'Far Cry 5': Guns, beer, and God
Opposite from the titular mantra, “Far Cry 5” doesn’t stray away from its most recent design philosophy in both positive and negative ways. The experience feels incredibly refined gameplay-wise but doesn’t make any great innovative leaps beyond what the series has already done so well.
Players become the mute protagonist role of the sheriff’s deputy, aptly named Rookie, as the series introduces its first player-customizable character. The player, a U.S. Marshal and the sheriff head to the fictional Hope County, Montana, in search for local zealot Joseph Seed, the leader of a radical religious cult who dubs himself “The Father.” He and his family, the leaders of each section of Hope County, have militarized their cultists and cut off the region from civilization, effectively creating their own sovereign religious state.
The opening sequence of “Far Cry 5” is impressively bizarre, and, following the motif of previous “Far Cry” games, uses a character-driven monologue to set the tone for the world’s atmosphere. Among a boisterous crowd singing “Amazing Grace,” The Father belts out a great “sermon” about salvation and a reckoning, while the law enforcement team is surrounded by his fanatical followers. His piercing wide-eyes stare into the heart of the player, claiming that “God will not let you take me.”
Greg Bryk’s performance as Joseph Seed is convincing in these first few moments, but as the game continues, he never seems to reach another note. Similarly with the other family members and even the plot itself, these performances begin to feel trite and draining as the player is subjected to countless Biblical rants with that trademark twinge of insanity.
Unlike the iconic previous installments, the villains don’t carry that same emotional weight. Aside from the unique and curious premise, it all feels one dimensional. There are likeable characters throughout Hope County, but they’re few and far between. If anything, the player is driven by annoyance rather than revenge to defeat Seed’s family.
What does shine in “Far Cry 5” is the refinement in gameplay. Gunplay is as satisfying as ever, managing equipment is much easier and you don’t have to climb obnoxious radio towers just to unlock the map anymore. There’s a lot of aspects from the previous games that are either streamlined or taken out to provide a more seamless player experience.
Perhaps most important is the way you traverse Hope County in “Far Cry 5,” because as previously mentioned, exploration isn’t stymied by blank maps or story progression. After the game’s small tutorial section, the player is free to explore any place in Hope County, in any order, regardless of main story progression.
Taking hints from games like “Breath of the Wild” and “The Witcher 3,” “Far Cry 5” doesn’t force you to complete certain tasks in certain areas in order to continue exploring.
The game fosters curiosity by doing away with the mini-map and only giving the player a compass to track their main goal. Players are given the choice whether they want to look at the map for in-depth topography or just want to explore headfirst.
Unlocking special perks or skills is also a more streamlined and open-ended experience. Players don’t have specific skill trees that they have to progress through in order to get the abilities they want. Rather perks are setup into categories where the player can choose exactly what perks they want, provided they have enough points.
Similar to “Far Cry 2,” the buddy system is reintroduced so that players can team up with other non-playable characters that have their own specialties and abilities. Also in that vein, players can team up with friends at any point in the game with seamless co-op.
Worth note is the new “Far Cry Arcade,” featuring the return of the map editor as well as community curated maps and multiplayer modes that players have designed. At the time of this review, the service doesn’t have much high-quality curated content, but it shows potential for later.
“Far Cry 5” doesn’t attempt to innovate anything narratively or gameplay-wise, but it does feel like a complete experience reminiscent of the previous games. Regardless, the game is satisfying to play no matter how similar and uninspired it is.