Continuing on what seems like a spiraling tradition of combining Grand Theft Auto gameplay with a more specific narrative focus on a villain best described by the phrase cult of personality, Far Cry 5 puts you in the shoes of a rookie US Marshall ordered to arrest a dangerous cult leader in the Montana country. Featuring the same old gameplay that made 3 and 4 popular, with new vehicles and new gameplay systems, it would make sense for this game to transplant the enjoyment of Far Cry 3 into a more familiar, American setting.
The world is very large, dozens of square kilometers in game, at least comparable to the world sizes of the last 4 Far Cry games including Blood Dragon, and that world is replete with scenery (though repetitive) and little mini-activities. Just like in previous games, one can hunt wild animals and take their skin, although the loot is no longer used to craft gear but just used to sell to vendors and get money. You can fish, sight see, rock climb, skydive, or just go for a swim. You can even fly various planes and helicopters around the Montana wilderness.
This version of Dunia engine, the same engine used to build the world of Far Cry 4, is certainly gorgeous – though many of the screenshots are photoshopped as always. The game on 2K looks nowhere near as sharp, and it’s doubtful it looks much better at 4k. No matter what it’s the prettiest game so far in the franchise, and to top it all off, it runs extremely well on a high end machine, as well as lower end cards. I used a 1080 and i7-6700k, my other test case is a 1070 and i5-6600k. Not once did I ever experience any significant frame drops (over single digits) on ultra graphics..
Unfortunately, Far Cry 5 feels half finished. The game is very short – all of the prepper stashes, side quests, Ubisoft collectible fetches, and main story can be completed in 30 hours or less. Weekly contest events, co-op, and arcade mode – which allows people to build their own levels and have other people play them similar to Halo forge or Doom snapmap, pad out the game length a bit but at its core the game is quite sparse. But that isn’t what makes the game disappointing.
Far Cry is known above other things for its cohesive narrative structure and portrayal of a story in which the protagonist overcomes great odds to confront the antagonist – only to find out that maybe everything isn’t what it seems, and in the process maybe they relate more with the villain than the people they are trying to help. For example in Far Cry 4, either leader you sided with is arguably a worse choice than Pagan Min was. In Far Cry 3, you have to decide whether to kill your friends and side with the natives, or set them free and stay there alone. In Far Cry 5, the narrative is neither structured nor cohesive. You can willingly move between regions at any given point and will do routinely, especially when flying, in order to complete quests. The only way to actually progress the plot is to conquer a region and kill one of the cult lieutenants. And the only way for that to happen is the problem.
The story progression is entirely inorganic. Each lieutenant simply kidnaps you, out of the blue, while you’re messing around causing havoc. In one region, they do actually send a patrol after you to kidnap you, but they don’t even do it – you’ll kill them all and then it will just spawn more and auto-kidnap you. There’s rarely any indication it’s about to happen except when it says “You are being hunted.” Rarely do you ever talk to an important NPC and they give you a dialog about doing something crucial to the plot, either. It’s normally random guys with a symbol above their head that send you on a quest, and you do it, and then it auto-completes and you don’t have to talk to them again.
Without spoiling it, there’s one specific mission near the end (depending who you kill when) of the game that basically sums this game up. You end up killing a story NPC against your will without realizing what’s happening. His wife freaks out and so does another of their comrades and the guy is about to kill you. As said NPC is dying on the floor with a bullet hole in the head, she decides “It’s fine. You take this gun, and you make this right, otherwise I’ll kill you myself.” and within 2 minutes you carry on your merry way and there’s never even another interaction with her again, at least not one with dialog. There’s no feeling of gravity or acknowledgement that this plotline was even supposed to be taken seriously. Worst of all, there’s no way you had any idea who this guy was unless you spent an inordinate amount of time staring at him the literal one time you ever meet him.
The end of the game doesn’t apologize for this either, culminating in a mission that entirely disregards the state of the in-game world, and expects you to ignore that the sequence of events needed to get there simply never happened. It couldn’t have happened, especially assuming at this point you control all outposts, meaning there’s no way the cult has any manpower left. It practically has no narrative roots in the story whatsoever despite calling back to the beginning of the game and repeating a line of dialogue from early on. In order to understand how little sense it makes, you just have to play the game.’
The portrayal of the villain, the thing which one would expect to be the most important aspect of a modern Far Cry title – especially as much effort was put in to exposing the player to Vaas, Hoyt, Citra, and in Far Cry 4 Pagan Min, seems disproportionate. Far Cry 5 has 4 villains, and you spend far more time getting exposed to the lieutenants, the underlings, reading and hearing and seeing how psychotic and manipulative and terrible they are, than the actual main bad guy. Joseph throughout the game always seems just like a calm outcast guy, ignoring the very first cutscene of him killing someone – the only time you will ever see such a thing in the game.
Far Cry 5 is certainly a fun game, but it doesn’t feel like a game worth a full priced purchase, and it’s confounding how the game is selling so well because this game is truly half-baked. The DLC sounds like it will be zany and awesome, but even so, I would honestly wait for it go down in price first.