o­nists are brought to life through charis­matic voice per­for­mances, the over­ar­ch­ing plot leans too heav­ily on ram­bling speeches and clichéd re­li­gious zealotry.

In all like­li­hood though, you’re prob­a­bly here for bear-bash­ing hunts and mus­cu­lar shootouts; not a nu­anced, grip­ping sto­ry­line. This is where Far Cry 5 de­liv­ers in spades… some­times in­volv­ing ac­tual spades. With crunch­ing melee weapons, im­pact­ful guns and re­li­able stealth me­chan­ics, tak­ing the ul­tra shooty fight to Eden’s Gate is a riot. Re­gard­less of whether you choose to go loud with grenade launch­ers or stealthy and sub­tle with a re­curve bow and si­lenced sniper rifle, the se­ries’ shootouts have never been more fun.

There are a touch too many cultists, though. Ran­dom en­emy en­coun­ters oc­cur fre­quently. Some­times you just want to get be­tween mis­sion ob­jec­tives with lit­tle fuss, so it’s a pity lulling mo­ments of quiet seren­ity aren’t ex­actly Far Cry 5’ s call­ing card. Even the nor­mally peace­ful, bril­liantly done fish­ing minigames can go to hell in a hand­bas­ket should a boat full of cultists show up to scup­per your salmon-lur­ing me time.

An­i­mal magic

Thank­fully, your law en­forcer is al­most al­ways backed up by ei­ther a tooledup or toothy friend. The new Guns/ Fangs for Hire sys­tem es­sen­tially com­bines the buddy sys­tem from

Far Cry 2 with Far Cry Pri­mal’s Beast Master fea­ture. There are nine unique al­lies to un­lock, and each can be called upon once you clear their ini­tial re­cruit­ment mis­sion. A range of generic NPC fight­ers can also be found around Hope County, and they’ll watch your back for a price. Still, hav­ing some ran­dom marks­man cover you is nowhere near as rad as be­ing backed up by your very own cougar chum.

Ah yes, Peaches. This preda­tor will use silent big cat take­downs on any foe you tag, and she proves a god­send when you’re try­ing to clear out­posts with­out rais­ing an alarm. It’s not just this cud­dly cougar that shines: each one of these al­lies proves in­valu­able. Need to take down en­emy trucks in a jiffy? Just re­quest some ae­rial as­sis­tance from chop­per queen Ade­laide Drub­man – mamma of se­ries

main­stay Hurk, who also ap­pears as a rocket-lov­ing Gun for Hire.

Want to get in­ti­mate with those cultists guard­ing that silo? If so, Cheese­burger the af­fa­ble griz­zly bear will hap­pily dish out furry maul­ings. Con­versely, if you’d prefer to deal in long-range lethal­ity, ar­row ex­pert Jess Black makes a great snip­ing com­padre. The point is, ev­ery sin­gle Gun/Fang for Hire proves use­ful un­der the right cir­cum­stances. Bril­liantly, if you un­lock the Lead­er­ship perk, you can call on two al­lies at once. Ar­cade fire Speak­ing of perks, the new in­ter­wo­ven sys­tem that blends skill­tree points with be­spoke chal­lenges is fab. In the old games, you’d sim­ply un­lock fancy killing/heal­ing/take­down ma­noeu­vres by earn­ing XP from com­plet­ing mis­sions. In Far Cry 5, the way you im­prove your char­ac­ter is far more in­ter­est­ing. Perk points are now earned by com­plet­ing spe­cific tasks – say, skin­ning three skunks, or killing 15 en­e­mies with grenades. Chal­lenges are spread across weapon kills, en­vi­ron­men­tal in­ter­ac­tions and an­i­mal hunts. It’s an in­tu­itive, re­ward­ing take on char­ac­ter pro­gres­sion, which ac­tively en­cour­ages you to play in dif­fer­ent ways. Far Cry Ar­cade, an en­tirely fresh side mode, also en­cour­ages you to mix things up. A com­bi­na­tion of a wel­com­ing yet ro­bust map ed­i­tor, a se­ries of lin­ear com­mu­nity chal­lenges, and a suite of mul­ti­player modes, it dra­mat­i­cally in­creases Far Cry 5’ s sellby date. The main Ar­cade com­po­nent takes the form of bite-sized mis­sions made by both Ubisoft and play­ers. It’s a credit to the game’s mal­leable map ed­i­tor that lev­els can be as di­verse as a Mir­ror’s Edge- wor­thy park­our chal­lenge, to com­plex ‘es­cape the room’ chal­lenges. The generic six­player team death­match skir­mishes won’t de­throne Bat­tle­field 1 any time soon, but over­all, Far Cry Ar­cade is an in-depth, wel­come ad­di­tion to the core sand­box cam­paign.

It’s just a pity said story mode trips over it­self when you reach its lat­ter stages. Struc­turally, Far Cry 5 makes some tweaks to the es­tab­lished se­ries for­mula that don’t en­tirely work. While the side quests that make up so much of your Hope County ex­pe­ri­ence are var­ied and gen­er­ous, fin­ish­ing the cam­paign feels grindy.

In or­der to con­quer each lieu­tenant, you must first reach a cer­tain Re­sis­tance Level; mainly ac­com­plished by blow­ing up their prop­erty/lib­er­at­ing out­posts/ com­plet­ing mis­sions. It’s a fine enough sys­tem in prac­tice. Trou­ble is, get­ting the last 10-15% of those points is a real chore. Mis­sions even­tu­ally dry up, forc­ing you to des­per­ately seek out emer­gent events or en­emy out­posts – the lat­ter no longer au­to­mat­i­cally ap­pear on your map and must be phys­i­cally found.

When you take the cam­paign and Ar­cade as a whole though, Ubi’s lat­est re­ally does hit a Hope County home run. Pacing prob­lems an­noy and the plot is for­get­table, but when you’re out in those vir­tual Mon­tana fields caus­ing may­hem, Far Cry 5 is an eclec­tic, elec­tric treat.

“It’s a pity the story mode trips over it­self when you reach its lat­ter stages”

Pub­lisher Ubisoft / De­vel­oper Ubisoft Montreal / For­mat Xbox one / re­lease date out now / cost £49.99

above For a town with such a beau­ti­ful back­drop you’d hope the lo­cals would be friend­lier.

Left See, Joseph Seed re­ally does look like a less no­to­ri­ous Conor McGre­gor.

All mapped out

Good­bye, an­tenna tow­ers: we hardly knew ye. Yes, Far Cry

5 has done away with the se­ries’ iconic, climbable struc­tures. Rather than climb tow­ers to demist the map, you now have to find phys­i­cal maps scat­tered around out­posts to make on­screen points of in­ter­est pop up in the world over­view. Like­wise, an­i­mal icons have also changed. To find spe­cific species, you now have to be on the look­out for road­side signs.

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