The morning mist was still clinging to the trees and for once the air oddly quiet, just a few birds singing their morning song. This peaceful moment would soon be drowned out by a cacophony of explosions, screaming and beat of gunfire. My faithful hound Boomer had already savaged two lone guards, which had left the way clear for me to use my grappling hook and scale the biggest structure on the compound. Apart from the two captive civilians tied up in the storage shed, the way ahead was all gun-toting cult members. From my vantage point, I managed to silently take down two more guards with my compound bow before dropping to incapacitate a third. With numbers thinned I called in my air support to attack the three guards who were satisfyingly close to each other, one bomb would be enough.
As the whistling ordinance plummeted toward the soon to be meat bath, I unleashed all hell on the remaining guards. The group of three had a millisecond of comprehension before being sent in various directions, which left only two enemies dug in across the car park. Suddenly the tarmac in front of me was being dug up like black snow, high calibre gunfire from an enemy plane that had spotted the conflict and was now strafing my location. Whilst regretting my decision not to bring the heavy machine gun my inner thoughts were cut short when I spotted a discarded RPG on the floor: maybe this was my day. Leaping from cover I acquired the weapon and in the next second sent a rocket skyward toward the incoming plane. As I realised this shot in a million was on target my elation was quickly dampened by the flaming wreckage landing squarely on my head. Maybe this wasn’t going to be my day after all.
Farcry 5 is the latest open-world shooter from those talented folks at Ubisoft. I still remember playing the original game and being blown away by just how gorgeous those tropical waters looked and how exhilarating it was to blaze across them in high powered speedboats. Farcry 2 was a step back in some ways because while visually impressive, the way enemies would just respawn was a big downside and left the game world feeling unaffected by your actions. It was Farcry 3 that really set the tone for where the series would head over the next few years, with a refined gameplay model and one of the most infamous game adversaries. Vaas was not trying to be bad, he just was and his instability would act as a wonderful catalyst for his antics. Farcry 3 was also a story of awakening for the protagonist Jason Brody, a ‘wet behind the ears’ adrenaline tourist who metamorphosed into a living weapon (the guy was still a dick though). Farcry 4 was seen by many as a very large DLC pack for the previous game, (not a bad thing in my opinion) mainly because while the location (the stunning Himalayas) changed, not much else did.
Every hero requires a villain and if we are to be the Gordon Freeman wannabe then Joseph Seed (and his siblings) have kindly stepped up to being our arch-enemies. Joseph Seed (known as The Father to his happy clappers) is the leader of a religious cult which has established itself in this semi-fictional version of Montana. The game opens with you going to arrest Joseph which in turn kicks the hive and prompts its members to decide this is the event foretold by Joseph. There are plenty of examples of real-world cult leaders, Charles Manson is certainly one such individual. Cult leaders are almost always charismatic, manipulative people who are driven by an unshakeable believe in the lies they sow. While Joseph Seed lacks the intensity of Vaas I do think he presents a very believable religious nutjob, with the arrogance that this type of man would possess.
As you have probably already guessed, the arrest at the start of the game doesn’t go to plan. Cut off from the outside world you must now take down Joseph's three siblings before getting another crack at the 'big boss'. The youngest brother is John Seed who presides over the West region. John likes to torture his guests, surrounds himself with yes men (and woman) and loves to monologue his enemies to death. Faith is Joseph’s Joss Stone lookalike sister who likes to slip narcotics in your tea in order to get you onside. Her whole region is caked in a substance called Bliss, which not only gives her followers some extra get up and go, but also leads to some pretty impressive hallucinations of your own. Then we have the oldest brother, John in the north (not that John), a military man who oversees the acquisition of property and the training of cult members. John also likes to dabble with psychological conditioning and in his spare time runs a life drawing class at the village community centre.
A Far Cry from, erm, Farcry
Ubisoft has thankfully been doing a lot of housekeeping as of late and it really seems like they have been listening to common criticisms of their biggest games. I feel like this change actually started with Watchdogs 2 which was worlds away from its flawed predecessor. Assassins Creed Origins has also turned that series on its head and improved the formula in almost every way. So skip to present day and we now have Farcry 5 making some significant changes to how it does business. For a start the famous ‘radio towers’ are a thing of the past, the game even pokes fun at this well-known feature. Now exploration is far more organic and driven by the player observing their environment. Speaking to a civilian you just saved, reading a letter in the office of a garage you just liberated or spotting hunting signs when on the road for example. Of course, you can just as easily happen across new locations and with the removal of the minimap, this is far more likely. Walking around in this semi-fictional Montana I am encouraged to pay attention and use my senses as opposed to ticking off markers on a map. Unfortunately, this mechanism is still undermined by the game giving you the location as soon as you open a document, negating the need to use your brain. However, it is a step in the right direction.
There is a map in the game which helps you see which areas you have been to by leaving unseen sections grey. You can also see how your overall progress is going for each main three areas which correspond to one of the three siblings of Joesph Seed. While there is a suggestion of which area to take on first you are free to go anywhere right from the off. As you complete quests as well as a range of other disruptive activities you are awarded resistance points that go towards your progress in that area. As soon as you pass a threshold the general will initiate a sequence where you are captured (no choice I'm afraid) and you play through a more scripted mission before escaping to carry on your game in the open world again. These sections are often more corridor shooter esk and give the bad guys chance to do a bit of monologuing. One big complaint about Farcry 4 was that we barely saw Pagan Min until the final sequence so at least Joseph’s family go some way to correct this, but damn they can talk.
As the game opens you are also presented with one of the other big changes to the formula, the ability to create your own character. You have a choice of gender, looks and clothing which, while limited, do at least offer some decent visuals for a change. These choices do not affect gameplay, save for characters referring to your gender when talking to you to you. For example as a woman you hear bad guys shout 'get her' or friendlies call you 'Missy'. There are a few nice ideas like wanted posters around the game world which show your current look but the only real person who will benefit from these choices are your co-op partners, should you have one. It is cool that when you look down or have your hands in view your clothing choices are visually represented which is a nice touch.
The problem here is that when a game is running under a story, it is near impossible to make an emotional connection when you (the protagonist) are literally mute. There are so many situations where I wanted to say something but the other characters kinda fill in the blanks for you. I have only ever seen this work once and that was Halflife and Halflife 2. I understand that we essentially create the character at the start but all Ubisoft needed to do was record both male and female dialogue, given the player never has a choice of a path until very late in the game.
A bit on the side
So when you are not being talked to death by the Seed’s or being forced to live out the life of an acid junky, what is there to do in Hope County? One of my favourite parts of Farcry 5 are the side missions because they are by far some of the most hilarious we've seen from Ubisoft. In one I was tasked with ‘acquiring’ bull testicles for the local ‘Testy Festy’. One ‘set’ needed to be removed when the bull is shall we say 'in the act' and so this leads to you trying to hack off said nuts with a harvesting tractor, all to Sexual Healing by Marvin Gaye. Other quests had me helping a guy who looks like the crazy scientist from Independence Day build an interdimensional teleporter, which of course kicks off with you killing alien turkeys. I really love how Ubisoft do not take these missions too seriously and let the player have some fun, even breaking the fourth wall on more than one occasion. The ‘Prepper Stashes’ are also a fantastic addition to the game and are a great source of resources. Each one requires some light puzzle solving and while not terribly taxing are very fun to work through.
No Ubisoft game would be complete without some inane items sets to collect: here we have sets ranging from trophy lighters, comics and vinyl records. I guess these are optional diversions which will give completionists another reason to explore every nook and cranny of the game world. The fishing mini-game is well implemented in both mechanics and the way catching fish is worked into some quest lines. Making friends with the bear Cheese Burger for example requires you to catch and then present a nice fat salmon. There is even a challenge system running in the background which doles out extra perk points on completion. The point is that if you want it, there is usually something to distract you from the main story quests.
Friends don’t let friends drive.
One of the major new features of Farcry 5 is the buddy system which lets you have up to two AI controlled characters fighting by your side. As you start to move across the map you will come across characters who will join you if you first complete their corresponding quest. Each one comes with their own set of skills and personality, Grace, for example, is an uptight sniper who will cover your back with deadly precision. Nick Rye flys a seaplane and will rain bombs and bullets down on your enemies, as long as you help his pregnant wife to the hospital first. There are even animal companions such as the stealthy cougar Peaches and the lovable mutt Boomer. Each of these specialists will stay with you as long as you wish or until they die. Most of them will get you back up in in a downed state and you can return the favour. While not perfect these companions are competent and can be controlled with a simple contextual button press. What I found the most impressive was the conversations that would spark up between these characters, considering how many combinations there are this must have taken some work. If you do decide to unlock Hurk Drubman do yourself a favour and take Sharky Boshaw along for some hilarious dialogue while completing Hurks mission.
As if this wasn’t enough you can also hire additional civilians you come across, each with two random skills that will unlock over time. One might be the ability to resurrect your fallen animals or help repair vehicles you are using. This buddy system is excellent and really does give you some additional tactical options when approaching enemy outposts. Hurk, for example, carries a guided rocket launcher which is perfect for dealing with enemy aircraft, this also then frees up a weapon slot. The only big downside to these buddies is that they can make the game too easy, especially if playing on normal difficulty.
Of course, the best kind of buddy is a real one and Farcry 5 allows the entire game to be played with another player watching your back. The way this works is that the host just continues as normal with progress being made. The person joining, however, has their own game essentially paused until they return. They will get to keep weapons, money and perks though which is great. This part of the game worked seamlessly for me and a friend. While in a car chase seeing my buddy hanging out of the window firing at the cars behind was next level fun.
There is one thing that Farcry games have always been good at and that is making gunplay fun. Like with previous games, there is a wide range of weapons, from pistols, assault rifles, shotguns to more powerful RPGs and flamethrowers. My weapon of choice is and has always been the composite bow, which lets me silently pick apart enemy camps before moving in for some close range takedowns. Each weapons looks and sounds authentic which is backed up by how it feels to fire. I’m no gun expert but have fired a few weapons from handguns to the good old AK47. One minor irritation is that bullets seem to travel slower in this Farcry which make hitting long distance moving targets that much more difficult, but this is a minor gripe and nothing you cant adapt to. I would say the combat in Farcry 5 is one of its major strengths but sometimes it really doesn't know when to ease off. Often you will get attacked five or six times while driving down one road. Even out in the wilderness, you will have animals jumping on you like rabies has gone airborne. What makes matters worse is that these attacks will often interrupt quest givers, which really shouldn't happen at all.
Vehicles are of course a big part of the game and now there are even more ways to get around with the inclusion of planes. It is very rare to not see at least one vehicle on the compass but you're also given the option to spawn them in from various points. As you complete certain quests specialised vehicles are added to your garage, however, you can also purchase them using in-game currency or silver bars. It is worth mentioning at this point that silver bars are scarce in-game but can be bought with real cash. As always, the inclusion of this type of microtransaction in a single player game is totally unnecessary and I urge you to not support them. The driving in Farcry 5 seems almost identical to previous games except that faster cars have more weight and so can slide around corners in a very satisfying way. I did occasionally forget all my missions and just rally around the country roads while listening to the games excellent soundtrack. I still used mouse and keyboard for the helicopters but found switching to the controller for planes was a far better way of flying. I have to say the planes, both land and water, work really well. There are a good few dogfights to get involved in and even just taking in the sights while humming along in my Spitfire is highly atmospheric.
If you were a fan of the crafting from previous games you will be sad to hear this has largely been removed, save for the way you can make your own explosives and consumables. There are plenty of these to choose from including some potent enhancements of the herbal variety. Just make sure you don’t miss these options because there really isn’t a tutorial, apart from an NPC later in the game who helps you make some strength enhancer. The way you gain upgrades now is through perk points and unlike previous games, there is no progression tree. These are largely the same perks as before with additional weapon slots, larger health pool and parachute/wingsuit being highly recommended. I was always a fan of the hunting/crafting from in other Farcry games, it made me feel like a survivor who was using my environment to improve my chances of winning. However I do concede this kind of mechanic doesn’t fit as well into rural Montana.
One of the biggest talking points of Farcry 5 prior to launch was the fact it was being set in mainland North America. There is obviously a lot of tension in the States right now and with a manchild like Donald Trump as president things were never going to be easy. The game takes does contain a lot of satirical content, not in your face but it is there. One guy refers to the 'orange Russian' and other comments about Obama and 'the wall' are scattered around if you look. There are some media sites out there marking this game down for not delivering there the political message they wanted, I say treat those reviews with the respect they deserve. This is a game and game critics need to remember that. My advice with this game's setting is don't take it too seriously. Yes, there are horrible things happening in America right now but this game is largely about a religious cult and they have been around for decades.
Is it PC?
Farcry 5 is a stunning game from top to bottom, not only that but it runs like a dream. I managed to play on the highest settings with my aging 980GTX and still getting decent frame rates. Console owners have reported significant loading times when in shop screens but this is a none issue on PC, as always try and use an SSD if you have one. The setting for Farcry 5 is one of the most striking areas of North America with those impressive mountains as a backdrop. The largely rural community of Hope county has been lovingly created by the art teams at Ubisoft and they really deserve an award. Corn fields, damp pine forests, mist-covered lakes and roaring waterfalls are all part of the course here. The way fire spreads through grass and trees has been impressive since Farcry 2, now fire lasts a little longer which was one of my complaints about Farcry 3/4. I found the attention to detail when in buildings was also exceptional. Everything from pictures, post-it notes, books, tools, prepping supplies and so much more. Like the Dishonored series I often spent a great deal of time just looking around the buildings and soaking up the atmosphere. There are even small details like the 'beep' noise when entering a shop.
As I have mentioned, I played predominantly with Keyboard and mouse: only swapping over for flying the planes. Like in GTA 5 the transition between controller and K&M is seamless. PC support from Ubisoft is as good now as its ever been, with all the options you could wish for. There is also support for eye tracking and HDR if you are lucky enough to have a HDR monitor.
There are obvious comparisons to be made between this new Farcry game and previous instalments. Where you end up in this tally will depend on what aspects of the series you value the most. Vaas is hands down the best villain and so this makes Farcry 3 the default winner in many gamers eyes. However, if you take into account all of the gameplay improvements Farcry 5 makes over its predecessors then, in my opinion, this is the best Farcry game to date. I would say the biggest let down for me was the ending of the story and the frankly ridiculous direction it took. Instead of being confident in the games own momentum the developers went for sheer spectacle in an attempt to distract from the lack of any real conclusion. I can’t say much more for the sake of spoilers but as the credits rolled on Farcry 5 my main emotion was disappointment.
However, a bad ending does not take away the thirty or so hours I have enjoyed myself while running around Hope County and getting into all kinds of trouble along the way. The price of Ubisoft games are never cheap and while I’d say this game is worth it, there is no reason to pay full whack now. It will be the same excellent game twelve months from now and almost a fraction of the cost. There will also be a great deal more content within the Arcade mode where you can create new gameplay using an intimidating amount of assets. I will, of course, be playing and reporting on the DLC that is set to release this year, with spaceships, zombies and Vietnam it certainly sounds promising. The conclusion and main story may not set the world on fire (maybe) but the changes in how Farcry delivers content is very exciting and makes me hopeful for the future of this series.
Thank you for reading my review of Farcry 5 on PC. My copy of this game was purchased by myself and as such it has taken a few days to get my review published. I want to thank all of you who do wait for my reviews before making a purchase decision.