Can Far Cry 5 survive on controversy alone?
Right out of the starting gate, Ubisoft knew that Far Cry 5 was going to raise some eyebrows. Knowledge of its narrative was in the hands of the PR team well before it was ever revealed to the public and I’ve got it on record that the reveal kind of terrified them. Ubisoft knew without a doubt that they were driving a Mack truck, bathed in flames into the heart of middle America and braving a subject matter that had never been done before. It caused a bit of a stir in some circles (see video below) but in my opinion, it’s a brave choice that quite honestly needed to be made. This may be the most controversial Far Cry to date and that overarching premise may also be the biggest thing keeping this franchise alive.
In the lead-up to Gamescom, I had the chance to get my hands on FarCry 5 for the first time in a new demo and while I enjoyed what I played it still felt very, very familiar. We all know the Far Cry formula by now. The composition is so note-for-note that many gamers even refer to Far Cry 4 as nothing more than Far Cry 3.5. It was an entirely new story with an entirely new villain in Pagan Min but familiarity was the name of the game and as we all know, familiarity breeds contempt. It was safe and if we’re being honest, Vaas did it better. Move forward just over a year and we saw Far Cry Primal which still felt like Far Cry but presented in a fresh way that invigorated what was very close to becoming stale like day old bread.
And here we are with Far Cry 5 taking place in the fictional Hope County, Montana as you take on the job of shutting down the brutal and violent Eden’s Gate cult. Releasing two years and four days after Primal we see the return to modern times and spoken English. We see the franchise dipping its toes right back into the ‘wading pool of familiarity’ albeit with a three-year gap since the last machine gun and dynamite-fueled experience. The question remains, of course, can this bold narrative carry the game over with fans who have tired of the Far Cry formula?
The addition of guns-for-hire (Boomer, Nick Rye, and Grace Armstrong) gives us something new to play with and certainly adds freshness where it’s needed. I chose Grace to accompany me on my playthrough and while I was too busy running for my life to utilize her properly I saw someone much better than me use her perfectly. Positioning Grace on a nearby water tower during a liberation mission, she picked off enemies from a distance while he prowled in from behind taking out distracted enemies at will. At that moment, I had exactly two thoughts… ‘Wow, that’s really cool!’ and ‘Clearly, I need to get better at Far Cry.’
“This may be the most controversial Far Cry to date and that overarching premise may also be the biggest thing keeping this franchise alive.”
One of the missions at our disposal had us commandeering Nick Rye’s float plane to do a bombing run that climaxed in a dogfight with the Eden’s Gate cultists and it was probably my highlight of the demo. Granted, my Crimson Skies piloting skills escaped me in that moment but the music pumped up and I was fully into it. I was Maverick in the skies with decidedly less skill than the beloved Top Gun hero as I eventually piloted my sweet ride right into a tree. The key takeaway, of course, being that it was immensely entertaining to do so.
Our time with the demo was short and after liberating the small town of Fall’s End I spent most of my time either running from cultists or hanging out at a nearby watering hole trying to get the catch of the day. A friendly fishing contest between myself and a few other journalists on hand had my 51.6 lb beauty fall short of the 56 lb winner, much to my dismay.
Obviously, I only experienced a small taste of what Far Cry 5 has to offer so even as a preview I feel like I’d need a great amount more time to really get a strong feel for it. My introduction to the game’s cast of characters, sprawling countryside and disturbing (if not uncomfortably realistic) antagonists have me interested enough but I’m admittedly left wondering if they’ll continue to entice me through the entire experience. What I played was great fun but, as I mentioned earlier, it was also familiar.
There’s definitely a reason that Far Cry has been successful enough to hit this sixth entry and that’s simply because its open world formula works. Play the game how you like at the pace you like. When you hit this many games though, like anything that’s been repeated, you run the risk of burnout. In the case of Far Cry 5, it’s coming in with a few changes, some sweet 4K graphics for those playing on a PS4 Pro or Xbox One X, and a narrative that’s about as provocative as it gets. My early impression is that it’s pumping some much needed adrenaline into the franchise but with so many things still unknown we have much more to see yet.
Keep it locked to COGconnected for some fresh new gameplay in the coming days and for more information on Far Cry 5 as we have it.