What makes a perfect open-world game? Well, for one, the world itself needs to be interesting, right? Two, it needs to be fun to play, a bit pointless having this fantastic world to explore if the game itself is just a bore to actually play. Three, there needs to be enough to do to make you want to keep playing. Of course, there are more aspects needed, but I feel these three are the fundamentals of what makes a truly great open-world game. Have all three of these and you’ll have yourself a truly great open-world title. Far Cry 5 has all of these and so much more, making it, at the moment at least, the best open-world game of 2018.
Far Cry’s plots have never been the series’ strong point, and it is the same here. The stories are never bad, and they are good enough to keep you invested in the fight, but they won’t win any storytelling awards, that’s for sure. You’ll play as “The Rookie” or “Deputy” (what your character is referred to depending on who you are talking to), and you are on your way with another deputy, a sheriff and a US Marshal to arrest the leader of the Project at Eden’s Gate cult, Joseph Seed. As you can imagine, the arrest doesn’t go according to plan, and after being rescued by a local resident named Dutch, he patches you up and sends you on your way to liberate Hope Valley, Montana from the cult, which has taken complete control over the territory. The plot is interesting enough, but where the story really shines is with the characters, especially the leader of the Project at Eden’s Gate, the aforementioned Joseph Seed, or as he is known to his followers, Father. Cult leaders all need to have a tremendous amount of charisma to convince individuals to join their following, and Joseph Seed has charisma in abundance thanks to a fantastic performance by Greg Bryk. The other three Seed siblings are interesting enough characters themselves, but compared to their leader, they are somewhat less interesting, but I suppose this would be the case in a real cult.
After the opening ten minute or so cutscene where you attempt to arrest Joseph Seed, and a half hour or so tutorial on a small island that belongs to Dutch where you will learn the mechanics and such of Far Cry 5, you are free to do whatever the hell you like. Dutch will inform you that at present, Hope County has been divided into three areas, each controlled by one of Joseph’s siblings. Dutch will also advise you to first head to the area controlled by the eldest brother, John, but there is nothing stopping you from going to the other two areas first and just picking up whatever mission you feel like taking on. Once you leave Dutch’s tiny training island, it really does feel like when you first step foot out of the cave in Skyrim or the Shrine of Resurrection in Breath of the Wild, in that there is a whole world (county in this case) to explore exactly how you want to. Hope Valley as a game world is a fantastic setting to go along with this freedom. Ubisoft taking the decision to set this in America as opposed to a fictional country is a stroke of genius. It gives Far Cry 5 a greater sense of reality to a degree, and setting it in Montana, which arguably has some of the most beautiful landscape in America, makes it an absolute joy to explore. Like previous Far Cry instalments, you’ll be exploring Hope County on foot, on the road, by water and by air. There are a decent number of different vehicles to choose from and, a series first, you can now fly a plane. Flying a plane is beyond simple and requires no time at all before you become a master pilot. This is handy, really, because the first few missions involving the use of a plane could have been frustratingly difficult if not for the ease of the controls. Everything else is pretty standard: cars, ATVs and helicopters are available in abundance should you choose not to walk to your next objective. There are some special vehicles to unlock either through particular missions or by completing side quests, such as taking an outpost. The highlight of the special vehicles is actually generally the first one you’ll unlock (pending that you took Dutch’s advice on what area to go to first) and is a lot of fun to cause some mayhem with.
Speaking of mayhem, Far Cry 5 is absolutely full of it, and it is a joy to behold. Some of it is a deliberate part of the game during a mission, but some, and these are the best parts, just happen by chance. One of my favourite moments ever while playing a video game happened during my playthrough of this game. Let me set the scene here: I was scouting an outpost, a particularly strongly held outpost I might add. I had nearly finished tagging all the cultists when, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a bear had decided to make its way into the outpost. The cultists were not happy at all, and the nearest one tried to kill said bear. The nearest cultist had a flamethrower and proceeded to set this poor innocent bear on fire. This did not kill the bear, oh no, instead the now on fire bear killed all the cultists in the outpost, bar one. So, when “fire bear” finally fell in battle, I ran down and shot the last remaining cultist and liberated the outpost. It was completely nuts, and I loved every second of it. That is just one example of the bat-shit crazy goings on in Hope Valley.
There are times, however, when the chaos isn’t all that great, and it has to do with Far Cry 5’s rendering and pop up issues. Far Cry 5 is not the perfect game in the sense of it being completely free of bugs. To be fair, none of the issues are game breaking or cause too much of a headache, but when you’ve nearly completed a particularly tough mission, an air duel, let’s say, and just before you line up what will be the final shots at the enemy plane, your gun for hire partner’s plane just comes out of nowhere and crashes straight into you, it’s a bit frustrating, to say the least. It could be worse, of course, and most of the time the rendering issues are simply just objects in the landscape, but there does seem to be a problem with the enemy respawning. You could kill a group of cultists, move 50 feet away from them, turn back around, and there they are again right back in the fight.
This last issue really isn’t that bad because the combat in Far Cry 5 is excellent. There has been no massive change in the combat from Far Cry 4, but why fix what isn’t broke? You choose how you want to deal with the cultists, including taking the John Wick approach by going in loud and shooting everyone you see in the face. Once you master the shooting mechanics in Far Cry 5, it is a game that really does make you feel like the Keanu Reeves character, and the auto-aim does help, it has to be said. But, if going in fast and loud isn’t your thing and you want to take the stealth approach, then that’s an option too, and it can be just as fun. Apart from parts in certain main missions where stealth is impossible, say, while you’re shooting at everything that moves while manning a 50 cal. machine gun on the back of a 4×4, the stealth approach works just like in most games. Survey the area ahead, tag enemies, disable any alarms that might be active and systematically take out each cultist one by one. This is achieved either by sneak attacks or by using a silent weapon, either a gun with a silencer or, by far my favourite weapon in Far Cr 5, the bow. There is a third way to take out the followers of Eden’s Gate, and it’s a feature not seen since Far Cry 2: guns/fangs for hire.
Throughout Hope Valley, you’ll come across various people you can hire to help in your fight against the cult. These will range from regular soldier types to snipers and to someone only equipped with a bow. In addition to the regular soldiers for hire, there are specialists. It takes a bit more than simply walking up to them and hiring them. The specialists are usually either being held by the cult or are not in a position to help you until you help them. The specialists are whom you will mostly be using as allies during your fight. They range from a pilot who can offer air support to a guy who runs around with a rocket launcher. Among the specialists there are also three fangs for hire options, and to be fair, you will always be using at least one of these: Boomer the dog, Peaches the mountain lion and Cheeseburger the bear. That’s right, a bear!!! Controlling a gun/fang for hire is as simple as a press of a button. Wherever your crosshairs are facing, tapping either left or right on the D-pad will have your partner either go to where you are aiming or attack a cultist. To call them back to follow, you just hold the button appropriate button down, simple, aye?
Each of the specialists has their own special abilities, so it is worth mixing them up from time to time, but Boomer, who is a very good boy, I might add, has been with me pretty much since the beginning. Worry not about sending this brave pooch into battle since if he or any other specialist is killed, the only penalty you’ll have to suffer is a cooldown period before you can get them to join you again. To unlock the ability to have two followers with you, you will need to unlock that specific perk in the perks menu. There are a good number of abilities and skills to unlock throughout Far Cry 5, and just like the combat, you can pick and choose depending on your play style. To obtain perk points, you either complete challenges, gain them from missions or find perk magazines in the dozens of prepper stashes hidden throughout Hope Valley. Prepper stashes are hidden treasure troves that require some thought in order to find ways to access them and the loot inside; it is not just as simple as opening a door. Some are really simple, and some will have you stumped for a good few minutes. Speaking of loot, there are plenty of things to buy in Far Cry 5, clothes (a bit pointless as the game is always in first-person), weapons, vehicles and other items, like medipacks and body armour. There is the option to use real money here in the form of buying silver bars which act as the second form of currency in Hope Valley, but this is 100% optional. It is a bit like the optional credit cards you can purchase in GTA Online, it’s totally up to you, and if you don’t use them, then it will have no negative effect on the story; just how additional paid content should work, I hope EA take note of this.
Out of the main game, you’ll also find Far Cry Arcade. This is the multiplayer/map creator hub. and this is what will give Far Cry 5 some longevity after completing the campaign. It has your bog standard multiplayer options: deathmatch and team deathmatch, but it’s the solo/co-op scenarios that make Far Cry Arcade a cut above your normal additional multiplayer. The maps used in Arcade are all user created, whether that be the ones made pre-launch by Ubisoft or by other users playing the game now. Scenarios range from your standard outpost liberator to bounty hunter missions, to simply making it from one end of a map to another. Sorting through the decent maps to play can be a bit of a pain, and some of them are a bit hit and miss at this stage, but this is most probably just due to everyone getting used to the editing tool which features “over 9,000!!” items and objects to use from a number of classic Ubisoft games.
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal/Toronto
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC
Release Date: 26th March 2018