There’s a wolverine biting my balls. Which I wasn’t expecting to happen but really need do something about. Far Cry 5 is built on this sort of problem solving. Brilliant, terrible, ‘what was I thinking?!’ or ‘how did this happen’ disaster management where the solution is usually shooting, explosions and often a great deal of regret - part slapstick, part exercising the right to bear arms, and part actual bears. Why did I throw a petrol bomb inside the house? What was I expecting the truck coming at me to do when I shot the driver’s face off? I’ve made 20 murderous cultists very, very angry, AMA.
The initial impression is that this is more of the same - liberating bases in an open world crammed with chaos and random animal attacks. That’s by no means a bad thing. This is full of spur of the moment combat as you adapt and invent tactics on the fly; always rewarding and fun, with a chaotic push and pull that can kill hours and finish up with you realising you never even got near the thing you originally set out to do. It will eat your weekends and snack on the evenings.
But take a step back and it’s obvious that while the core ‘oh God I’m on fire and everyone’s shooting at me’ gameplay is familiar, there are lots of clever tweaks. Everything's been tightened up, refreshing the mix and creating a more streamlined pace. For example, towers are gone - there are no maps spammed with markers after climbing one. Instead you find things in the world by talking to people and actually looking around. It creates a more unpredictable and organic feel to progress. Rather than unlocking 30 objectives at once and chin-stroking on what to do next, you’re out exploring and seeing what you can find. Missions and information feel more meaningful when you have to earn them and it doesn’t take long before you've plenty of things to choose from.
It all helps build on the idea that you're just the little guy in someone else's world. You're the flea on the dog's back, not the dog. Even key story missions are out of your control - triggered by progress, meetings with bad guy leaders become unpredictable interjections as you're snatched when they feel like it, not when you decide to see them.
There’s always… a thing, somewhere, waiting to happen. It usually involves screaming and not always yours
The world is smaller too, but denser in return. So while the map is much reduced - only three regions to Far Cry 4’s six - you never feel short changed. There’s always… a thing, somewhere, waiting to happen to you. It usually involves screaming and not always yours. So it’s leaner, but what’s been removed is the stuff in between the action, not the action itself. In Far Cry 5 crafting is all but gone for example, reduced to making explosives and buff potions in the weapon wheel. All those ammo capacity increases, and things you’d previously spend hours chasing animals for, are moved into the game’s perk system.
It cuts away the fat of previous games, just leaving the meat of what makes the series good. Some things don’t change. You’re still exploring a troubled place - a fictional American midwestern rural community under the thumb of a doomsday cult called Eden’s Gate - and working with the locals to fight back and build a resistance in Far Cry 5. You’re liberating bases, balancing speedy, sprinting stealth with the almost inevitable messy, loud conclusion once you trigger an alarm. There are people to rescue, side missions to nibble, events and set pieces aplenty to keep you busy.
Prepper stashes are a particular joy among all this. Building on the Doomsday prepper themes there are supply rooms hidden around the world full of weapons, gear, perk points and more. You never quite know what you’ll get - both in terms of reward or challenge. Some are climbing puzzles, some are underwater, one is in a tower full of wasp nests you have to try and avoid disturbing. There are story-focused ones and plenty more I won’t spoil (including one of the best bits of the whole game). They’re always unpredictable, interesting, and a great way to break up the action.
Whatever you do in all this, the idea of being part of a team is stronger now with Far Cry's GUNs for hire, and FANGs can pick up. There are six people and three animals you can choose from to fight alongside you (one at a time initially) using a range of tools to vary your options and capabilities. Nick Rye has a strafing, bomb dropping plane, for example, while Grace Armstrong brings long range sniper support. Other characters have flamethrowers, helicopters and there are generic ‘fighters’ - basically no name soldiers you can hire in a pinch. Pet-wise you could choose Cheeseburger the bear for tanking savagery, Boomer the dog for highlighting enemies, and Peaches the cougar for silent kills on command.
You’ll have your favorites, but once you start switching them out for different missions the game opens up immensely. Especially when you unlock a 'Leadership' perk that lets you have two companions at once. At that point Far Cry 5 becomes a different game as you move from lone gun to leader of a (small) army. Not bothered about stealth and just need to blow shit up? Call in Adelaide's chaingun-armed chopper and Hurk with his rocket launcher. Need to save hostages without setting off alarms? Get Jess in with her bow and Peaches to despatch bad guys without a whisper. The commands are simple - go there, kill this - but when you coordinate an attack and pull if off, it feels amazing.
Perhaps the only thing I didn't really click with was a maybe an over reliance on hostage rescue to balance the otherwise repercussion free carnage, and some largely flat villains. I just didn’t feel much for the cult leaders - the defeat of which the entire game hinges on. In a series that’s seen star turns from Vaas and Pagan Min, Joseph Seed and his clan don’t quite have the same pop. Which is odd when the world and everything in it is full of character, and the tone is often darker and more sinister than before (the opening is an amazingly tense sequence). There are serious horror/crime thriller vibes in places, with environmental and incidental storytelling creating a grimer and less fanciful take on the usual Far Cry narrative.
In a series that’s seen star turns from Vaas and Pagan Min, Seed and his clan don’t quite have the same pop
The familiar US setting, and the fact that real life events like Jonestown and Wako actually happened, make this feel more plausible in some ways than distant Tibetan despots and feudal tropical islands. However, the subdued portrayal of its cult leader, and sub-bosses, lacks impact. They should project menace that makes your skin prickle, and they don’t. out of Jospeh, Jacob, John and Faith, only ex-soldier Jacob has any really edge or depth to his presence. Tonally it feels pulled in different directions between the primary colour comedy of characters like Hurk or Adelaide (frat boy ass humour and ‘older women talking about sex is funny’ respectively) and its attempt to create a more subtle evil from a cult leader that could actually exist. It almost feels transitional, taking a half step towards being more serious but not fully committing.
The tonal inconsistencies are more a case of not quite hitting the mark rather than missing the target completely, though. The overall thrust is still an entertaining cacophony of animal attacks, accidental fires, plan Bs, and bad guys to beat. There’s loads to enjoy and design tweaks tighten everything up. Just the single player element is enough to make this worth playing but then there’s the fact you can tackle the entire campaign in co-op, adding a brilliant layer of two player calamity, and the Arcade map creator. I’ve only dabbled briefly but built a simple assassination mission in a mountain lodge, and checked how many turkeys it takes to kill a bear (12, if you’re interested). It’s an accessible dev-level creation system full of props, terrain editors, enemies, AI and gameplay modifiers. Whether you want to cobble together a few things and see what happens, or start your development career, it’s got you covered. It’ll also provide plenty of new single player, co-op and multiplayer levels to take on after the stories done.
Far Cry 5 is a continuation of everything you remember about the series, but an instalment that’s taken a good look at itself, and what it does, to work out the best possible way of doing it. The compact, more streamlined design never feels small and instead comes across as more achievable and event filled. How often have you finished a Far Cry with a ton of missions and bits you never got around to doing? That’s that stuff that’s been paired back. What remains are the best bits - the pure, distilled chaos of the series more manageably portioned and packaged.