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Far Cry 5

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Release Date: March 27, 2018


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PS4 Review - 'Far Cry 5'

by Redmond Carolipio on March 26, 2018 @ 3:00 a.m. PDT

As the new junior deputy of fictional Hope County, Montana, players will find that their arrival accelerates a years-long silent coup by a fanatical doomsday cult, the Project at Eden's Gate, igniting a violent takeover of the county.

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I think it's safe to assume video game players have (figuratively) been to a lot of places, some of them strange – cities that are underwater or in the sky, space stations, Mount Olympus, alien planets, etc. So I don't blame you if you aren't sure what Hope County, Montana, the setting of Far Cry 5, can offer.

What I found there was a redneck action odyssey I didn't ask for and never knew I wanted, until I found myself in the late hours of the night raiding enemy outposts with a trained bear and a shotgun-bearing pyromaniac. It's more fun than you'll expect to have, and after experiencing the ending (or at least one of them), I'm left with vivid memories of a fictional land.

Hope County is not a real place, but comes across as something borne of perceptions many people have of that part of the U.S. It has militias, doomsday preppers and country music while also seeming like the kind of remote, rural place that would seem like a breeding ground for weird stuff. If you saw a news story about some cult taking over a population and then saw "Hope County, Montana" pop up on the bottom of the screen, you'd probably think, "Oh, of course it happened there."

You'd be right about the cult part: Enter the Project at Eden's Gate (its members are derisively called "Peggies"), which has taken over the entire county with its extreme, deadly brand of fanaticism and dedication to what they believe is God's plan amid the imminent end of the world. People who fight back or don't agree with them usually find themselves on the wrong end of death.

This isn't the first time a region of the world has been taken over under Ubisoft's watch. In Ghost Recon: Wildlands, the entire country of Bolivia was taken over by an intricate drug cartel with a singular, Escobarian figure as its leader. And like Wildlands, the players of Far Cry 5 are tasked with systemically dismantling the oppressing group area by area, piece by piece. Instead of dealing with a massive cartel network, Far Cry 5 puts of a lot of its narrative firepower into a handful of chilling antagonists.

Leading the effort is Joseph Seed, a smoldering furnace of charisma who feels like a blend of Jim Jones, David Koresh and Matthew McConaughey. He's given control of parts of the county to his siblings:– brothers John and Jacob, and little sister Faith. Each of them wields their own brand of crazy. You play a nameless, customizable rookie sheriff's deputy (really, everyone just calls you "the deputy" or "rook") who begins the game as part of a small team tasked with heading to Joseph's compound and arresting him. He actually lets you walk in and slap the cuffs on him, but not before spooking you with his words and powerful sense of presence, thanks to some brilliant writing, visual clarity and voice acting.

To no one's surprise, trying to take away Joseph at the start doesn't go well, and you're left to fend for yourself after being found by your friendly neighborhood prepper, a grizzled old bastard named Dutch. He's the one who puts it on you to begin the resistance against the cult, and it starts with the little island where he lives.

That small area of the county lays out the framework of how to approach the rest of the game. You build up enough resistance in an area to eventually face its leader and liberate it from the cult's clutches. Free the regions controlled by Joseph's family, and you eventually get another shot at taking down Joseph himself. Building up resistance points is done by taking part in a variety of missions scattered around the county, depending on how you explore and who you meet. You can also take down shrines, cult outposts and convoys, or you can free hostages. Basically, you do everything you can to give the cult a hard time.

Helping you do this is a cast of endearing, gun-loving, beer-shotgunning, red-leaning middle Americans and some animals, each with their own abilities and personalities. Combined with the dynamics of Joseph Seed's wacko family, these people give Far Cry 5 its most compelling strength, which is all-in, character-driven storytelling.

The level to which some of the characters drew me in reminiscent of Wolfenstein or even BioShock, only if you wanted to imagine BioShock: 'Murica. Each region seems to take on the personality of its leader. The mandatory story missions where I got "captured" and exposed to the depths of the Seed family's depravity captivated me. John is a torturer who believes in the power of the word "yes," while Jacob and Faith focused on their own methods of mind control and drug-addicted escapism.

In the face of all this, you can find balance and levity in your teammates, who you find across the map and will join you after you engage in a mission or two to unlock them. In addition to the bear — his name is Cheeseburger, and you can pet him at will — and the pyromaniac, you'll also run into people like Adelaide Drubman, who can offer effective air support in an armed chopper if you can stand hearing about her views on gun rights and lurid details about her wild sex life. Or you'll encounter Grace Armstrong, a sniper who served in Afghanistan and goes to "that place" where soldiers go when things go south, which, given the circumstances, means she's there all the time.

I added the pyromaniac, Sharky, after we torched a cadre of rushing cultists to the tune of "Disco Inferno," which was blaring out of speakers that he had set up. You can assemble a roster of these people as part of the game's guns-for-hire feature, which means you can summon one or two of them to help you on a variety of tasks. There are other animals to call upon as well, like a dog (Boomer, a very good boy) and Peaches, a mountain lion.

Toying around with different combinations not only gives you some strategic advantages, but also some very entertaining banter. However, I ran into a more than few occasions where my AI teammates talked over each other because of the need to make their own independent remarks, so sometimes, things I wanted to hear would get lost in a cascade of words and noise. A detailed, harrowing story from Jess Black, a cool assassin-style character, ended up getting spoiled by Adelaide, who was hanging out in her chopper and randomly saying things.

This all adds color to what I found to be a generally fun combat gameplay experience that makes you feel like the most skilled sheriff's deputy in the history of law enforcement. You have the typical bevy of weapons and items at your disposal, but I was struck by how well everything moved and animated under the open Montana skies. Driving in the game is especially enjoyable and free-flowing, mainly because I could also let someone else drive, whether I was in co-op or let the surprisingly adept AI handle it, so I could just lean out of the side and shoot any "peggies" who crossed my path.

The AI wasn't always sharp. On more than a few occasions, someone walked into the path of my gunfire, so I would end up having to revive him or her, or they wouldn't move away from an area that was catching fire … so I would have to revive them. In one morbidly hilarious outcome, I rigged explosives to blow up a training cabin and then had to run out before the time expired. My AI battle buddy Hank didn't follow me out to safety, so the cabin exploded with him in it and rendered him instantly un-revivable. Thankfully, none of your guns-for-hire permanently dies if you don't revive them, but they're inactive on your roster for about 20 minutes.

You'll actually encounter that kind of random chaos in the world as you explore, which can be fun and spontaneous one time and utterly maddening other times. I once rescued someone being held at gunpoint by cultists, only to see them get plowed over by a fleeing truck. Another time, I was in the woods running toward a walking shopkeeper in the hopes of perhaps restoring my ammo or buying some medkits, only to see a grizzly bear emerge and compromise her to a permanent end. I ended up having to kill the bear and looting it for its skin to sell for bullet money. Speaking of looting skins, you can also sell fish that you catch in the lakes and rivers with an actual fishing rod, which has its own play mechanics, complete with casting a line and reeling in the fish as it struggles against your movement. Actual fishing is a thing in this game, and it can be an occasionally peaceful distraction.

If it's real side-entertainment you want, you can step into the bizarre universe of Far Cry Arcade, which is the home for all multiplayer and community efforts. Here, you can play solo, co-op or multiplayer games within a potentially endless library of user-created maps. It sports a retro, 8-bit gaming feel, including a muffled, 8-bit voice uttering, "You have failed," whenever you die. Where it really shines (or disturbs) is seeing what kind of maps and scenarios have been concocted in the layered and nearly overwhelming map editor feature. One of the maps I was in had green water, an army of aggressive wildlife and no health regeneration while another was meticulously laid out with a specific number of bad guys, types of audio and even how many carcasses could be lying around for effect. There is a lot of detail in the map editor that would probably appeal to the level-creator in everyone, which I admit is a part of me that may have died long ago.

For the isolationists out there (like me), one selling point of Far Cry Arcade was not only being able to play by myself, but also the fact that any perks or benefits that I got from playing Arcade could actually be carried over into the main game, which added a different dimension to the prospect of boosting my character.

However, I kept returning for more of the narrative in Far Cry 5. Despite some of the chaos and rambunctious fun I just mentioned, the overarching story is mentally and emotionally draining. In other words, you go through some f***ed-up stuff in dealing with the Seed family and witnessing its effects on the people around you. It's probably why Far Cry 5 doesn't give you a name, unlike past iterations of the title. You absorb stories differently when you see them through the eyes of an established character with his or her own voice and backstory, as opposed to a blank slate. Even though you get to do things like careen down the road in a big rig called "The Widowmaker" and mow down deranged religious nutballs while rescuing people, you might also find yourself getting attached to the characters you meet and the stories you'll hear – almost to the point where you might think that the end might really be coming, and wondering whether what you're doing actually makes a difference. That's what a real odyssey, redneck or not, can feel like.

Score: 8.5/10

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