Fourteen years after the first release in the series, there’s still no one that does Grand Theft Auto-in-the-wilderness like Far Cry
Far Cry 5 lets the imagination run wild against enemies and the elements
There’s a heavily armoured and armed convoy of trucks slowly making its way through rural Montana, and I have to stop it.
There are various ways I could try to accomplish my mission, from the methodical to the chaotic, and everything in-between. I opt for the theatrical.
It just so happens that I recently unlocked a perk that allows me to use a wingsuit when falling from great heights, and a little earlier I found a helicopter conveniently parked up outside an abandoned farmhouse.
Since I’m expecting heavy resistance, I decide to call in one of the specialist companions who can be unlocked as you explore Far Cry 5’s story and landscape. She’s a good shot with a hunting bow, which is sure to come in handy – even if our expected prey will be human.
So, off we go, my companion in the back seat, as I pilot the chopper high above the lush landscape. A few kilometres later and I see the convoy driving along a dirt road. I do what any 1980s film star would and jump out of the helicopter with two high-calibre weapons, a variety of explosives and throwing knives strapped to my back.
Flying around with the wingsuit is a lot of fun, but I don’t have too much time to appreciate the landscape before it’s time to deploy my parachute for a dramatic, barely survivable landing, right in front of the oblivious convoy.
They don’t remain oblivious for long, unfortunately, and I quickly realise that I am heavily outgunned.
I did of course expect that I’d be facing armed opposition. But I did not expect that it would come in the form of machine guns mounted to the back of pickups. Add those to the rifle- and pistol-armed convoy guards and drivers, and it takes me only a few seconds to realise I am not going to make it out of this alive.
I manage to get off a few well-placed shots before being shot to pieces, and as my digital avatar lies bleeding to death and the screen turns grey, I suddenly realise I have no idea what happened to Jess, my bow-armed companion. I did just jump out of that helicopter I was piloting while she was sitting in the back, didn’t I? Oops.
Fourteen years after the first release in the series, there’s still no one that does Grand Theft Auto-in-the-wilderness like Far Cry. Ubisoft Montreal got the formula right early in the franchise’s history, which put it in a difficult position.
Changing it too much risked taking away what made everything work so well, while sticking to the tried-and-tested meant being lumped in with the crop of annual and biennial triple-A releases that feel more like a cash grab than a good time with every new game.
Far Cry 5 continues the developer’s knack for successfully walking that tightrope, bringing just enough change and innovation to keep things feeling fresh, but without messing with the core experience.
Climbing towers all over the game world to reveal points of interest is thankfully a thing of the past, replaced by a more organic system that adds people and places to your map and journal as you play through the main and side stories.
Previous numbered entries in the series were set in locations such as Micronesia, Africa and the Himalayas, and in the run-up to Far Cry 5’s release, much was made of the decision to set the game in the United States.
Many critics and players it seems expected that Far Cry 5 would be a political game, what with the popularity of US President Donald Trump in so-called red states, battles over the Second Amendment and the interplay of politics and religious extremism featuring in the news daily.
But while the setting and story can’t help but remind you of these issues, Far Cry 5 is not an exercise in trying to get political points across.
This should come as a relief to those who prefer gaming time to be a chance to switch off from the sort of content that is inescapable in news and social media.
Later, I did go back and successfully take out that convoy. This time, I planned ahead, planting a series of motion-activated and remote-controlled mines at strategic locations, and picking off the machine-gunners from a good sniping spot.
There were probably a dozen other ways of doing it, but it’s the one that worked for me.
Far Cry 5 lets you explore its world and story the way that you want to, and doesn’t penalise you for doing things differently. It’s the sort of freedom that’s all too rare in games these days.
Add to that some excellent graphics and sound, the co-operative play and the ability to create custom multiplayer maps, and you have a package that can keep you busy until the inevitable next Far Cry, two years from now.