Far Cry 5 looks set to be not only one of the biggest games of 2018, but also one of the most controversial, pitting you against a far-right Christian sect in modern day Montana, a setting that might hit uncomfortably close to home for some.
Still, touchy themes aside, Far Cry 5 follows more of the same open-world violence that made earlier titles such massive hits, and if you believe the hype, it’ll be bigger and even more explosion-y than before.
We’ve spent time hands-on with Far Cry 5 at Ubisoft’s Guildford HQ, running through a few missions and exploring some of the open world, and here’s what we think.
How to pre-order Far Cry 5
You can pre-order the game now for £49.99/$59.99 from Amazon, though if you don’t mind spending a little more there’s the Gold Edition, which includes some exclusive content and the DLC season pass, and the Father Edition, which throws in a collector’s box, steelbook case, printed map, and exclusive figurine.
Far Cry 5 preview
For those unaware, Far Cry 5 is a continuation of Ubisoft’s long-running open-world first-person-shooter series, though it’s ditching the previously ‘exotic’ locales for Hope County in rural Montana, with villains that sit uncomfortably close to the real-life alt-right.
Our preview takes place following the events of the Gamescom demo where you liberate a small township from the crazed goons occupying it. In case you can’t read between the lines, “liberating” mostly consists of shooting (or cracking) skulls open – you’re not going to negotiate your way through much here like you can in the Fallout series.
We were free to roam a small area in the large open-world game, liberating settlements, helping locals and, of course, doing our best to raise the resistance against the Project at Eden’s Gate.
Thankfully, you’re not alone in the task, with a plethora of guns-for-hire ready for war at your side. You can have up to three NPC companions who’ll follow you around offer covering fire and quips. Each has a unique skillset, whether it be close-quarters combat or ranged weaponry, and can offer perks like being impossible to spot in grass.
Of course, you can also opt to have a dog follow you around. While man’s best friend may not be as witty as human companions, it’ll bark to alert you to dangers and might bring you a weapon or two in gunfights. Handy to say the least!
As with prior Far Cry games, the emphasis here is firmly on choosing your own way to approach each scenario – whether that means stealth or all-out violence, targeting enemies directly or shooting the ubiquitous explosive red barrels to take them out, or even heading onto a roof to use a mounted machine gun to clear them out.
Gunplay is responsive and satisfying, and there’s the usual array of weaponry to play with, along with melee weapons – we got our hands on a stars-and-stripes baseball bat that proved more satisfying than we’d like to admit for crunchy stealth kills, and a compound bow with explosive tips provided the kind of devastation we needed for a distraction.
Those stealth kills are likely to prove vital to your success, especially when taking multiple enemies out in conjunction with your sidekicks. You can only hold two weapons at a time, so the more enemies you can eliminate before you have to face them head-on, the better your odds. Again, so far, so Far Cry.
Far Cry 5 walks a fine line between being incredibly fun and overwhelming – you can be driving along minding your own business before being attacked by a gun-toting crazy in a tractor. You might return fire and accidentally clip a petrol tank, causing the tractor to explode and draw in nearby enemies. You may even see a helicopter or two appear with a barrage of machine gun bullets and RPGs.
Explosions surround you, bullets fly over your head but somehow you manage to wipe everyone out using your limited weaponry and skill. It’s adrenaline-inducing moments that you’ll end up living for in Far Cry 5.
“Liberating” townships (again: murdering just about everyone in it) restores them to some semblance of their former glory, with NPCs returning to go about their ordinary lives. This is your chance to explore a bit more calmly, talk to the local characters, and pick up side-quests to populate your map.
We were asked to help retrieve a pimped-out truck armed to the teeth with machine guns, and duly obliged. We headed out, snuck past unaware enemies and smashed our way through several road-blocks while raining bullets down on those that doubted us.
More exciting was what we unlocked for our troubles: the chance to drive the machine gun-wielding truck whenever we wanted. I mean, we’re not sure why truck in Montana comes equipped with machine guns, but hey, ‘Murica!
Big moments like that may look great in the trailers, but it’s the smaller touches that make Far Cry 5 feel like a world to spend time in.
There’s the trucks of armed guards just driving around waiting for an off-the-cuff fight; the wild animals lurking in the woods to attack the unsuspecting; the surprise discovery that, of all things, you can stop for a while to just go fishing or hunting. It’s a game that offers plenty of bang for its buck, with hours upon hours of original gameplay.
And the best part? Every single thing that you can do in single-player can also be done via online co-op. From hunting to fishing to side quests and even main quests, everything can be done with backup from a friend. It completely changes the dynamic of the game – rather than being stealthy and relying on AI backup, you can call out your shots and actions and create unique situations that even the devs hadn’t planned on.
You can mount a mortar from afar while your friend flanks the enemy and takes them out from the side. It can be tactical if you want it to be, or you can both run in all guns blazing and hope for the best. Whatever you choose, you’ll have a blast in co-op.
What’s not clear from our time so far is whether that sort of expansive open world – Ubisoft’s bread-and-butter these days – can match the standard set by Breath of the Wild and Assassin’s Creed: Origins, which built worlds that made players want to explore for its own sake, and not just to tick off objectives or clear map markers. During our time exploring the open world, we didn’t really stumble on anything amazing that’d make us want to wander off the beaten track – but hey, maybe we just weren’t looking in the right places.
It’s also hard to say if the game’s setting is designed to tackle controversy or merely bait it. We didn’t come face to face with any of the main villains, and instead just mowed down grunts with Southern accents, which makes it hard to guess how well Far Cry 5 will tackle the issues around race and religion that are dominating American politics right now.
It’s easy to see that Ubisoft might worry that taking an overt political line would alienate part of its fanbase, but it’s also hard to see how the game can stay neutral when its setting directly evokes the most divisive political problems in decades.
Still, maybe fixing American race relations is a bit too big of an ask for a game that has only really promised one thing: a giant open space filled with cars, guns, and people ready to use them. And on that front, it’s delivered.