Far Cry 5 Review - The Great Revamp Has Some Issues With Progression
Very few video games series have such a unique trait as the Far Cry franchise does. It's that special something that, when you see it, you instantly recognize and feel good with it, no matter the amount of flaws the titles you're playing carry with them since the inception of the saga.
With Far Cry 5, Ubisoft has strived to polish the experience a lot in order to get rid of much redundant stuff we've witnessed in its latest open world games, while keeping what made the brand something of its own, totally different from the other AAA products available anywhere else on the market.
Far Cry 5 Review - The Great Far Cry Series Revamp?
Indeed, Far Cry 5 is, sure enough, a Far Cry game. It's character-driven as always, so expect to find some very peculiar personality in there – even more than in the recent past -, and much fun when it comes to freedom and things you can do in this giant sandbox that is Hope County, a fictitious and lovely location in Montana, United States.
Also, with this huge amount of freedom, it feels a bit distractive as it fails to keep you engaged to something that is more than what you're doing between one huge step in the storyline and the other. The game has some artificial steps it makes from time to time to reduce this feeling, but the feeling after our long run is this simply is not enough, and even things that you're sure it is going to do good, well, that's not a given at all this time around.
If you've played Far Cry for a time, you'll know that Far Cry 3 has been seminal in terms of impact and influence on the rest of the series. From that game on, every Far Cry title has been based on that imprinting and still carries the over the top villains, who have all their eyes on them and basically catalyze the attention on them while other games reserve a similar place to the storyline itself.
It's really something of its own, as I said, and knowing that Far Cry 5 tries and offer more characters who should serve that purpose. On top of the main villain, who is the infamous Joseph Seed, we also have three "messengers" of his, members of the cult who work as mini-bosses along the path that will lead us to the final fight.
As in any other open world game, you're required to conquer all the zones in the MAP, and in order to do so, you have to obtain Resistance Points by completing all the story missions and collateral activities in these places. The good thing is this approach is definitely free: you decide where to start from and when to shift your attention to yet another character on the map, what to do and how to do that.
The bad thing is story missions in each zone are quick to END, and once these – which are all but memorable, despite for those that let you gain allies who are as over the top as the villains, at the very least – are done, you're left with meaningless side activities such as bringing "altars" down or get outposts out of the cult's end. While this is fun for a time, it feels like you're grinding Resistance Points way too early in the game, as this is required to continue the story and not just to complete the endgame or whatever could be unlocked at the end of your adventure.
That's a problem you'll go through around 10 hours in the game and one that made me think whether Ubisoft Montreal and Toronto have been way too cautious and conservative in adding story-based content in this giant sandbox which is Montana. As I said, Far Cry 5 is a Far Cry title at its core, so it retains some of the flaws of the previous chapters in the franchise such too much time passing from one meaningful story fact to another.
That could be fine, knowing the saga, but that quite is not, mainly because when what should be meaningful happens… it seems it's not meaningful after all, or anyway nothing you'll remember for too long. You never have the feeling you are in an authored narrative: you're given a context and some quite decent premises, but then you get to play and grind Resistance Points to conquer those zones.
What should be at the center of the scene, the characters and their personalities, usually fail to impress because – said of the great acting and visual performances – they only live in the present and lack deepened backgrounds. It's something I've already seen in Resident Evil 7, which is very similar in how it defines the Baker family members. You almost never go beyond "these guys are plain crazy/evil," with very few references to the reasons behind their actions being presented with a couple text lines or quick dialogue you might not even pay attention to focus as you are on not dying by their hands in the mini-boss fights.
On top of that, it is worth to note that Far Cry 5 does a lot of things great and manages to entertain you a lot before you get to notice what doesn't work, especially if you approach it the way you don't really care about the story or the character – which, interestingly, is something it feels like it's suggesting you to do.
As I hinted at, there are a few things Ubisoft wanted to change based on the formula that made the series such a highly praised and loved one among the fans. First of all, as it did with Assassin's Creed Origins, it completely got rid of the towers, which are now some kind of remnants from the previous generation of open world games.
There is only one tower in the game and you meet it at the beginning of the adventure, placed in an initial phase of the story and described with a joke – promising there is just one of them in the title, this time – by an in-game character you meet very early. Then stop, you're completely free with the approach, and the rest of map, the detailed locations of it, are in your hands and will to discover.
That's something very refreshing, to be honest. Everything is in your hands now: you can find stuff out of real exploration, as magazine allow you to grab some extra trait points to shape your character up and road signs are out there to let you see where you can hunt what; the binocular is your best friend when it comes to getting closer to outposts (à la Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain), since stealth is still one of the best options at your disposal, and parachute and wing suit are clearly useful when you decide to get on the top of a mountain and drop you down to somehow accelerate your learning of the zone.
It's easily the best thing that has ever happened to the franchise, and an approach we hope can stick not only with the series but with the way Ubisoft's games are shaped up from now on as the on-screen icons get less and less invasive throughout your gameplay, and you really feel like "what now?" once a big step in the story is over.
Few other things are worth noting here. AI seem to have been brought a step forward this time around, considering how realistically it performs some of the actions you would do the same: when set on fire, they'll try and extinguish it or, if it's too late, they'll launch on you to kill the one who set them on fire at least; when only one or couple of them are left from an assault on your position, they'll try and retire to run for their lives, etc. It's neat how the developers added nuances to the way the enemies act and play in the gameplay, so kudos for them on this.
Similarly, several activities look more inspired than others. While they are not too many, and not too diverse, there are Preppers' little enigmas all over the map for you to solve and obtain a lot of, err, loot, or other time attack challenges where you are required to do some driving with a few of the most over the top vehicles in the game.
It feels great to drive over the huge map of Hope County, as there are quite different vehicles to choose among and several spots where you can grab the one you love the most. So it's hard to get lost or remain without a vehicle which can help you return to the more populated zones and do your stuff to carry the story on. Interestingly, long distances can be covered by letting the game drive on its own until the point you need to reach, a feature that has been borrowed from Assassin's Creed Origins.
And talking about things you can do on the territory and how you do them, in Far Cry 5 you have the ability to recruit few allies with different personalities and skills. My impression is the animals are a bit OP, especially the puma, but as a response to that, it's also true that, when they die, they're required a bit more time to respawn and return into your availability. On top of that, you can pet them and it's something I've spent a very long, long time doing in my gameplay.
As I said it's nice to see there are few characters in there that can seriously help you and don't come as simple story tidbit from time to time. There are guys and gals who can use fire or helicopters to give you support, for example, and hear their screaming while you do the mission you're required to do to unlock them is really something (just remember: "Burn, Baby, Burn," and then let me know if that moment wasn't among the most enjoyable in the last few years in video games).
Let's do some quick considerations about the Arcade Mode. At this moment, it feels like Ubisoft's take on Hitman's Contracts, but it's obvious the editor has some great potentialities that we'll need to see how the community and the developer will be able to get the advantage of in the future.
Before launch, I managed to play some interesting levels by the developer itself, and the authored content felt pretty good as it was something totally different from the campaign experience I had had.
There are levels where you are completely alone and are required to find a way out in thrilling locations, but there are also outposts, bounties, and assaults that – if replenished properly – will have the ability to pump new life into the game for a long time after launch. On top of that, of course, there's PvP multiplayer, which is being conveyed into the Far Cry 5 Arcade Mode rather than in another standalone mode.
At the time being, there are an only deathmatch and team deathmatch but, as I read in a recent interview with the dev team, who knows whether someone will be able to bring an entire battle royale in there in a few weeks or months. It'll be interesting to see how it ends if it ever does.
Looking at the graphics, finally, Far Cry 5 is really something. I played it on Xbox One X, and while the technical details are yet to discover – resolutions and whatever, I'll leave that to the guys at Digital Foundry – this feels to be the first proper Far Cry next-gen experience. Of course, the setting allowed the developer to bring in all the different stuff nature has to offer, with its colors, landscapes, waterfalls, skies, carried over the game aplenty.
Animals were just amazing to see and pet, an enormous step forward in comparison with Far Cry Primal (in terms of visuals; systems are quite different as here it's much streamlined, you can't tame all the beasts you meet). I love to take screenshots out of games and when I see I can't stop doing that, it's a signal of how good and even breathtaking a video game setting ultimately ended up being.
You have a lot of them attached to this article so you can basically judge by yourself, and the video review will be offering in the next few hours will seemingly further add a great feeling to the visual presentations of both character models and locations. Frame rate is also rock solid, so it didn't come with any caveats or impact of sorts on the performance side; curiously, the only tearing I found was in the map.
All in all, there's a feeling of things that have changed in Far Cry 5 and that's a great feeling, because after the huge amount of time spent in tower-based open world environment it seems Ubisoft has finally decided to grab some feedback and put it to use – Far Cry 5 fundamentally does to the Far Cry series what Origins did to Assassin's Creed, and that's something we're quite glad of.
It must be noted, anyway, that over the top characters alone are not enough to build a game's story upon and that something more is required not only aside of them, but also in them: some more background might turn useful. Progression is also a big flaw because, as it is, it quickly makes you get out of the main story circle and forget something which, although with good premises, is already quite forgettable.