ONLY YOU CAN MAKE ALL THIS WORLD SEEM RIGHT.
Far Cry always has, and always will be, one of Ubisoft's tentpole IPs alongside Assassin's Creed. While the latter game has been given hearty competition in recent years alongside Dishonored, Zelda, Horizon: Zero Dawn, and even the Shadow of Mordor series, Far Cry remains alone as a tried and true open world 1st person chaos simulator ripe with glorious explosions and hi-jinx galore. It's a series that, until now, has aimed to explore the far reaches of islands and Asiatic countries--most of the time as an outsider or invader. The Nepal analogue of Kyrat in Far Cry 4 was lustrous, diverse, and beautiful in how it mirrored the culture and nature of an actual country, and alongside this world was a story of a young man trying to discover the truth about his lineage. Atop a grey area of morality was Pagan Min, the charismatic tyrant whose generosity towards protagonist Ajay Ghale was one stemmed from betrayal and a lost attempt at true family. Ubisoft did the best job they could with this recipe, and created what I felt was one of 2014's better games. Far Cry 5 is, no pun intended, a far cry from the exotic locales in the past 4 iterations, preferring to take us down to Montana in the United States for country twang, grain silos, and a more toned-down approach. Far Cry 5's themes of family and falsehood are, in many ways, a bizarre funhouse mirror of the previous game's tale, and in doing so warps gameplay to positive and negative degrees.
Far Cry 5 follows the same underlying blueprint as the two previous games in the series: a huge region divided by separate claims of ownership via outposts, sidequests from various regular NPCs, animals who will pop up at inopportune moments, snappy gunplay, a wingsuit, heavy vehicular usage for travel, and antagonists who taunt you and make you miserable any chance they get. Unlike Far Cry 4, the fifth game gives a little more freedom with your choices via letting you tackle any of the 3 "herald" co-conspirators in any order and at any time. There's also a revamped "guns for hire" system, letting you have up to 2 AI companions from a list of 9 unique people or animals. Nothing's quite like storming an outpost base with a grizzly bear and a man doing strafe runs in a fighter plane. Each friend carries different skills, so depending on the situation you may want the silent bowslinger Jess Black over the trigger-happy bazooka joe, Hurk Drubman. Whether its through choppers, sniping, flamethrowing, or straight up "being a fucking mountain lion," the NPC companions are all fun or funny to utilize and converse with. They all have their distinct personalities and occasionally specific quests relating to their own goals.
Although the satisfying gameplay and combat largely remains the same from the previous iteration, there are some serious drawbacks in Far Cry 5 when it comes to other basic aspects. Foremost is the stock of guns available, which have been scaled down and made more exclusive. Instead of going out on specific goals to craft or earn special weapons like Robocop's Auto-9 or a handheld flamethrower, your unlocks rely on the level of progress across all 3 regions you're working to free. By the time you're nearly done with the game, the last of these weapons unlock--which is kind of batshit since there's no point in even using these last few tools at this point. The progression system in general is kind of fucked since it teeters between worthless and "things that you could just craft with materials at anytime in the last game." Eventually you learn to get over it, but the sad assortment of guns to play with and earn through special means feels a bit lifeless; the rewards just aren't there.
Let's talk about the most obvious change in the game, which is the fact that it takes place in rural America instead of a hostile island of madmen or an exotic hidden Shangri-la of villages and mountain paths. Montana is beautiful in motion and in passing; as usual, Ubisoft has done a fantastic job creating a scenic location that you'll be happy to drag on its face before blowing up with a remote bomb. Silos, tractors, and demonic turkeys are in abundance over the fruited plains and fields of grain, with plenty of rivers to traverse in your gunboats if you want to choose the low road. Adding to the choppers of yesteryear are fighter planes and seaplanes, which are a bitch to handle and will probably get you killed more often than not. Ubisoft claimed that FC5's world is their biggest in the franchise, though a lot of it is claimed by flatlands and the hilly mountains in the north which don't have that much to hide. The map may be larger but it feels less dense, making the game itself feel like a faster completion than FC4. Fortunately, there are no radio towers to climb to reveal locations or gain access to forts; you simply come across a thing to uncover it and earn a fast travel point. In doing so, this eliminates the need for the minimap (I never missed it) and promotes more exploration across the countryside. Although there are far fewer places to utilize the wingsuit, the other aerial vehicles and the option for an air drop make up for it.
Okay, great, we all know Far Cry is a happenstance carnage simulator wherein the boy with the biggest grenades wins the fights. What about the story and the characters therein, which have been called everything from "trite" to "downright worthless garbage?" I won't lie: Pagan Min and Ajay Ghale's dance of death across the land of Kyrat in a war to understand the past and the future of The Golden Path was a far more nuanced and well-crafted storyline than the bumblefuck cult of a David Koresh doppelganger believing in the world's end. I won't waste my time debating if there was something more political to the edge that was initially promoted for Far Cry 5 because it's clear it's not really there, just as clear as it seems Joseph Seed takes a similar "fuck politics" turn in his words and deeds. The core of Far Cry 5 lies within the apocalyptic ramblings of Seed and his siblings (John, Jacob, and Faith) as they abduct people from the surrounding areas in order to "save" them from a countrywide collapse. From the start, you are told that you are the catalyst of ruination; a prophetic horseman destined to sow even more chaos through the realms Seed has claimed.
Far Cry games, in general, are chaos simulators. Far Cry 3 asked the player if they knew the meaning of insanity: doing the same thing over and over again. Climb a radio tower, do a sidequest, reload your guns, practice your bowhunting. Far Cry 4 asked you to put aside your petty cares about this land you have no real connection to, and join the benevolent tyrant Pagan Min in the Best Weekend Ever. The twist, of course, is that you really can't, though you are free to try even as you support one of two opposing factions whose own ideals are different kinds of fucked up. If Far Cry 4 is the tease, then Far Cry 5 is the fulfillment of what the other two prophesized: the ultimate in destruction of the self and your inability to truly fix the world through a hail of bullets.
The criticisms of the Seed family (and their stupid abduction mechanics that interrupt gameplay) are all well-founded, though they do at least attempt to bring more to the table. John clearly has issues and Faith is a whole can of worms when it comes to drug abuse and Joseph Seed's predilection to "use up" people himself, but it's in Jacob's metanarrative on video game violence that the game comes closest to saying something different. Joseph Seed's final encounters and the game's ultimate passage result in one of the creepiest, most ridiculous endings in the Far Cry canon to date--much more batshit than the "congratulations, game over" of the previous title--and unlike many other people, I loved it. It's the perfect way to end a game that has promoted you to the rank of an angel of death, and in the final moments has the unflappable guts to spit in your face as a thank you for playing. As Jacob might have said, you were never really free, and as the protagonist who likely fucked up more than once in your playthrough, you might be nothing more than another horseman of death. It's a somewhat clumsy and bittersweet curtain call that could have offered more clues and pulled more strings to earn what it does, though given the overall disconnect of the entire game's shenanigans versus the brutality being kept at bay, I can't really complain too much. The game saves its most heated, honest moments only when characters--the Seed family included--are at their most desperate; this goes double for Joseph, whose postmortem moments are among the game's best and help redeem his voice actor's presence. Death, the great equalizer, serves as the emancipator of the emotional resonance that Far Cry 5 is so curiously intent on hiding.
Though I still have a soft spot for Far Cry 4, I did genuinely enjoy my time with Far Cry 5 as I soldiered on and began to unlock more ways to cause havoc. A few of the story beats did fall in nicely (someone in the dev team clearly loves Nick Rye), and by the end, Joseph Seed becomes unhinged enough to gain a degree of menace I didn't feel for most of the journey. A few shortcuts were taken here and there, but the initial experience is still a fun one to take, even if it doesn't last as long or hit as hard until the sucker punches near the end of each region. Life, as Hobbes puts it, is nasty, brutish, and short--a fitting way to transcribe FC5 versus the others of its bloodline. FC5 condenses a great many things in favor of bringing you down to earth for some home cooking in the US of A, watering down some of the potential with gaseous monologues from Jacob and John while gifting you with better excursions happening with your NPC pals. You are, in the grand scheme of Far Cry 5's world, a tiny blip trying to save a tiny town on the brink of collapse, even as the rest of the world is trying to figure their own shit out. Enjoy the ride while it lasts, fire that grenade launcher into the sun, sic your dog on cultists, and take your combat drugs daily, because we're all just ants and Far Cry is the magnifying glass we are so hellbent on using to get that last roast of the hour.
Amazing and topical!