FAR CRY 5 [Review]: Sowing the ‘Seeds’ of Hope.
Fighting games aside, Far Cry 5 is the most fun I’ve had on consoles all year. And, besides the timing of the game’s release (just before WrestleMania weekend, and you know me and my pro wrestling…), fun is the biggest reason for the delayed review–there’s just so much GOD DAMNED great shit to do. In one sense, it’s “Grand Theft Redneck”; imagine a full open world game of Trevor from GTA V, a super helpful mutt named Boomer, and a county of cultists to bury. There aren’t many better things to do than knocking down the pearly Gates of Eden, let me tell ya…
On the other end, Far Cry 5 is the most “GHG” video game of all time; like the hit AMC series Preacher, playing this game is really the way to “practice what we preach”. The religious context in the game is creepy, unsettling, and all too intriguing. What made the Seed family go that route? What made all of these poor soul Montanians earn Joseph’s trust? Why Hope County? What led the Seeds to this incredible power? There’s more than a pigsty’s share of rivetting answers to discover under every blood-stained passage. Many cutscenes can and will reveal outta nowhere during gameplay, too, as the narrative doesn’t always play out the way you’d believe. An open world game that has a lot to explore, wondrous lands to admire, a wide number of wildlife ‘ventures to be had, all within a haunting hillbilly story that can unravel unexpectedly on the drop of a deacon’s prayer? How can your Nerd-Monsignor not worship this?
For starters, once you’ve played a Far Cry game, you’d played them all. That’s not to say that Far Cry 3 isn’t a cult classic (because it is) and Far Cry 4 wasn’t a bad effort (it was well received). The combat mechanics that were always so fantastic are back; not too many other games offer as heavy a rewarding gunbattle, be it through the air in a crop duster, a turret on the back of a 4-wheeler, or on the ground, pouring out headshots with wacky weapons (yet with nothing anywhere as ridic as shit from Borderlands and Saints Row), heading up tasks for teammates that either “woof”, throw “death from above”, attack silently from the shadows, or take points from windows and rooftops. Battle is all a bunch of Holy Hell, and you’ll wanna fight for and alongside all the zany personalities that shine throughout this rural wasteland. Even some guy you save from a Weird Science invention gone wrong has you chasin’ down alien turkey orbs found in cattle-raised crop circles. Fucked.
Not all NPC foes are tough, but some are more calculating than others, and the sheer challenge of them all comes in packs, especially when burning down the barns of countless cult outposts. Throwing a good mix of stealth strategy with grenade/molotov chuckin’, runnin’ and gunnin’ these Trevor Lee’s and Tommaso Ciampa’s seem to be the way to go (yeah, there’s only like 4 or 5 different enemy face details, so why not make the all resemble wrestler ass toughguys?). You’ll die more times than you’ll ever admit, but you’ll also be thankful to hear that pulling pistols from vehicles as driver or passenger hardly gets frustrating. The only issue with combat in general is physics, with the usual Ubisoft signature of seeing characters that sound great still shake, stumble and clip through environments, and each other. Nothing gamebreaking, though, and often more “Skyrim glitch” funny to admire and quickly forget about. And I guess bears, crocodiles, wolves, bulls, and cheetahs interfere cause a whole county of death cultists with an endless supply of RPGs, MMGs, LMGs and AR-15’s just wouldn’t be enough.
To break up the monotony of blasting off the skulls of demonic goons is Far Cry Arcade, which takes sort of a semblance to the excellence of Blood Dragon. No, Arcade mode isn’t exactly a full-fledged DLC (although FC5 does have story expansion DLC coming out), it’s more along the lines of exactly how it sounds. Hit any arcade console at any tavern, gas station, or dweeb’s house scattered throughout Hope County and you can hop into a bunch of random, fan and developer-created levels. Some are fun, more are frustrating, yet this section of the game is a plus for anyone who enjoys lending their own hand in level-designing. It’s also not a bad break from the main narrative, with some funky 80s arcade music, elements from other Ubisoft titles and weirdo designed graphics going on. Granted, I probably haven’t spent enough time with the mode to justifably judge it.
Far Cry 5 also teases players about the franchise’s typically excessive map-unlocking towers, promising that the first one you unlock is the last. For a game so dark and chilling, the humor sprinkled throughout is tremendous. You’ll do a lot of the same things in this game that you’ve done in other Far Cry’s, and that’s OK. This game isn’t going to change the world. No, Far Cry 5 is offering a chance to take in this wondrous new backwooded environment, have fun shooting and blowing shit up, liberate some new fishing buddies or go huntin’ with your dog, and even get shocked (i.e. captured!!) on occasion. The landscapes are dense, and chasing down enemies in certain hillish, riverside valleys can be a treat. None of the environments will capture your eye enough to solidify your 4K TV/Xbox One X/PS4 Pro purchase, but many cutscene detail goes a longer way in displaying those more rewarding visuals.
The score, in particular, helps set the tone; the menu music is soothing acoustic stuff, but once your sheriff’s deputy hops into Billy Joe Bob Cultboi’s pick ’em up truck, he/she should change the GOD AWFUL cult choir hymns burning the landscape to far more kickin’ classic or country rock. The music gets even cheesier and hypnotically 80s-greater when you hop into one of Clutch Nixon’s hydroplane or quad race side missions. Now you know why it took me 3-weeks from release to review. Much like GTA, often the best part of the game isn’t so much as getting caught up in the story itself, but becoming distracted from all the satanic fuckery happening all over. Not even the mass wooded, mountainous areas and sparse residential areas of Hickville, USA can prevent the sound of constant gunfire and explosions. “There’s a war goin’ on outside no peggie is safe from!”
If I had any complaint about Far Cry 5‘s open world narrative, it’s in the progression structure. If you ever decide to focus on the chief story of The Father, you really can’t. Not that side missions are a must (and most of the non-fetch quests are a creative blast!), but your protagonist is pretty much forced to explore and organically discover plot threads from perusing the spread of the entire map. Again, if the long haul completionist is in you then this set-up is perfect. But often, I was roaming the map hitting up random barn hide-outs and selecting less-important tasks because I honestly had no idea where to go or what to do next. There’s also some story missions that don’t show yellow indicator marks on the map, so, for example, it can be a bitch to find oil tankers required to take back to Fall’s End or search for certain helicopters in GOD KNOW’S WHERE that must be shot the fuck down.
That said, the progression system can also be excellent. You can unlock any of the 3 major regions of Hope County in any order you choose, going after any of the 3 respective bosses (Faith, John, and Jacob) before the boss (Joseph) once enough Resistance Points are accumulated. You’ll see The Father though, if you remember any of the nightmare scenarios from the previous 2 FC’s. He and his sibling’s finest dialogue often come from the chilling passages in the menu screens, but all characters are well acted and every line is well thought out, certainly chilling, if not mesmorizing. Ubisoft also played it safe in the political game, straying away from any idealizations that would’ve led to any unwarranted controversies. I noticed that some early reviews tried stirring the pot, but a lot of what we see from the Seeds and any of the game’s characters is under extreme phoneyness, a detriment to some searching for socio-radical statements; but a bonus for those who don’t mind the True Detectivesque fiction and characterizations that never truly “go for it”.
I’m also pleased I don’t have to spend hours crafting, picking up plants, or skinning animals to “get gud”. Upgrading abilities is fairly quick and pleasing, with an already unlocked perk system. There are shop owners all over the map ready to take in your spotted goods too, making it a convenience to upgrade weapons and vehicles. Nothing ever seems too out of the realm of loot possiblity. I feel pretty powerful at 60+% story progression, but not invincible– except for when I take an extended ride in a helicoptor and see all the good that is left in the world… Along with the game’s many adrenaline-pumping car chases, hovering around in a chopper around Hope County is quite the experience.
Update: Due to the DLC package laying an egg and neither of the 3 portions really being worth the cost of the Deluxe Edition, I’ve lowered my grade by a half-bible. 3.5/5 Bibles.