'Far Cry 5' Is Satisfyingly Unsettling
Far Cry 5, the latest installment in the long-running first-person shooter/adventure franchise from Ubisoft, moves the series stateside for the first time, with mixed results.
The game's narrative differs from past titles in the main series (2016's prehistoric spinoff Far Cry Primal notwithstanding) not only in the new setting, but also in the player's avatar. The familiar fish-out-of-water narrative has not been entirely replaced, but instead of a wayward tourist captured by a tyrannical despot intent on murder and mayhem, Far Cry 5 places gamers in control of a fresh, young deputy sheriff responding to a call of disturbing cult activity in the remote setting of fictional Hope County, Montana.
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As has become a staple of the series, the central antagonist is an enigmatic psychopath whose aim is self-aggrandizement through violent means. However, while The Project at Eden's Gate cult leader Joseph "The Father" Seed is sufficiently creepy, his lack of memorable dialogue and the emphasis on deranged religious zealotry over endearing, over-the-top villainy puts him a far cry, pardon the pun, from memorable predecessors such as Far Cry 4's Pagan Min and fan-favorite Vaas from Far Cry 3.
In many aspects, Seed is outshined by his subordinates, fellow members of the Seed clan who act as the cult's lieutenants and serve as under bosses before the player faces off against The Father himself. Of particular note is Faith, the cult's "voice," who gathers followers to Eden's Gate via a mix of spirituality, music and drugs like a venomous Bohemian siren. These lieutenants are spread across Far Cry 5's expansive map, offering up unique challenges and engrossing, often disturbing, story segments.
Players are given the opportunity to customize their character by picking their gender, outfit and haircut (mullets, of course, are an option), but the inclusion of a customization mechanic is rendered unnecessary by the game's first-person POV. Your character is also mute.
Fans of the series will be very familiar with the gameplay, which switches from fast-paced first-person shooter action to vehicle piloting (expect to steer biplanes, helicopters, jet skis, ATVs, trucks, muscle cars and more) to area exploration. Gone from previous installments are towers which reveal sections of the map, as well as the mini-map used in past games.
Far Cry 5 aims to place its players deep within the mountainous stretches of the sprawling Montana tableau at the core of its narrative. While the scenery can be stunning at times, it rarely feels as remote as the story would suggest. The game is packed with action, which at times can be detrimental to the stranded sense of isolation the game's plot hopes to convey. There is hardly a stretch of over a minute in Far Cry 5 in which the player is not confronted by Eden's Gate members, an attack by a stalking cougar or towering bear or, often, a combination of both.
Action in a Far Cry game is to be expected, of course, and the controls in the game are sharp, if not particularly innovative for the franchise. Weapon selection is diverse and reflective of the rural American setting, as are the vehicles, flora and fauna.
Available to offer their assistance in your fight to liberate Hope County from the Seeds are "Guns for Hire," a ragtag collection of memorable characters, each with unique special abilities that can be upgraded, who you can enlist to lend a hand, or paw, in your battles. From pilots to plucky bartenders to four-legged companions such as Boomer the Dog or Cheeseburger the Grizzly, these companions not only help round out the world, but also allow for a richer experience as you deal with all the craziness the game throws your way.
As for online play, Far Cry 5 offers co-op throughout via the Ubisoft Club, which players must register with before playing online. The game also offers up the "Far Cry Arcade" mode, which is a build-and-play mechanic that offers up quick, unique challenges like bombing a field of pigs from a helicopter or sniping explosive barrels to eradicate a cult hideout, all via social online play.
While Far Cry 5 doesn't reinvent the formula of previous games, it does satisfyingly move the series forward with a number of new gameplay aspects and a setting that feels fresh and yet somehow familiar. The world is populated with endearing characters and haunting imagery, and while its central antagonist may not live up to the high standards set by past games' villains, The Project at Eden's Gate as a whole is a satisfyingly unsettling, intimidating and challenging foe to face off against.
Far Cry 5 is set for release Tuesday on PS4, Xbox One and PC.
by Sheraz Farooqi
by Graeme McMillan