I have twice travelled to Montana in the good old US of A this year. The first time I went as a farmer; plowing fields, raising chickens and selling grain. It was a peaceful time, with the only excitement being whether I had enough fuel for the tractor. The second time I arrived in Montana I was kidnapped by a cult, thrown out of a plane, wrestled a bear and partook in a gunfight with 20 people across a bar. In case you hadn’t guessed by now, Far Cry 5 was the second experience – and it’s a mad roller-coaster of a vacation.
The Far Cry experience has taken us from a small but crazy-filled island, to the plains of Africa, the Himalayas and back in time to prehistoric man. But now we are in the USA and, more specifically, ‘Big Sky Country’ Montana.
You play as a rookie US Marshall who, along with the Sheriff and your boss, enters the fray riding in a helicopter, with the intention to arrest the leader of a cult and his bunch of crazy siblings. The cult is a sort of hybrid of religious madness and Jones Town type hysterical strangeness. Joseph Seed is the main villain and he’s a good one, full of long stares, slow-speaking psychobabble, and disturbing actions. Of course, the arrest all goes pear shaped and like all good Far Cry games, you find yourself escaping and running for your life.
It is from here where the game then lets you go anywhere across ‘Hope County’, with there being three major regions, controlled by distinct villains, to dominate first; with Joseph looming over everything. In each of these regions are towns and settlements, and a host of characters to meet and get missions from. The mission structure is a mixture of great things – mostly centred around destruction, freeing prisoners or capturing outposts. There are some brilliant side missions which include getting bull testes for a food festival specialising in the said culinary item, or fishing and hunting quests and stunt races. You discover these activities or missions just by happening across them, which is a nice change from the previous games in the series. As you can imagine you’ll be distracted by the many choices. This is a game all about diversion and that’s where you will either begin to love or hate this game.
Let me give you an example. I was wandering into a town occupied by cultists and I triggered an alarm. Soon they were all after me and I was left to hide in dark corners while my dog buddy, Boomer, was stealing weapons from the enemy and kindly bringing them to me. Then to top it off a plane started dive bombing my position and I was on my last legs. Lucky then that I was hiding out in a garage where there just happened to be an RPG and with a random shot, the plane was down, crashing into the town and wiping out most of my foes. The remaining ones were then suddenly attacked by a black bear form the forest. This wasn’t a set piece, it was just a random moment in the game… and there are loads of them. Very much like in Far Cry 2, you can’t go 10 yards without someone spotting you and a possible fight taking place which then results in major mayhem. This can distract from the main thrust of the story a tad, but it’s truly an open world experience in all its glory that attracts with hidden areas, little nods to pop culture and lots, and lots, to do.
I mentioned before that you get help from a dog called Boomer. Well, he’s just one of the many characters you will meet and unlock on your journey. These guys fight by your side in the battles, and each one has different attributes and skill sets, so you can decide what you need. You can upgrade their skills, and your own, with skill points earned through gaining experience or finding collectibles (e.g magazines) along the way. These range from the normal that increase your weapon proficiency, to getting a wingsuit for the ‘jump out of the plane in a rush’ scenarios. And damn yes, there are vehicles galore, from cars to bikes, to monster trucks, to helicopters to planes. You’ll be jumping in to one and out of the other before you can say jack rabbit. It all works great and is a lot of fun.
The main campaign will take you a while to complete, especially if you take in all the side missions, challenges, fishing opportunities, hunts, and stunts. The one thing that does get a bit annoying is that when you are kicking back doing a bit of quiet fishing, cultists will spot you and soon you’re being dive bombed by a plane. I wish they would just all calm down a bit. There is a co-op mode where a friend can get involved in the whole campaign with you, or just drop in to help you with a couple of missions too. And then there is the Far Cry Arcade mode letting you partake in some wonderful maps designed by Ubisoft and the general public. This can be played solo, co-op and multiplayer and the imagination of the world has seemingly gone wild. If you feel confident, you can design your own map and put it out to the public. It’s a great mode, works well and it will be interesting to revisit it in a year’s time to see what gamers have made.
In the looks department the cutscenes are, as expected, of a very high standard, but it has to be said that in the first half hour or so of the game, I wasn’t that impressed. But then the gameplay kicked in and it all looked great. I still wasn’t blown away though – especially not like Ubisoft did with AC Origins. Then morning came, the fog lifted, and the true glory of Montana was presented to me. It’s a lovely looking world with rolling mountains, stunning trees, cascading rivers and great little towns and farms. The wildlife roams the world abundantly, vehicles look magnificent and the detail in people’s homes is very well designed. There is the odd glitch, but nothing to cry about, just your usual open world tiny infraction. The mo-cap is brilliantly acted even though you do see the same type of random cultists quite a bit on your travels.
Sound wise and Far Cry 5 is excellent from start to finish with superb effects and a great cinematic score. The actual songs you find on the included radio station are a mixture of American rock tunes, and a gospel folk that I found marvellous to hear as I went driving into battle. The voice acting is utterly superb with some brilliant character work throughout.
Overall Far Cry 5 is a bloody laugh. It doesn’t take itself too seriously – but then the series never has. If you’re a fan of the previous games then this is a must buy for your collection; it is bright, noisy and frantic and I wouldn’t have it another way.
Now please excuse me for Boomer and I have a farmyard to liberate. We may be some time.