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Far Cry 5 PC review – Marvelous Mayhem in Montana

Far Cry 5 PC review – Marvelous Mayhem in Montana

What we liked – The most scenic Far Cry yet, riveting soundtrack, open-form gameplay, hilarious random occurrences, PC optimised UI, no more climbing radio towers, most sinister use of “Only You” by the Platters in a game

What we didn’t – Unfair scripted events, large but repetitive weaponry selection, only one save game slot

We say Far Cry 5 retains what makes the series famous – a massive, beautiful world to explore, liberal opportunities to inflict mayhem and weapons galore though a repetitive selection of weapons and some odd concessions to advance the storyline knock it a few notches down from perfection.

Since it first debuted in 2004, the Far Cry series has always stayed true to its original premise about visiting exotic locales, expanding your horizons (and pocket), meeting new (and homicidal) people and then laying waste to them and about half of the countryside in a riotous, pyroclastic display of explosions and gunfire.

Far Cry 1 and 3 had you visiting exotic sun-drenched islands hunting mercenaries and pirates. Far Cry 2 had you picking sides in a war-torn African country. Far Cry 4 was set in the fictitious country of Kyrat in the Himalayas. This time around, Far Cry 5 ditches all the exotic Lonely Planet-esque locales and sets the game in the heartlands of the United States of America, specifically a slice of bucolic Montana called Hope County.

 

A Bad Seed

 

The game has you as a mute protagonist who has a day job as a law enforcement official tasked to arrest Joseph Seed, the leader of a militaristic doomsday cult who believes that the apocalypse is at hand and has gotten his followers to conscript, terrorise and otherwise oppress the people of the county to gain more resources and followers to join his cult.

The arrest naturally goes awry and your team of fellow officers gets captured though you manage to escape which is where the game begins as you commence a one-man campaign to bring Joseph Seed and his cult to justice. After a linear semi-interactive cutscene, you’re then walked through a comprehensive tutorial that introduces you to the primary mechanics of the game – running, gunning, liberating outposts and solving quests.

The last bit is somewhat of a misnomer as most of your quests inevitably devolve into a firefight although you do get a few FedEx and racing missions once in awhile. The starting island is a simple affair with pushovers for enemies and a tiny little enemy outpost that can easily be wiped out before you’re given free reign over the rest of the game.

After you’re done with the tutorial island, you are allowed to travel anywhere within Hope County without limitations. Unlike prior installments, the game isn’t sequestered into two large ‘districts’ that you have to complete in sequence. You’re instead given free reign to travel and target any of three large regions that comprise Hope County, each of whom is governed by a lieutenant of Joseph Seed.


As per the usual tropes, you’re initially not able to take on the big bad final boss Joseph Seed himself mano a mano. You have to work for it. To get that privilege, you have to take out his three sub bosses – Faith, Jacob and John Seed who each control one of the three aforementioned regions in Hope County that they each have altered into their own twisted vision of utopia.

John Seed who acts as the legal eagle of the cult is like a militant televangelist with a huge ‘YES’ sign up in the mountains in a fashion akin to the Hollywood sign in California and has roving gangs of cultists rounding up materials and victims for the cult with liberal shows of force and grisly examples strewn about the district of those who defied the cult.

Faith Seed is a drug lord who prances about as the friendly front of the cult while armies of drugged up zombies roam her region as muscle and farming fields of drugs as far as the eye can see. Jacob Seed is a crazed survivalist with armies of trained killer wolves and death squads running amuck over his turf terrorising the locals. It’s your job to liberate all three regions as a one man/woman liberation army which is where the game puts you back on familiar ground.

 

Far Cry 5 – Planting the Seeds of Rebellion


While the setting of the game is new, most of the gameplay elements are a melding of previous installations of the series. Unlike previous games, you’re able to customise your alter ego to some degree as you’re able to select gender, ethnicity and hairstyle. Later on, you’re able to purchase and swap out outfits as you see fit though you usually won’t be seeing much of yourself barring your hands and feet in the game

In terms of the storyline, there’s no difference in how characters treat you or the outcome of the game bar a few minor verbally spoken gender references; you otherwise remain mute throughout the game barring grunts of pain. The cutscenes and gameplay are similar regardless of gender so it’s more of an aesthetic choice than anything else.

Character personalisation aside, the gameplay implies that your alter ego is a remarkably skilled outdoorsman/woman with a enviable skill set that includes guerilla warfare, fishing, hunting and flight training, all of whom which you’ll be indulging in throughout the course of the game.

To take on Joseph Seed, you’ll have to eliminate his three commanders first. Unfortunately, they don’t list their addresses in the phone directory so you’ll have to raise enough mayhem to lure them out of hiding. To do so, you’ll have to undertake missions in each region, retake enemy cult outposts and destroy valuable enemy infrastructure to raise a ‘resistance’ meter.

Every time you reach a milestone on the resistance meter, they engage you in a heavily scripted cutscene which is often illogical if not ridiculously unfair. These cutscenes involve their bizarrely invincible minions kidnapping you for a tête-à-tête with the bosses or, in Faith Seed’s case, a trippy drug-induced hallucination.

Despite being the toughest, deadliest thing on two legs in Hope County, these blatantly unfair kidnap cutscenes detract from the feeling of power and progression that the game tries to inculcate but it’s understandably necessary for the storyline. Max out the resistance meter for a given lieutenant and you can finally engage them in a boss battle. Getting there is half the fun though and there’s plenty to do to rile up the Seeds and their cult in Hope County.


Far Cry 5 Gameplay

Like prior games in the series, you are literally a one man/woman harbinger of the apocalypse though you have to work your way your way up to get there. At the start, you’re modestly naff and can only carry two weapons at a time and a limited amount of ammunition.

By the end of the game, you are endowed with demigod-like endurance and durability, the sort of weapons handling skills that would make John Wick weep tears of envy and survival skills that would make Bear Grylls hang his head in shame.

In Far Cry 3 and 4, you had to hunt all over the map for exotic animals and flora to craft bags to get that extra inventory space. Far Cry 5 goes for a more expedient and far more pleasant way to level up by simply paying for it with perk points that you can get by accomplishing feats of hunting and marksmanship. Other than expanding your inventory, these perks also help you hunt better, hit harder and more accurately with your weapons and, more importantly, get enough toughness to take extra hits.

Another change for the better in the game is that you don’t have to reveal parts of the map by climbing darned radio towers dotted about the landscape like in Far Cry 3; you just have to get a map, which is usually lying about a cult stronghold to get the lay of the land around you.

 By the end of the game, you are endowed with demigod-like endurance and durability, the sort of weapons handling skills that would make John Wick weep tears of envy and survival skills that would make Bear Grylls hang his head in shame.

Most of the gameplay revolves around you liberating strongholds around the county to rack up resistance points – these are usually key points of some strategic interest to the cult that are manned by a good dozen or so cultists with small arms. It’s your choice to go in quietly, taking out guards in a stealthy fashion or coming in loud with grenades and an RPG. Both ways are equally fun and rewarding though you needn’t have to do it solo as you can call upon a posse of like-minded teammates.


Fangs and Guns for Hire

 

One particular area where Far Cry 5 truly outdoes its predecessors is that you can hire up to two NPC companions to follow you and cover your six in battle. You’re able to recruit a good number of the residents of Hope County to your cause though these generic fellows come with a random grab bag of skills and weapons. If you put in the time and effort, you can find one of nine elite operatives who are tougher and more skilled than the norm and each offers unique skills that can suit any playstyle.

Some of these specialist operatives are not even human: you can call upon a domesticated cougar called Peaches who specialises in stealth kills, Boomer the sheep dog who acts as a recon unit and Cheeseburger the bear who acts as a very tanky melee unit. As endearing as they are, you can also call upon other help including Nick Rye, a pilot who can strafe and bomb targets from the air; Grace, an ex-Army marksman with a sniper rifle; Adelaide, a woman with a fully armed chopper and more.


Depending on who you have called up, you’re able to call in the big guns and get 24/7 air support and an attack chopper to go in loud, get a pair of stealth assassins trailing you or go all the way overboard and get a killer bear and cougar as bodyguards. There’s quite a few tactical combinations that synergise with each other well though all of them are fun to play with. It’s a sight to see when you watch cultists flee in abject terror from a rampaging bear and cougar attempting to eat them alive.

All this would have tanked though if not for the rich world that they’ve crafted that constantly keeps you invested in the game with a consistent stream of things happening onscreen.

Full of Hope


In terms of worldbuilding, they’ve outdone themselves as Hope County is an immensely gorgeous place to explore. Stretching several kilometers from east to west and taking about 54 minutes in-game to walk from end to end, the scenery in Hope County ranges from scenic mountains shrouded in pine forests, crystal blue lakes, fields of crops as far as the eye can see and small townships dotted across the landscape.

If you hang around or play long enough, the game even has day and night cycles that are some of the most visually impressive swathes of digital real estate that we’ve laid eyes on in years. To wit, it’s absolutely beautiful. That is, if not for the armies of kooky doomsday cultists taking up shop in Hope County that have made life for both you and the locals a chore, if not a challenge.

Getting about on foot will take forever. Fortunately, the game offers a host of fast travel options once you’ve liberated areas from the cult and you get a range of sedans, SUVs and trucks to drive. You’re also able to commandeer a bunch of choppers as well as prop planes too in both unarmed and gunship varieties .

Combined with the wide, scenic vistas and liberal transportation options dotted about the countryside, this makes the game an absolute joy to wander around in even if you’re not getting into firefights with angry bears or cultists every few minutes and explore you should because they’ve liberally peppered the landscape with hidden caches of loot, easter eggs aplenty and collectibles galore.

Even with the scenic vistas and hostiles to keep you busy, the game would have felt empty if not for the effort they’ve taken to make the land feel lived in and you are kept constantly busy with one errand or another on account of the interesting, if somewhat random AI that makes things occasionally unpredictable.

On your way to a mission, you can suddenly end up rescuing a civilian who then points you towards a hidden stash. Or a planned mission can suddenly go awry when an angry wolverine turns up and savages the enemy before you even manage to ambush them. It’s this series of hilarious occurrences that makes every playthrough unique.


Random quests aside, the storyline missions cover the gamut from timed races to get to certain checkpoints, taking out certain targets or combinations of both. The game’s creativity in how these missions are laid out is to be lauded. One mission has you speeding in a car to send a companion’s wife who is about to give birth to a hospital and woe betide whoever or whatever gets in the way. Another has you hunting down ‘Rocky mountain oysters’ in increasingly bizarre altercations that escalate to the use of a flamethrower.

Barring acts of mayhem, you can also take part in hunting the various animals dotted about the map as well as a new activity that proved surprisingly relaxing – fishing which has you in an angling minigame to bag prized fish for cash.

All this results in a rich, engrossing gameplay experience that rewards exploration and experimentation. Even if you just follow the core storyline alone, you’re looking at snagging a good 30 or so hours of gameplay. If you’re a completist out to chase after every sidequest, you can easily double that number and that’s exceptional bang for the buck indeed.

 

Going in Loud

 

Far Cry 5 has a diverse array of weapons on offer roughly divided into handguns, submachine guns, rifles, sniper rifles and special support weapons. Seeing as this happens in the rural heartlands of America, the game has quite a selection of pre-Ban hardware. There are also several prestige weapons with special paintjobs though they are in no way better than existing mass produced versions of the same weapon that you can buy in the game.

What is irksome though is the bizarre inclusion of multiple variants of the same class of weapon in the game. Examination of their stats reveals they are roughly similar in performance so adding them all in is an odd decision indeed. In the game itself are three variations of the MP5 submachine gun and four different versions of the same M133 shotgun; this is not even counting prestige versions.

 

Another bizarre oddity  is that many of the weapons in the game have similar customisable attachments that defy their actual tactical use. You can pretty much slap a suppressor on to most handguns, your SMGS, your shotguns and even your light machine guns. Better yet, you can even add a scope onto weapons intended purely for close quarters, which boggles the mind. Why do you even need extended range optics on a shotgun?

Weapons handling in a game can make or break a first person shooter. Fortunately, Far Cry 5 passes muster as each weapon has convincing recoil, a unique sound signature (similar weapon variants aside) and visceral effects when they connect. Empty a full round of buckshot at a target and they fly back as if they were hit by a baseball bat (which you can incidentally do as well). Snipe someone in the head and they drop like a rag doll.

 

Is Far Cry 5 worth buying?


On top of the solid gameplay, Far Cry 5 also has one of the most memorable soundtracks in recent memory. Composer Dan Romer has come up with a truly unique mix of music that evokes rural America with liberal use of the banjo, fiddle and mandolin in his work.

His titular piece is the most evocative of all with a contemplative, anticipative feel that appears when you open up the map screen in the game dubbed “When the Morning Light Shines In.” They could have just gone and just come up with a generic bunch of rock songs to populate the ingame radio stations but they’ve gone the whole hog with a unique, custom-made line-up of propagandistic gospel-rock and hymns on the cultist’s radio channels and a solid array of actual licensed music on the other normal radio channel that non-cultists (read normal people) listen to. Alas, Wagner’s ‘Ride of the Valkyrie’ is not on any ingame radio channel to play when you’re using any of the chopper gunships in the game.

Production values are high across the board as well with a clean, nigh perfect PC port that optimises the controls for a mouse and keyboard setup and, assuming you have sufficient hardware, exquisitely smooth graphics. Replayability is exceptional as well due to the unpredictable AI as well as the rich and deep world that they’ve crafted. They could have left it at that but they’ve even tossed in a solid co-op mode and in-game events to score free swag too which adds to the compulsion to play the game even more.

Unfortunately, Far Cry 5 only has one save game point which means you can’t explore alternate outcomes though they do have a robust checkpoint system to prevent frustrating occurences from happening. Bar a few quibbles – a repetitive armoury of weapons as well as somewhat unfair and inescapable storyline cutscenes among them, Far Cry 5 is a sound investment for those looking for a solid shooter that will offer extensive bang for your gaming buck.

Far Cry 5
Publisher
Ubisoft
Developer Ubisoft Montreal
Genre First Person shooter
Multiplayer Yes
Available for PC, Xbox One and PS4
PC version reviewed

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