Note:Ubisoft covered airfare, lodging, and food for this trip
Far Cry 5 is a game of sharp contrasts. While, as is the norm for Far Cry, the minute to minute gameplay is chock full of crazed, emergent chaos, the story that the gameplay is wrapped around is unusually serious. Joseph Seed, also known as ‘The Father’, has constructed a doomsday cult in Hope County, Montana. The Project at Eden’s Gate is a plague upon the people of the county. Followers terrorize their neighbors, fully convinced that anyone not a member of the cult when the inevitable apocalypse arrives will be destroyed. They will torture, kidnap, torment and kill anyone that gets in their way in their quest to bolster their numbers. The player is tasked with taking down this cult, piece by piece, by slowly defeating each of Joseph’s primary disciples, winning back territory and slowly influencing the terrorized populace to join the resistance. This is accomplished by gameplay that can be very serious, but things can also go veering off into “gonzo” territory at the drop of a hat.
I had a chance to play several hours of Far Cry 5 at a recent Ubisoft event, and in speaking to some of the creators of the game, it is clear that the resounding theme of this game’s construction is “player choice”. Every aspect of the game has been tuned to allow players to create their own experience in the Far Cry 5 sandbox. Go any direction you like, look the way you want, change the tone of the game by choosing different characters to accompany you on your journey. It’s all up to you. By making your selections, you can play this game as seriously or as loosely as you like.
The most immediate noticeable change to the Far Cry formula is the elimination of the famous “Ubisoft Towers”. In past games, players moved from area to area, slowly unlocking new areas and revealing objectives by climbing towers that dotted the landscape. In Far Cry 5, Ubisoft wanted a more organic approach to exploration. After the initial tutorial area (which takes about an hour to complete and gives the player some decent starting gear), players are welcome to wander off in any direction they desire. Objectives are revealed through talking to the people you meet, and it should be noted that sometimes the folks in Hope County have incorrect information to share. This results in the player being able to forge their own path, with the game dynamically adjusting the difficulty of each area depending on how strong your character has become.
The game map is carved up into districts, with each area being controlled by one of Joseph Seed’s lieutenants (mostly his brothers). The player’s driving goal is to anger the leader of an area into a final confrontation. This is done by completing missions, freeing hostages, liberating outposts, and generally messing things up for the Peggies (Project at Eden’s Gate = “Peggies”, get it?). A “Resistance Meter” appears, filling slowly when you complete one of these actions, and when the Resistance Meter is full, you can expect a confrontation with one of the big bads.
Producer Darry Long says that the team spent a great deal of time and effort fine-tuning this new game structure. “Our priority was removing that sense of structure and allowing the player to choose how they progress the story, how they progress in their exploration. It’s up to the player to decide how quickly they unfold the story. You can lose yourself in the open world and just mess around as long as you want, and the game will still be there. I have many examples of when I was playing the game and I thought ‘Gee, I should get home to my family’, and instead I spend an hour hunting ducks in the open world. You lose yourself in the game, you’re not chasing an objective, like ‘Oh, I need to climb the next tower.’ You are deciding ‘who am I going to talk to, and how is the game going to respond to me?” That’s a whole other side of it. If you go to Jacob’s region and I go to John’s, you are going to fight against completely different enemies than I will. The game grows more difficult as you play, but you also become stronger as a player. You are using the new perks system, you can upgrade your character.”
The new perks system is another new way the player can customize their character. Players earn Perk Points, which can then be spent on special abilities and stat increases. During my short time with the game, I was only able to earn a perk that allowed better swimming, but in scanning through them, there are perks that effect almost every access of gameplay.
Another added way players can gain ownership over their character is in the new Character Customization toolset. While not the most robust character creator ever constructed (you choose from preconstructed faces, for example, so no creating crazy-mutant-noses), there are still plenty of choices to mix and match, resulting in a unique look that you can then carry into the game’s multi-player areas. The selections available at the beginning of the game are not final. “As you play the game, you can find new gear. You can unlock new gear as rewards for completing certain activities, but also after the game releases, we’re going to keep adding new gear into the shop for people,” says Long.
A major component that will change the lens through which a player sees the world of Far Cry 5 will be the decision around which “Guns for Hire” the player decides to bring with them. The new Guns for Hire system gives players the ability to recruit various locals to accompany them on their mission. You can take two Guns for Hire at a time, which can add a lot of variety to the way the game plays. Guns for Hire have a variety of skills and strengths, and they each have their own unique personalities.
“These are people who are there to help you in your battle against the cult,” says Long. “You can get up to two of them in your squad. And now, you’re making strategic choices, like ‘How do I want to attack this outpost? Which Guns for Hire will I choose to have with me? And how does that affect my playstyle?’ Everything from Grace, who is a long-range sniper, to Herc who is RPG, or Jess, who is stealth, you are going to choose different Guns for Hire depending on how you want to play.
“But for us, it wasn’t just about giving different tactical choices, they all have different personalities. All the Guns for Hire are different. Herc is stupid and hilarious, and someone like Grace is quiet and very taciturn. You choose who you want to play with, and that also is an expression of who you are as a player. Mixing and matching them is a pleasure. They all have personalities and they all have a history. The Guns for Hire know each other, and they are aware of each other. So, if you grab two Guns for Hire, say Sharkie and Herc, and you put them together in your squad, they start talking to each other. They are cousins, and they start making fun of each other and teasing each other. Sharkie starts making fun of Herc’s name. You stop playing the game at that point, you just put the controller down and listen. Its stand-up comedy.”
Guns for Hire are a must once you progress to a certain point in the game. I attempted one mission several times and failed repeatedly until I realized that I had ditched my Gun for Hire by the side of the road a while back. Once I went out and recruited someone to help me, the mission became far more manageable.
If you aren’t up for human help, “Fangs for Hire”, are also available for your squad. This included internet-favorite Boomer the dog, and Cheeseburger the Bear. I wasn’t able to log any time with Boomer, but I can say that running into a battle with Cheeseburger is the most satisfying experience I’ve had in gaming in quite some time. Cheeseburger basically runs around wrecking shop on enemies, attacking at random and sending dudes scattering like roaches. Praising him for his murderous performance afterwards gives you a real sense of ownership and affection for this digital creature.
Still another new addition to gameplay is the ability to hop in a plane or helicopter and take off. While Far Cry games have long had more basic flight (paragliders and such), this is the first title in the series that allows you to strafe enemies from the air. This is of particular importance when you realize that the entire campaign can be played in co-op (Did I mention that? That’s a thing). Now, Far Cry players can sate their thirst for wild action by flying over an outpost and have one guy parachute to the ground to do battle while the other guy rains down lead from above. Ubisoft paid strict attention to the flight models, even going so far as to have functioning gauges in the planes.
Flying in Far Cry 5 feels great, and flight can also reveal the extreme level of detail and graphical fidelity that the Far Cry series is know for. “When I’m playing the game sometimes,” says Long, “I get up in an airplane, and I’m thinking ‘Okay, I’m going to go there, I’m going to attack this outpost or something’, and I end up just being in the plane and looking out into the world. It’s a beautiful world, especially at night. You can see the detail in the clouds, in the lights shining in the distance, and it makes it feel extremely real and beautiful. And the next thing you know, you’re jumping out of the airplane, parachuting down into an outpost and going balls out. It’s adding another dimension to the game. Mixing that with co-op, for example, you can go up in a plane or helicopter with your co-op buddy. In a helicopter, your co-op buddy can grapple onto the bottom of the helicopter and fly along underneath. It’s just another way to look at the world, but also another way to engage with it. Not all planes have weaponry. You start out with your base aircraft that don’t have weapons and they are a way to get from A to B. Like, you can upgrade them and add new weapons.”
So, with all of these new elements in play, how does Far Cry 5 feel to play? And is it still Far Cry? Well, yes, it is, and it is ridiculously entertaining. I had a grand time running around in single player, freeing areas and learning the new systems. But when I jumped into multi-player, the game just absolutely came to life in exciting new ways. I had the pleasure of being paired with Twinfinite.net’s David Lozada, and together we ran around like lunatics, causing havok and laughing like loons. By the time we were done with our play time, I realized that while I love Far Cry in single-player, I kind of suck at it. Sucking at Far Cry in co-op is a million times more fun than sucking alone, and when the game releases, I will probably choose to play co-op at every given opportunity.
With the move to the United States as the game’s location, Far Cry 5 has courted a certain amount of controversy. The internet likes to complain, and certain interest groups love a nice cause to rally behind. I have no interest in weighing in on the political advisability of some of the decisions made in the development of Far Cry 5. I can say that, seeing the gameplay in context, I did not find any story points or imagery to be more or less objectionable than what is seen in other similar games. After some consideration, I applaud the Far Cry team for taking the chances they did. In the end, to stand up to the controversy, they had to produce a solidly entertaining game, and when taken in that context, they have succeeded spectacularly.
With all of the new additions and refinements to gameplay and its more mature storyline (plus a few wrinkles that haven’t been announced yet), Far Cry 5 is poised to be the most popular game in the series so far. I know that I am extremely excited to play this game, and I’m not just saying that for a neat way to wrap up this preview. I am legit thrilled that I am going to be able to play this game in its completion next month. See y’all in Hope County.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.
Howdy. My name is Eric Hauter, and I am a dad with a ton of kids. During my non-existent spare time, I like to play a wide variety of games, including JRPGs, strategy and action games (with the occasional trip into the black hole of MMOs). I am intrigued by the prospect of cloud gaming, and am often found poking around the cloud various platforms looking for fun and interesting stories. I was an early adopter of PSVR (I had one delivered on release day), and I’ve enjoyed trying out the variety of games that have released since day one. I've since added an Oculus Quest 2 to my headset collection. I’m intrigued by the possibilities presented by VR multi-player, and I try almost every multi-player game that gets released.
My first system was a Commodore 64, and I’ve owned countless systems since then. I was a manager at a toy store for the release of PS1, PS2, N64 and Dreamcast, so my nostalgia that era of gaming runs pretty deep. Currently, I play on Xbox Series X, PS5, PS4, PSVR, Quest 2, Switch, Luna, GeForce Now, (RIP Stadia) and a super sweet gaming PC built by John Yan. While I lean towards Sony products, I don’t have any brand loyalty, and am perfectly willing to play game on other systems.
When I’m not playing games or wrangling my gaggle of children, I enjoy watching horror movies and doing all the other geeky activities one might expect. I also co-host Spielberg Chronologically, where we review every Spielberg film in order, which you can find wherever you get your podcasts.
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