[Editor’s note: We were lucky enough that Paul Davies was able to attend a hands-on session with Far Cry 5 in the northern hemisphere.]
Hard to imagine the mood of a place besieged by religious crackpots on a rampage in the name of the Lord. Dining on bulls’ testicles doesn’t immediately spring to mind, though.
The Far Cry series is renowned for its crackpot villains, inspiring similarly hair-raising exploits from the heroes that rise up against them. In Far Cry 4, the mood was a little more subdued, however, with the plight of Himalayan freedom fighters somewhat difficult to treat lightly. Earlier this year, we were given a clue to the level of recklessness Ubisoft would like to see from players in Far Cry 5. We saw how the town of Fall’s End was liberated, under sniper fire from Gun-for-Hire Grace Armstrong, while a mutt named Boomer aided the ground assault. We’ve seen how tractors and heavily modified crop-dusters can wreak bloody havoc, and how the skies are just as likely to introduce random encounters as the farmlands below.
During a brief hands-on session this week, we got to meet the resistance leaders and make it more personal. An hour and a half of solo-missions under the direction of Mary May and Pastor Jerome, before teaming up with a Friend-for-Hire in a 30min co-op shooting spree. More or less the kind of thing we were expecting, although happily with production values that are remarkably through the roof. Casey the cook though… now this guy is on a whole
other level of eccentric, even for Ubisoft. Unless, that is, you happen to be from Montana.
The ‘what if, one day…’ kookiness of Far Cry 5 not only sets it apart from the series, but stakes a claim in video games as an experience that you never know when to take seriously, if at all. A guy called Joseph Seed establishes his unstable family as radical religious leaders, preaching the end of days and extreme measures under a God-fearing pretence. Okay, fine. But a mission that demands that you go mulch a grazing bull, after shooting its buddy during a ‘tender moment’ with a cow… Sorry, what now? Makes you wonder what else is in store.
Judging by what we encountered, friendly places are few and far between in Holland Valley, until you make a concerted effort to turn things around. John Seed, son of Joseph, has the east of Hope County under lockdown, with roadblocks and patrols to harass non-believers. This makes for a persistently volatile environment, with gun-fights erupting all around, that keeps you on your toes and with a great sense of purpose. It’s a region you strive to tame.
Our solo efforts started out on behalf of Mary May, to reclaim her father’s big rig from the clutches of low-rank cultists. The pacing of this early quest felt good, building from stealthy surveillance and silent take-downs to an explosive (literally) race from the cultist stronghold back to Fall’s End. Daddy’s so-called ‘Widowmaker’ truck is armed with machine guns that tear into pick-ups, mince gun-toting goons, and erupt gas tankers into giant balls of flame.
We must admit to ignoring the prime directive, involving the rescue of Deputy Hudson, though we’re sure that our random pursuit of each new opportunity did help toward inspiring the resistance. Producer Darryl Long said our aim was to piss off John Seed so much that he’d be lured out of his doomsday bunker. Possibly throwing Molotov cocktails at cows would draw that kind of attention. We’ll know better when we play this some more.
One of the most promising design decisions of Far Cry 5 is that its quest structure is organic. Rather than have people climbing towers to reveal every single mission marker available, the idea is that intel drives discovery. By assisting resistance leaders and regular folk in the fight against Eden’s Gate, more opportunities open up and more Guns-for- Hire are gained.
It’s also cool how the main NPCs have a particular role, such as Mary being the disruptor of John Seed’s ‘Reaping’ operations, while Pastor Jerome is focused on the safety of his flock. The variation of gameplay purpose is welcome, and helpful when deciding how to have the most fun when recruiting a Friend-for-Hire, aka co-op mode. My partner agreed to hostage rescue missions, that we aimed to make as chaotic as possible, inviting Eden’s Gate fools to summon reinforcements that we sent sky high by shooting exploding barrels. Deciding how you’re going to approach a situation is almost as much fun as carrying out the cunning plan.
So, yeah, just as you worry that you’re becoming burned out on open-world shenanigans, Far Cry 5 is here to say that you haven’t seen everything yet. And, by the way, would you like to try our ‘Rocky Mountain Oysters’?
Disclaimer: Far Cry 5 was played in 4K on a PlayStation Pro and a Samsung LU32H850 32” 4K monitor