It was supposed to be a simple perp pickup.
As a rookie federal agent, my supervisor and I were tasked to work with local law enforcement in Hope Valley, Montana, to take Joseph Seed — leader of a cult called Eden's Gate — into custody. Despite warnings from the sheriff, our helicopter touches down at Seed's compound. Walking the path to the church feels claustrophobic, similar to walking through the Las Plagas-plagued village of Resident Evil 4. I'm on edge, but I'm here to do a job.
The job immediately goes awry as Seed is taken into custody. His fanatical followers give chase, pelting us with rocks along the way. The team makes it back to the copter and takes off, only to crash a few minutes later when a cult member hanging on the aircraft chucks himself into the copter blades. I come to hearing Seed singing in a sweet tenor, "He's Got The Whole World (In His Hands)." I reach feebly for the radio to call for help, but Seed takes it and reassures dispatch that everything's fine. He looks at me, and with cold, self-assured menace, tells me what I already knew to be true — "No one's coming for you." And from there, I'm thrust into the violent world of Far Cry 5
Far Cry 5 is the first game in the series that takes place on American soil. Ground zero is Hope County, Montana, a fictional setting with a predominantly white Christian population. Ubisoft has never been afraid to court controversy, and a lot of alt-right feathers have been ruffled as a result of Far Cry 5's subject matter. However, others believe that the game isn't going far enough to deliver a message. After spending 2 hours with this game, I don't think it needs to.
As I played through the opening moments of the game, I became more intrigued with the lives of the Hope County residents, which I discovered through scraps of notes, messages on answering machines and conversations with NPC (nonplayable characters). The more I explored, the more I discovered how the members of Eden's Gate slowly began infiltrating the valley, buying up property and recruiting members until they eventually took over. While some residents were taken against their will to be indoctrinated, others left because of poverty, a sense of hopelessness and a desire to belong.
At its core, Far Cry 5 casts you as a silent protagonist who is on a mission to free the residents of Hope County from the grasp of Eden's Gate and build a resistance. But the real meat of the story might be how religion and the need to belong to something can make the most rational person do horrible things.
As much as you might enjoy Ubisoft games, you have to admit that the company's titles are becoming a bit formulaic. Far Cry, Ghost Recon and Assassin's Creed have all utilized some form of Eagle Vision, whether it's a drone, super-assassin sight or a freakin' eagle that helps you scout out targets, friends and foes. Each series has also had you climb a large tower to reveal a large swath of land on your map. You won't be doing either in FC5.
If you want to find new areas on the map in FC5, you'll have to go looking for notes scattered around the world, interact with NPCs or actually just start exploring. No eagles or fancy gadgets to help you tag enemies here. Just you and a pair of binoculars.
Another welcome change: customization. Finally, you can create your own character in a Far Cry series. To date, the range of skin tones, hairstyles and clothes is a bit scant, but I'm hoping that Ubisoft will have a larger suite of options in time for launch. And while customizing your character seems a bit like a moot point in a first-person title, it does come in handy when you jump into your friend's game.
However, the biggest evolution is the world itself. Previous versions in the series have embraced the open-world conceit, but FC5 will play more like a "Choose Your Own Adventure" book. Once you've escaped your initial encounter with Eden's Gate, you're free to play the game as you see fit. I immediately started doing side missions to get back into the swing of combat. But if you want to goof off and go hunting or fishing for a while, you can absolutely do that. You can take on the heralds of Eden's Gate in whatever order you like. And if you do happen to take on a mission, you won't be punished if you get distracted with something else.
While Far Cry 4 allowed you and a friend to play through missions in the game, they had nothing to do with the story. But in FC5, after the opening cinematics, the new Friend For Hire (FFH) system lets you team up with a friend and lay the smackdown on Eden's Gate through the entirety of FC5. My colleague Dan Howley and I had a chance to get up to Dukes of Hazzard-type antics during our co-op session, as we drove around shooting up Eden's Gate vehicles, dodging bullets and molotovs along the way.
But if you can't find a friend to take the fight to the cult, you can always recruit one of the townsfolk. Hope County residents are mad as hell, and they're not going to take it anymore — so much so, that they're willing to fight at your side. Two NPC FFHs can be recruited at any given time. Some NPCs are your run-of-the-mill soldiers — your general jack-of-all trades who can shoot a gun. However, some NPCs are defined as specialists and have unique fighting skills. Some might be really good at stealth, while others will take a run-and-gun approach.
Once you have an NPC on your team, you can give them orders via commands mapped to the D-pad. During a mission to liberate an outpost, I directed my FFH to specific points in order to draw out bad guys and snipe them from afar. But eventually, the cultists overran my guy's position and put him down. I quickly ran down to revive him and get him up on his feet, and we started blasting until we cleared out every enemy.
And if you're not fond of humans, you can call in Cheeseburger, a rescued grizzly bear with diabetes that will help you out as Fang For Hire.
Shoot Some S*** Up
Far Cry is no stranger to bows, arrows, guns and explosives. But I've got to say, the compound bow is my favorite weapon so far. It's quiet, has range and is capable of a nice kill shot. I especially appreciate that you can press the L3 button to hold your breath.
But outside of your typical shotguns, assault rifles, molotov cocktails and handguns, the combat is very much what you'd expect from Far Cry. Speaking of molotovs, the fire in FC5 is incredibly stunning I implore you to toss a few around when you get a chance.
I've only played 2 hours of Far Cry 5, and I'm hungry for more. I'm itching to whip out my rod and try my hand at fly-fishing. I want to rip through a few cult outposts with Cheeseburger, and I just want to toss molotovs at every cult shrine I can. But most importantly, I want to get to know the people of Hope County and the enigmatic, villainous Joseph Seed, whose charisma I can't deny — and I'm not sure I want to. March 27 can't come soon enough.