Far Cry 5 Review: A Gorgeous (But Hollow) Shooter Romp

"Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves." Matthew 7:15 (KJV)

His followers admonish us, but we go through the door and come face-to-face with Jacob Seed, who also calls himself the Father. At first glance, he looks like one of those Williamsburg hipsters I've come to regard with a resentful ennui. Sporting a man bun, beard and Aviator shades, I can totally see him ordering a blue algae latte while listening to the Pixies and condescendingly explaining the authenticity of the latest food craze. And yet there is a pervasive seductiveness in his voice that barely hides the menace lurking underneath.

Over the past few years, Seed and his followers have become increasingly more threatening. And with numerous reports of kidnapping, torture and other atrocities, a federal warrant had been filed for Seed and it was my job to serve it. "Was" is the operative word here, as the mission went horribly FUBAR, and now Seed and his followers have captured my fellow deputies, declared that The Collapse -- an end-of-the-world-type scenario -- has started and sealed off all the roads. It's up to me to save my colleagues and innocent civilians from this end-times cult in Far Cry 5, the latest entry in the series.

Gameplay

At its core, Far Cry 5 is at once different and familiar. A first-person sandbox shooter, you can play how you want from the start, running and gunning with grenade launchers and shotguns. Or you can take the stealth approach with throwing knives, silenced sniper rifles in the like. Or...you can just go fishing for awhile.

 In order to get to the main big baddie, Joseph Seed, you're going to have to go through his lieutenants and their legions of faithful Peggies. The lieutenants, Faith, John and Jacob Seed, have each carved out for themselves  a territory of Hope Valley. Similar to other Far Cry games, your job is to lure them out and destabilize their prospective territories by liberating Peggie-controlled outposts, destroying silos and any other cult property and rescuing any Hope County citizens you encounter along the way.


There are also plenty of side missions you can take in addition to main story missions you can undertake in order to piss off your intended target. As you complete more acts of defiance, you'll add points to a Resistance Meter. Fill the meter to a certain point and the lieutenant will mark you, which means the Peggies under that person's control will be gunning for you even more than usual with orders to bring you in.

Once that happens, you're brought face-to-face with that particular miniboss so you can get an up-close-and-personal look at their unique brand of indoctrination. In one case, I woke up in a room, tied up, and was forced to watch some gnarly video a la A Clockwork Orange designed for brainwashing. When it was over, Jacob Seed said a trigger word, forcing  me and my fellow captives to fight to the death. Filling the meter completely takes you to the penultimate showdown with your target cult miniboss.

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When you're not blowing up buildings or wresting control of a strategic outpost from Peggie hands, you can and should explore Hope County, and do some hunting and fishing. I'm disappointed that you're only using animals as sources of meat and sellable skins instead of using various parts of the beast to upgrade your gear. But I don't imagine modern-day hunters are using deer sinew to make a bow, so it's a minor quibble.

Hunting and fishing can net you Perks Points, as can beating in-game challenges, like dispatching 10 enemies with a flamethrower or finding the various Prepper stashes hidden throughout the valley. Stashes and other points of interest are located by talking to Hope Valley residents, reading their notes and listening to their answering machines instead of climbing far-flung towers to survey the land, so get ready to get chatty and nosey.

Combat: Death Comes in a Flash

To date, I've killed Peggies with a compound bow, a silenced 9mm pistol, an assault rifle and a stick of dynamite. Hell, I've sent my dog, Boomer, to dispatch hostiles, and then lit them up with a flamethrower. And when I wanted to take a more hands-on approach, I could sneak up and break someone's neck for a silent kill. It's nothing new if you've played any of the recent FC titles.

Shooting is just as smooth as ever, but I'd recommend getting used to lining up your shots rather than trying to free aim. Since there's no auto lock, you run the risk of  missing the kill shot -- and trust me, you don't want to miss. Eden's Gate members are super- aggressive and have no problem flanking you from all sides. And that goes double for the stronger VIP cult members, who usually have on some type of body armor, or are hopped up on bliss.

To date, I've killed Peggies with a compound bow, a silenced 9mm pistol, an assault rifle and a stick of dynamite. Hell, I've sent my dog, Boomer, to dispatch hostiles, and lit them up with a flamethrower.

I can't tell you how many times I was fighting the good fight when I would get rushed by a few determined Peggies and sent to meet my digital maker. And things  get only more intense after you get marked. From then on, any Peggie that sees you will open fire, and at some point, planes and helicopters will be deployed to make your life a living hell.

Guns, Fangs and Friends for Hire

In Far Cry 4, you had the ability to call in a friend or two to help you out when the going got tough. in a separate co-op mode called Guns for Hire. The mechanic has been retooled in Far Cry 5, allowing you to recruit county residents you've liberated or helped in some way to fight with you. Each character has a pair of unique abilities that unlocks as the characters get more kills.

In addition to your regular non-playable characters (NPC), you'll also run across Specialists, who have extraordinary talents, to lend a hand. Grace Armstrong, for instance is a talented sniper who can shoot targets from afar while you close in and pick off unsuspecting Peggies. Local pilot Nick Rye provides air support, putting down suppressing fire or dropping a few bombs on more troublesome problems.

And while human companionship (even if it is NPC) is nice, there's nothing like the bond between a girl and her dog … or her bear or  cougar. FC5 has introduced the zany Fangs for Hire system, which allows you to recruit some of the local wildlife to your cause. Similar to Guns for Hire, your furry companion has different attacks. With both Guns and Fangs for Hire, you can have up to two additional members on your team. And while the human teammates are cool, Boomer the dog is adorable, and you have to opportunity to run around with a cougar named Peaches and a bear named Cheeseburger. Sounds like delicious mayhem to me.

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But what's the point of blowing up a few cultists if you've got to do it by yourself? FC5 brings back the co-op mode from FC4 and dubs it Friends for Hire. And instead of siloing it off in another part of the game, you and a friend can play in the main story almost as soon as the game starts. That means if you join a friend's game, you'll keep any Perks and weapons you earn for your own game. While I enjoy using the AI-powered characters, it's much easier to plan an attack with  human players, as they can improvise and adapt on the fly.

Who Is Joseph Seed?

The head of the Project at Eden's Gate (or Peggies, as Hope County residents derogatively call them) organization, or cult, if you want to get right down to it, Joseph Seed is a self-professed messiah. Using a perverted mix of Christianity and military, with a dash of doomsday sprinkled in for good measure, Joseph Seed has carved out his own slice of heaven in Hope County. Believing that he is chosen by God, Joseph and his lieutenants, whom he calls Heralds, seek to bring the population of Hope County into the fold by any means necessary.

Ubisoft has crammed two games into this ambitious title, to the detriment of the main story.

You can see hints of David Koresh and Jim Jones in Seed, and he and his Heralds use a number of indoctrination methods to break Hope County residents' spirits. Any interaction with Seed or any of his Heralds is tense -- you're waiting for something bad to happen -- and trust me it will happen. It's a dark tale of coercion via torture, psychological and chemical manipulation, that could have been terrifying if given a chance to live on its own.

However, Ubisoft has crammed two games into this ambitious title, to the detriment of the main story. In one instance, I'm being held down and watching someone tattoo the word "wrath" onto my chest as they pontificate on why it was my fatal sin that must be cleansed. In another instance, I'm on a side mission where I teamed up with a diabetic black bear named Cheeseburger. (Bears can have diabetes? Who knew?) And in another, I had to harvest Rocky Mountain oysters from a bull in coitus, all while Marvin Gaye's "Sexual Healing" was playing in the background.

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And while these missions are definitely fun and elicited more than a few hearty guffaws, it just seems out of place in a game that then asks me to hunt down a guy affectionately known as "The Cook" who's burning people to death. The dual tonality is very much a part of the Far Cry ethos, but knowing that Ubisoft reached out to a cult specialist to give the Project at Eden's Gate some real teeth makes me wish the game would decide what it wants to be. It's like you've got your tense, psychological thriller in my fun, silly, shoot- 'em-up. Either game would be fun on its own, but I'm not sure that I need them in one place.

Game World

I never want to leave this sandbox. Like most Ubisoft titles, Far Cry 5 is beautiful and massive. The fictional land of Hope County, Montana, encompasses is a land of rolling hills, majestic mountains, stately evergreens and bodies of water that can be placid ponds, babbling brooks or raging rivers. It's a love letter to the beauty of nature that most of us never get to see in person.

Aside from random cougar and black bear attacks, and Peggies, always the damned Peggies, Hope County is a place I fully intend to sink many more hours into, and not just for the gratuitous violence. When I wasn't bringing the fight to Eden's Gate, I spent my time fly fishing to see if I could beat my record best for rainbow trout. It's a peaceful activity that lets me reminisce about fishing off the jetties for bluefish with my family. That is until, I heard the telltale roar of a cougar and I had to run, shoot or die.

Like most Ubisoft titles, Far Cry 5 is beautiful and massive.

The man-made structures are pretty good, but like most video game buildings, there's far too many false doors for my taste. But overall, the buildings are varied enough to keep things interesting, particularly the prepper stashes that have puzzle elements built in.

As downright pretty as FC5 is, there is a fly in the ointment in the form of the random glitches I encountered. I've fallen through the ground a few times, falling forever or until decided I had hit the ground and killed me. But my biggest annoyance involved interacting with objects in the environment. There were too many times when I had to adjust my positioning just to get the square Interact prompt to appear so I can open a door or flip a switch. It's a feature/bug that's cost me a few lives.

Customization

Far Cry 5 is first game in the series to let you tweak gender and overall appearance. But before you start thinking you're going to make an exact digital copy of yourself, know that the customization options aren't as deep as a Dragon Age or a Fallout 4. You get a limited amount of skin tone and hair options with a relatively small wardrobe to dress your character. It's fine, but I'm hoping Ubisoft will build up this feature in future titles.

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If you want more clothes, you'll have to buy them, and they're not cheap. An outfit consisting of a hat, shirt, pants (oddly enough, you don't buy shoes in this game) costs about $7,200. Although you can gather money fairly quickly in the game, just know you're going to spend a decent amount of time grinding if you want that snazzy new flannel.

Honestly, I found that spending money on the various upgrades for my weapons, including scopes, suppressors and extended magazines was the best use of my hard-earned cash. But that's just me. When you're playing, you might decide that you need to slay Peggies in fashion.

Bottom Line

At its core, Far Cry 5 is just another fun entry in the series. You get to run around in a massive, lovingly created world, hunting, fishing and dispatching cult members along the way. Small tweaks that Ubisoft made to overall gameplay only serve to add even more polish to a formula that the company has all but perfected over the course of the series.

However, FC5 is indeed a tale of two games, and I'm gnashing my teeth at the issues Ubisoft could have addressed in the story regarding the current political and social climate. They take definitive steps to make commentary on the cults and perverted uses of religion only to stop short of saying anything and further diluting the story with typical Far Cry antics. Lack of a deep message aside, I'm planning to spend many more hours in Hope County blowing up stuff and reeling in a bass or two, and that's more than OK.

Credit: Ubisoft