The small area of Hope County, Montana, is ran by a God-fearing man named Joseph Seed. His church preaches the apocalypse is coming, and man isn't doing enough to prepare for it. So in the midst of worldwide war, greed and desperation, he created the beacon of light for the people of this rural region: Eden's Gate.
But the people didn't ask for it. Some began to flock to the church steps, interested in what Joseph had to say. It was something different from religions in the area on the outset; it preached preparation and revolution in comfort, happiness and forgiveness that no religion had ever acted so aggressively on.
What started as waivers and advertisements to recruit Hope County citizens soon turned into eviction notices, house raids and kidnapping. In his head, Joseph knew what mankind needed to survive. To the people opposing him, he was growing into a power-hungry psychopath.
In response to the events unraveling, a task force outside Hope County is sent in to bring Joseph Seed to prison. As you walk up the ominous church steps, break up the church session and confront the doomsday prophet himself, he holds his hands up to you as if to help the process in handcuffing him. Behind him, you see the three disciples of his rule, staring into your eyes with confusion, anger and judgment: his brothers, John and Jacob, then a woman named Rachel Jessop.
What unravels following that I'll leave for you to discover, but in essence, it follows the familiar pattern Far Cry has followed since 2 with its introductions. The story begins as an intriguing take on dictators in history, but within a few hours of exploring the thousands of acres within Hope County's massive countryside of farmlands, mountains and riverside log cabins, familiarity settles in: this is definitely a Far Cry, for all the better and worse.
The setting you play in is absolutely filled with gorgeous vistas, harrowing mini stories and more. I was impressed with the world building, yet again nailed to a tee by the great employees of Ubisoft. Sadly, I can't say the same about the character building. What was once a serious story with humorous breaks in between has now become a ridiculous story with caricatures and exaggerated moments. To be honest, I probably wouldn't feel so strongly if it wasn't for the way it progresses the story. Every time one of the three aforementioned disciples want to meet you, they simply find a way to knock you unconscious, whether it be hunting parties with KO darts filled with bliss (Eden's Gate's drug gas, basically) or a song that somehow knocks you out. The game expects me, the player, to fill in the gaps in between on how these items happen to work or what happens between me getting knocked out and me awakening in front of the disciple. It's lazy writing, and it's borderline unforgivable with how often it happens. By the third area you enter, it becomes too predictable. You're almost just waiting for it to happen.
Without spoiling the ending or events that unfold, the story is just a ludicrous adventure from start to finish. It really tarnishes the immersion I had exploring Hope's hundreds of areas. It's almost as if the characters of the game were underwritten, but the environmental storytelling has pulled it all together.
Speaking of, I am once again impressed with the gameplay of Far Cry. The moment-to-moment gunplay is as enjoyable as ever. Whether you're hunting down bulls to provide ammo for the Rocky Mountain Oyster Festival (you do the math there), pursuing targets in dog fights, fishing for 100+ pound monster river creatures or participating in action movie sets via real gun fights, the variety in the missions keeps the gameplay interesting and refreshing. The variety does help in keeping players engaged with the game in those long-hour sessions, something many open world games are finding difficult in the current generation.
One surprise omission is the surprise removal of a need for hunting animals to upgrade your custom-made deputy's gear. Instead, all upgrades revolve around earning perk points that go toward unlocking perks similarly to the tribal tattoos in Far Cry 3 or the Elephant/Tiger system in Far Cry 4. At first, I was distraught that my hunting was being cut short, but I soon began to prefer the system. You'll be hunting in the game plenty anyways. It was a change I didn't know I needed, and I really didn't, but it's a nice change anyways.
One of its more fleshed out systems is its Guns for Hire system. As you complete missions, some will come with companions that will follow you around. These friends range from domesticated bears and snipers to well... Hurk, for those that have played in the past, you know you're in for a "blast." You can even find random citizens and recruit them into your roster of three extra followers. Each come with a randomized set of perks that benefit you. One can give you extra ammo capacity and auto-heal a vehicle while they're in it, whereas another can pick flowers for you and auto scan animals in your vicinity. It's the smartest innovation the campaign in Far Cry 5 has in it.
Overall, the gameplay is enjoyable and familiar to a fault, but the balance between it and the story its wrapped around in is jaunted. Far Cry titles pride themselves in being evocative and somewhat character studies on the games set antagonist(s). However, this game can do much of neither since the game's take on religious extremism is too bizarre to be taken seriously. Your character never engages in conversations (a very odd choice considering how often you're abducted and interrogated in this game) and the game delivers a self-serious tone it just never earns. The usual commentaries of "Maybe you're the villain!" fall short of delivering its punches. The Seed brothers and Faith never reach the levels of villains in the past. The hamfisted reasoning behind their actions toward the end doesn't do it much. The acting is competent from all four big villains, with particular nuance effectively used by Greg Byrk, the mo-capped actor portraying Joseph Seed. Otherwise, characters are unmemorable in Far Cry 5, even for those returning inexplicably from past titles.
So, in the end, the game is best enjoyed having mindless fun and taking none of it serious. This sentiment is echoed in its excellent Arcade Mode, a separate mode that provides gamers the ability to play, create and share maps for thousands of others to enjoy. It's a LittleBigPlanet-esque system, and although the multiplayer is very par for the course with its modes and maps, the coop mode is the star of the show. It even provides a progression system that rewards you back in the single player campaign, with even perk points returning to you. It's an awesome mode to delve many hours into, something I plan on doing soon after publishing this review, even!
When it comes to finding a good formula and sticking to it, few companies can emulate the success Ubisoft and their handful of company sites have had in the past two decades. Rainbow Six, Assassin's
Creed, Ghost Recon and a few other giant IP's have all seen sequels pumped out at an incredible rate. While this feat shouldn't be discredited, the feeling of complacency and staleness has slowly crept its way into these giant titles. The fix was normally that one title that redefined that franchise, and sometimes its genre. Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter changed third person shooters for its generation. Rainbow Six Vegas blended multi-camera views brilliantly and coupled it with a refreshing progression system.
After finishing my 50+ hour playthrough of the campaign, I felt a similar makeover is required very soon to save Far Cry from becoming too repetitive to enjoy. The story is underwhelming from its heavy-handed approach to the subjects it's exploring, and the gameplay is nothing new, even if it is still very solid. Hope County is a place you've never been, yet it's still familiar to a fault. It's never bad, but with how exciting and thrilling past titles have been, Far Cry 5 is disappointing in how it's thoroughly ok.