The Far Cry series is many things; broad political tale, update of Joseph Conrad, an uneasy mix of queasy phobias about drugs and other groups of people, and precisely tuned and fun first-person gunplay. But I’ve mostly enjoyed the series, since Far Cry 3, as a sort of contemplative hike through the woods with occasional gunplay.
The series’ locations are stunningly rendered, and Far Cry 5 is no exception with Montana’s rolling fields, rocky mountains and streams, and thick woods. If you could grab a seat on a stump and have a cup of coffee before taking that next outpost, it’d be almost perfect. But Far Cry 5 ($60, PS4, Xbox One, and PC), at least at first, seems to be annoyed players want to grab a sniper rifle and do things their way, and keeps trying to force you to have fun the way it wants you to; namely, with a buddy.
There’s been some controversy about the rural Montana setting and the cult, Eden’s Gate, that infests it. But playing the game underscores how absurd that is. The plot draws heavily from real-life cults, namely David Koresh and the Rajneesh movement, but the “heroes” of the story are butt-rock lovin’ doomsday preppers who go on hikes with missile launchers on their shoulders. If anything, the game should have leaned into the broad political satire harder.
Beyond that, little has changed in the broad sense. You’re still a heavily armed hero in a broad patch of woods going around freeing outposts, blowing up structures, and hunting wildlife. And it’s still an enormous blast to play, especially if you’re a sniping dirtbag like me.
There have been a few tweaks to the upgrade system, where now you need to earn “perk points” by finishing challenges in the game or by finding and platforming your way into the many, many prepper stashes hidden around the game world, which underscores how good this franchise is at the difficult task of first-person platforming. It’s also kept the smart structure of oddball side project Far Cry Primal, where each region of the map tells a different story with a different antagonist.
The biggest change is that a system of hiring on sidekicks, which used to be optional, is now heavily developed with a unique roster you have to rescue as part of the story. They range from franchise mascot Hurk, who turns out to be a native son of Montana, to the local wildlife. The game’s tuned to make going it alone, at least at first, not much of an option; it’s much harder to take outposts and advance the plot if you don’t have help. But, of course, you can always get a friend and go co-op! In fact, don’t you want to go co-op? We’ll give you a few perk points if you spend an hour in co-op!