Welcome to Hope County
The Far Cry series is known for its exotic locations and maniacal villains, but its latest installment brings the action to the rural landscape of fictional Hope County, Montana. Far Cry 5 tells the story of Joseph Seed, leader of the cult “Project at Eden’s Gate” and megalomaniac who believes God has empowered him to save mankind from an imminent catastrophe known as the Collapse. Joseph’s three siblings, the “Heralds,” have taken over the three county regions, and the task lies on a rookie deputy, the player’s customized avatar, to liberate Hope County.
Ever since I previewed the first-person shooter Far Cry 5, I have been intrigued by its main villain, an unstable man who believes that his atrocities lead to a better future. Once I witnessed what the cult was doing to the residents of Hope County, I was determined to put an end to it, especially since the setting felt much closer to home than, say, the Himalayan mountains. Even though the four main antagonists don’t appear much aside from several fixed story sequences, their presence permeates each region with oppression and danger, exemplified by an army of brainwashed soldiers or zombified humans under a drug’s influence. These Heralds were not only excellent end goals with interesting stories, but they also drove every quest forward.
Far Cry 5 is packed with missions that you can tackle in any order as you explore Hope County’s open world. After playing roughly an hour of introductory missions and setting up your custom (male or female) character, which you unfortunately barely see at all during the game, you can head in any direction, automatically filling in your map as you go. There are two primary mechanics that lead you along. The first is the intel system. As opposed to previous titles, in which you gathered information by climbing towers, this system lets you learn organically from the world around you – be it a conversation with a resident, a magazine, or a street sign. I felt inspired to actually listen to non-playable characters, hoping to hear juicy rumors about possible quests or hidden prepper stashes.
The other major mechanic is the resistance meter, which tracks how much you have disrupted the cult. Hope County is divided into three large regions, each under the control of one of Joseph’s Heralds, and each with its own resistance meter. By completing quests, liberating outposts, and performing other miscellaneous acts, you add points to that region’s respective meter. As you push against the cult, it pushes back, sending more high rank members to ambush you and even capturing you. The meter can also be thought of as a constantly rising difficulty curve, though it should be noted there are also three standard difficulty levels. It’s a clever way to pile on pressure while still allowing you to conquer the map however you wish. The best part is that you can progress at your own pace, and you will still undergo the excellent scenarios and final confrontations when the time is right.
You’re just as free to take whatever approach you wish to eliminate cultists and liberate areas, whether stealthily or guns blazing. Both ways feel just as valid. It only takes a simple button press to perform swift takedowns, and the detection meter makes it clear where enemies are and how close they are to finding you. On the overt side, I had no real issues controlling my character effectively and utilizing the various weapon types and throwable items on the intuitive item wheels. The weapon selection isn’t large, but you can customize your rifles, machine guns, and other firearms, from altering aesthetics like color to equipping add-ons like scopes and silencers. The game empowers you to have your own adventure but still forces you to adapt every step of the way.
The only disappointment was that the regions felt more segregated than I’d hoped. It’s a fine structure that allows for well-executed character arcs, but aside from resources crossing borders and off-hand comments about how you conquered other regions, the world felt disjointed. That being said, each region is quite huge. If it weren’t for the handy mission tracking and map charting, I’d easily get lost in the expansive fields and tall mountains. Ubisoft has done a commendable job in making rural Montana look as gorgeous as possible without sacrificing performance. The folk music instrumentals, appropriate use of licensed music, and songs specifically designed for the cult fit perfectly with the setting. And every person, from the residents to the villains, look and sound very authentic, thanks to realistic character models and voice acting.
Nevertheless, as tends to be the case with open-world games, there are large portions of land without any points of interest – and in the rural setting, some areas look far too plain. But there are also plenty of hidden hunting grounds and fascinating landmarks. For those who don’t mind taking a break from the action, it usually doesn’t take long to find a place to hunt animals, go fishing, or just soak in the scenery. Truth be told, as a goal-oriented person, I preferred seeking out missions that would progress the story, and the numerous speedy vehicles helped minimize any lull in the action.
Progression was also engaging. There are a number of perks to unlock using points earned by completing challenges, which include using specific weapons a number of times and hunting a number of animals. Though there are some perks that you must unlock in a certain order, most are available from the start. I liked customizing my character’s attributes, increasing his health or granting him utility items like the grapple hook or wingsuit. I rarely had an issue with having enough money for weapons and other items, but it is possible to use real-world money to purchase Silver Bars, an alternative currency to pay for in-game goods. You can find Silver Bars in every outpost and other places, but despite searching areas thoroughly, I only ever located several hundred.
Filling every resistance meter and reaching the end of the game takes about 30 hours, but you will probably have skipped half of the missions if you rush to the end. You can always go back after finishing the game to work on 100% completion. Additionally, you can play the entire game with a friend in 2-player co-op mode. Normally, you have up to two guns-for-hire – computer-controlled allies – some of which are story-relevant and include the adorable dog Boomer and diabetic bear Cheeseburger. However, CPU partners are sometimes unreliable and tend to die often, so it helps that you can replace one of them with a friend online. There’s a great sense of camaraderie in tackling the game together, but there are a few issues holding it back. For one, due to the nature of the game, only the host’s campaign progress is saved. The guest only retains character progression. Also, co-op play was glitchier. In one mission, our objective was to seek out a plane, and as a guest, the plane was inexplicably invisible to me. When my partner hopped aboard the plane, he appeared to be sitting in midair, which while hilarious, was inconvenient for me.
There is also multiplayer via Far Cry Arcade, an extensive mode within the game. The PVP supports up to 12 online players, in free-for-all or team deathmatches on customized maps of varying qualities. There was nothing distinct about the multiplayer aside from the fact that it seemed to focus more on stealthily hunting your opponents using takedowns and vantage points. Although I had a decent time, it certainly didn’t beckon me like the single-player campaign did, or the other major arcade mode.
The standard arcade experience consists of a map editor and a library of user-made levels. The map editor is fairly complex, but it’s simple enough to add objects and customize the terrain and stage attributes like gravity. I liked the idea of building self-contained missions and multiplayer arenas with assets from not just Far Cry 5, but also from other Ubisoft titles such as previous Far Cry, Assassin’s Creed, and Watch Dogs games. However, I found it tough to navigate my creation with a controller. It’ll take a lot of patience and time to create a good map, especially one matching the prowess of Ubisoft’s own user-created levels, which include a gravity-defying haunted house and a port with desaturated colors.
Far Cry 5 brings its open-world shooter formula closer to home for many players. The resistance meter and intel systems are cleverly implemented and help guide players throughout the large open world of Hope County. The plot and characterization revolving around Joseph, the Heralds, and the cult are very engrossing, and combined with the solid first-person shooter gameplay and free exploration, it’s a game that’s hard to put down. The fact that you can play the entire game in co-op is icing on the cake. Far Cry Arcade’s multiplayer and map editor are good diversions and are certainly attractive enough for PVP enthusiasts and aspiring creators, but Far Cry 5’s main campaign is enough to satisfy both fans and newcomers. Welcome to Hope County!
Note: A review copy was used for this article. This review was originally posted on DarkStation in March 2018.