You might think Far Cry 5 is just another Far Cry game, only set in America this time instead of some fancy tourist location, but… Well, you’d be right. Shut up. It is exactly the same game but holy hell is it being made by a team that knows what’s it’s doing and have drilled down into its strengths. Fun: this game is full of it. After two and a bit hours of play I couldn’t very easily begin to explain exactly how I woke up next to a pig wearing a party party hat. It involved cows having sex to Marvin Gaye…
I’ll get to the cows later, I promise. My main take away from my time running rampant in Far Cry 5 is that this an open world impossibly well tuned to cater for your every whim. It’s almost attentive in its ability to entertain you. Keen to avoid revising any of the previous E3 demo areas or missions, I set a marker on the far side of the available map to see what I can find and set off. I don’t think I stopped doing stuff until the controller was gently prized from my hands (literally not a joke: they had to do a hard reset to turn on co-op). The whole time was just a long chaotic string of liberating settlements, shoot outs, meeting weird people, fighting off bears, and accidentally setting fire to everything - including my Gun for Hire (with the repair blow torch) and the dog, Boomer (twice).
The constant stream of entertainment is probably as much to do with the Ubisoft team having plenty of practise making these games by now, as it is how familiar the systems feel under thumb. What I am impressed by this time is the consistency of it all. Without meaning to I kinda just tumbled from one thing to another. There are no towers to climb this time, instead you have to explore the world, tracking down markers and following the sound of gunfire/explosions/screaming. Freed from obvious landmarks to aim for you just sort of happen on to things much more.
Tonally, the shift to small town America has an interesting feel because it’s so much more ‘normal’ compared to tropical Islands or himalayan mountains. The exotic characters and setting there helped create a more fantasy feel. Here, on the other hand, you’re never more than a few minute from a gruff trucker in a baseball cap who greets you with a “mornin’”. The balance against the absolute carnage you can wreak in such an everyday setting appears to be a slightly lighter tone with more of the characters and situations you encounter. It makes sense: if you’re shooting up plain ol’ USA streets you either go super dark, or get a little more cartoony with it.
Far Cry 5’s gone with cartoony and, well, sometimes it gets weird. Hence the cows. That was a side mission involving Hope Fall’s annual testical festival, an all day cook out focusing on the bits of the bull even the bull doesn’t like to think about. You can watch the whole thing play out in the below video, but the short of it is that in a mission apparently designed specifically to piss off PETA, I had to collect bull’s testicles ‘cooked three ways’ which translates to killing a bull while it was having sex, mincing one in a crop harvester and killing the third with fire. I didn’t make these rules, I just had to complete the objectives and, job done, got to attend the festival which involved tequila shots and waking up in a field with the party pig.
Yes, writing it down now, does sound even weirder than it was at the time. The only reason I feel less guilty about it is because bulls are absolute bastards in Far Cry 5. They’re almost the new honey badgers - relentless slabs of hatred put on this Earth to make your life a short painful misery if you go anywhere near them.
As stupid as this all clearly sounds, it’s needed when the next mission has you finding ordinary people executed on the doorstep of their homes, still holding hands in a puddle of their mingled blood. This is still the same Far Cry, so there are random hostages to rescue that suddenly take on a whole new feel when they're dressed in jeans and sneakers. It took me a while to click what playing through all this reminded me of - serious one minute, daft chaos the next - until I realised it’s there’s a very GTA vibe to it all. Not just because it’s in America, but because the only way to counter the relentless bad guy murder in such unassuming surroundings is to get a bit silly. So you get sex cows, conspiracy nuts, fishing, people bursting from the bushes being chased by bears, and self created ‘because it was there’ missions, like my attempt to wingsuit from the top of a mountain to the bottom (spoiler: I didn’t make it).
Mechanically it’s just as you remember, but somehow smoother, although that might just be because it’s so familiar now. There’s an effortless familiarity to running into some bad guy cultists, or taking on a base, as you switch between weapons and reactively improvise that still isn’t old yet. The American setting also creates a slightly different challenge because instead of outposts the bases are more like pumpkin farms and auto yards, so less obviously gamified set ups with perimeters, and more like ordinary places.
It feels to me that Far Cry probably has one more ‘exactly the same as before’ iteration before it needs an Assassin’s Creed: Origins style rest and refresh. And, from what I’ve played here, there’s enough change in Far Cry 5’s texture and tone from the new setting to keep this one more go around as enjoyable as it’s been to date.