Ubisoft Giveth and Ubisoft Taketh Away: A Review of Far Cry 5
I have a love-hate relationship with the Far Cry series. I didn’t much care for the first one; I skipped the second one; I actually really enjoyed the frat bro to Rambo story of the third one; I enjoyed 75 percent of the fourth one, until I realized I was pretty much playing the same game with a slightly better antagonist; I skipped the caveman one; and I’d like to play the retro one someday.
That being said, I thought the trailers and commercials for the fifth entry in the Far Cry series looked pretty intriguing. I’m getting a little older now and my reflexes aren’t what they used to be, but I decided to put my copy of Battle Chasers: Nightwar (a fantastic game, by the way) to the side and buy a copy of Far Cry 5 for my Xbox One S.
Before we continue, let me warn you. There may be minor spoilers and bad religious puns ahead. Proceed at your own risk.
In the Beginning, There Was a Nameless Deputy…
Far Cry 5 starts with you as a nameless, faceless (for the time being) deputy that’s part of a small party that’s somehow going to walk into a cult compound and arrests its leader, Joseph Seed. Joseph, the game’s main antagonist, is the leader of a vaguely-motivated cult called the Project at Eden’s Gate. Seed and his cult have somehow taken over the fictional Hope County, Montana using methods that are sort of hinted at the intro but are only sort of mentioned. I’m not going to get too deep into the politics or religious motivations of this game or the fictional characters in it; this is a work of fiction and, even if there are some political leanings and seeming nods to current-day events, it’s hard to take a game that has a grizzly bear named Cheeseburger as a sidekick character too seriously.
Far Cry 5 is the first game that allows for character customization, but that’s where the whole, “giveth and taketh away,” thing starts for me. It seems like, throughout this game, for every good decision or choice Ubisoft makes, they make one or two equally bad or annoying ones. For example, in character customization, you can pick your gender and some general races and hairstyles, but no facial hair. You also can’t really adjust your facial features, there are really just a dozen or so faces from which to choose. This isn’t really a big thing, but it started the snowball down the proverbial mountain.
Anyway, after a short introductory sequence where you (surprise!) don’t manage to arrest Joseph Seed, you end up alone and on the run. So begins your quest to stop Joseph Seed and his evil plot…whatever that may be.
Even Though I Walk Through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, I Will Fear No Evil…Because I Have a Grizzly Bear as a Companion!
Once you’re given full control of your character, you’re set out to begin the quest of taking down Joseph Seed and his lieutenants: his smooth-talking brother John, his whack-a-nut adopted sister Faith, and his militant brother Jacob. Each of these three has control of a portion of Hope County. It’s your job, as a rookie deputy, to take down the entire operation, more or less on your own.
Well, not really on your own. Throughout the game, you’ll be able to recruit two types of followers: generic “guns (or fangs, in the case of animals) for hire,” that are plentiful, but not particularly bright or interesting and specialists, nine characters that require you to complete some kind of quest(s) to recruit, but seem a little more interesting, intelligent, and have special skills. For example, you can recruit Boomer the dog, who can point out enemies and fetch weapons or Nick Rye, the pilot, who can drop bombs or perform strafing runs to take out enemies.
Just like with the customization features, the hired guns are a mixed bag. For the most part, they’re sort of helpful, but sometimes they get in the way and don’t exactly make the best tactical choices. Also, they tend to ramble on and point out enemies that either isn’t around or are too far away for me to care about. During some battles, my sidekick faithfully drew fire and took out an enemy or two. During other battles, my sidekick stood in the middle of a burning field and kept getting knocked unconscious. During one fight, my sidekick stood in the middle of a machine gun barrage, died, and managed to get stuck in the middle of a mobile home wall. Awesome.
In addition to your hired gun (you can get two with a certain perk), you’ll have actual guns and other weapons at your disposal. Overall, most of the weapons are fun to play with, but you’ll most likely find your favorite loadout and stick with it throughout the game. I tried buying a weapon or two but mostly stuck to the same pistol and rifle (and later shotgun and sniper rifle when you get the perks that let you carry a third and fourth weapon) loadout I started with. Other weapons like the bow and arrow, flame through, and slingshot are all there but seemed pretty worthless when you could use other more effective weapons instead. Even when I wanted to go stealth, I found sneaking up on someone and bashing them with a lead pipe was just as effective as using a slingshot from slightly farther away.
The third aspect of your offensive trifecta, in addition to sidekicks and weapons, are perks. In Far Cry 5, Ubisoft opted to make perks a little less task-specific and a lot more accessible. Instead of having to complete a certain type of quest to get a certain type of perk, you simply complete tasks and find perk magazines to gain perk points that go into a generic point “pot.” You can use the points however and whenever you want. Want to use your first point to unlock better swimming? Go ahead! Want to save it to get the five-point health increase perk? Do it! This decision by Ubisoft was a good one for casual gamers like me because perk magazines are pretty easy to find (more on that later) and you can upgrade your character until you’re good enough to get past tricky spots. Throughout my playthrough, “perking up” made my character better but I never felt as though it made me feel invincible.
I guess vehicles would have to be considered a fourth offensive option. However, I didn’t use them very frequently because most of the vehicles handled like they were on ice (in the case of cars and trucks) or were too easy to destroy (in the case of ATVs, helicopters, and planes). I usually chose to use fast travel and/or walk to most destinations, which usually brought about random encounters that I could complete to earn more cash, ammo, and ingredients for crafting.
Idle Hands are the Devil’s Workshop
Speaking of random encounters and crafting, those are just two of the many activities available in Far Cry 5. There are explosives to create, encampments to liberate, hostages to save, trucks to blow up, silos to blow up, shrines to blow up, people to blow up, races to complete, zip lines to zip on, prepper stashes to find, VIPs to kill, animals to hunt, fish to catch, pee tapes to find (yup, you read that right), specialists to recruit, and a bunch of other stuff I’m too tired to mention.
One task you won’t find, however, is tower climbing! Ubisoft put that old staple out to pasture, making the entire map accessible from the start. You can tackle tasks in any part of the map, but I’ll recommend sticking to one lieutenant’s region at a time, as you get special benefits for defeating each one.
I’ll say that at times, there was almost too much to do. I’d get done with a mission, tired and without ammo, only to have a random encounter spawn right in front of me. In the middle of one mission where I had to chase a helicopter with an ATV, a bear spawned on the ATV. I typically blew up wildlife when it interfered with a mission, but doing that would’ve destroyed the ATV. By the time I killed the bear, the chopper was gone. I’m only saying this because it seems like the Seed family just had an endless supply of bad guys, as groups of them (and wildlife) seemed to just pour out of the literal woodwork at times. I appreciate a variety of things to do, but sometimes it was just too much. When you have five outposts to liberate, eight people to check on, six prepper stashes to find, three-story missions to complete, five side missions to complete, and a “car on fire” time trial to complete, it all gets a little overwhelming. I found myself enjoying myself in pockets and then getting frustrated or bored just as frequently.
And Ubisoft Saw That It Was Good…Most of the Time
For the most part, Far Cry 5 looks nice. It isn’t the prettiest game out there, but it’s far from the ugliest. Some of the more prevalent NPCs look amazing, while your rank-and-file enemies look pretty generic. As a matter of fact, I noticed that there are only a handful of bad guy templates. There’s also a bit of an issue with draw distance, which can be an issue if you’re trying to scope out a compound from a distance. The color palette, however, is pretty, and the wildlife has a vibrancy that’s absent in a lot of games focused on guns and killing. That juxtaposition gives the game a pretty cool vibe. Like the rest of the game, the graphics are a mixed bag. For every pretty vista, there’s a bad guy clipping through a wall or four guys attacking you that look exactly the same.
Let My People Go
The story of Far Cry 5, like the rest of the game, is a mixed bag. Since your nameless deputy doesn’t really have a backstory with the folks he’s saving, it’s tough to really care. The people you save seem as genuinely grateful as video game characters can seem…at least for a few minutes. After that, they’ll ask you to do 10 more things for them. Nothing says, “thanks,” like asking me to go kill a demon moose or collect bulls’ testicles after I’ve risked my neck to save your trailer park.
Don’t get me wrong, there are some genuinely cool moments in the game, like when the local pilot and his pregnant wife need you to drive them through a war zone to get to a midwife to deliver their baby. You’ll definitely meet some pretty cool characters that have some pretty neat side missions to offer. Even talking to generic NPCs that occupy liberated outposts will provide you with missions and information about prepper stashes that reward you with cash and perk magazines, and the people always seem ready to tackle missions with you, which makes you feel like a part of the community, but after random NPC 527 asks you to find a prepper stash and you’re all maxed out on perks and weapons, it can seem like a bit much. I guess this game suffers from the same thing games like Skyrim, Fallout, and Dragon Age suffers from…you’re saving the world from an all-consuming evil pretty much singlehandedly, but everyone still wants you to be an errand boy. It’s draining after a while.
As far as the antagonists go, the Seed family was more annoying than menacing. You have to cause enough havoc (by blowing stuff up, liberating outposts, and basically being a pain in the ass) in each of the three Seed siblings’ zones to initiate a battle with them, with smaller story-driven cutscenes triggered when you get to 33% and 66%. These interactions are typically annoying and range anywhere from short escape missions to simply having to jump off a giant statue (I’ll let you figure that one out). Ubisoft tries to make the Seed family feel like sympathetic characters, since Joseph Seed and his siblings truly believe what they’re doing is right, but as a general rule, I tend to not support people who carve the deadly sins into other peoples’ bodies, hang folks for kicks, kill indiscriminately, and create mutant wolves. The whole, “maybe these guys know something we don’t,” thing never worked for me. I guess since the Project Eden Group had pretty vague, “the world is a bad place, we can make it better” kinda’ mantra that didn’t really try to be very edgy or push any real topical buttons. Essentially, the Seeds and their followers were pretty generic villains.
Ubisoft Saw All That It Had Made, and It Was Just…Okay
There are a few features that I didn’t bother with much. The arcade feature, where you can create your own levels and play other peoples’ levels, is so prevalent in the game (Every liberated outpost has an arcade machine and an NPC that can’t stop raving about how great Far Cry Arcade is.) that it gets annoying after a while. I also didn’t play co-op at any point. It seems like a good way to remedy the stupid AI blues is to team up with a human to tackle missions. You can actually play the entire game with a human partner, which is good.
As I’ve mentioned throughout this review, Far Cry 5 is a completely mixed bag. I’ll have fun with it for 30 minutes, stealthily liberating an outpost without alerting a single guard, and then I’ll stumble upon a mission where I can’t manage to hit a helicopter’s window with a sniper rifle and I’ll get cut down in a barrage of gunfire while trying to revive my moronic AI companion. For every mission that’s fun and immersive, there’s something forced and illogical. For every cool set-piece moment, there’s a glitch where a helicopter simply falls out of the air or my companion gets caught in a wall.
All in all, I have to say that Far Cry 5 is simply…okay. If you’ve wanted to play a Far Cry game, I wouldn’t recommend starting with this one; Far Cry 3 and Far Cry 4 are both just as good gameplay-wise and both have better stories and villains. I guess if you really hate climbing towers, you might like this iteration of the game better, but otherwise, I wouldn’t recommend 5 over 3 or 4. If you already like the Far Cry series, this is probably good enough to satiate you. Plus, the DLC that’s coming (zombies, Martians, and a trip to Vietnam) seems like it might be kinda’ fun, so there’s that.
To sum up, Far Cry 5 is better than average, but not great. If it was a homework assignment, I’d give it a C+. Mediocrity isn’t a sin, but it’s a shame that Ubisoft couldn’t do more with a cool premise.
- Some side missions are really fun.
- The graphics, overall, are pretty.
- Some AI companions are interesting.
- The core weapons and perks make you feel powerful enough without being too powerful.
- Making the entire map available from the start is nice.
- You can have a grizzly bear named Cheeseburger as a companion.
- There’s almost too much to do, and it gets repetitive.
- Glitches and bugs ruin some missions and require a restart.
- There’s no option to save multiple games.
- Your AI companions are sometimes more of a hindrance than a help.
- The Far Cry Arcade feature is shoved in your face far too much.
- The main antagonists are more annoying weirdos than actual three-dimensional foes.
- Having to gather bulls’ balls for a “Testicle Festival.” The Marvin Gaye music playing while you’re collecting them, however, is pretty choice.
- The game can get incredibly repetitive, but you should expect that from a Far Cry game.
4 out of 5 stars