Fundamentalists have taken over the United States of America! But enough about politics, you’re here to read about the new Far Cry game.
Such is the timeliness of Ubisoft’s latest open-world shooter, it’s almost too easy to draw comparisons between the Seed family cult who now rule over Montana’s Hope County and... the Donald. Trouble is, Far Cry 5 will have been in development long before the White House’s latest resident took office and this is a game that features full-blown animal sex. So nuanced social commentary might not be in bountiful supply.
With Far Cry titles having gotten increasingly staid of late, a return to the gritty, dystopian roots of the second installment is very much in order. So has Ubisoft delivered the goods? We went hands-on with what is the most intriguing game of E3 2017.
Friends with benefits
What we really wanted to see from Far Cry 5 at E3 was how its story melded with the series’ bread-and-butter gameplay. What we actually got was almost none of the former and an abundance of the latter. So while we can tell you this looks and feels very much like a Far Cry game, we still have no idea how that rather prescient plot tallies with its mechanics.
There was no sign of the sinister Joseph Seed and his flock of three siblings who together lead the 'The Project at Eden’s Gate'. Instead we were plonked into a mission to liberate some of Hope County’s populace. It's the kind of outing with which we're all-too-familiar from previous Far Cry games, but it does at least have a difference this time around: we had a choice of three NPC companions to aid our rescue mission. There was the air-bound bomber Nick Rye, the sniper pro Grace and a very good doggo called Boom, who’ll track enemies and fetch items.
Being fans of stealth and subtlety, we plumped for Nick Rye and told him to blow up a conveniently-placed petrol tanker. Having whipped up a suitable amount of chaos, we then picked off a slew of bad dudes in trucker hats from the top of a nearby water tower. As much this sounds like dumb action fare, it was also a lot of fun.
With four years having passed since the last proper Far Cry - Primal doesn’t count - there’s a lot more here that feels fresh again than with Assassin’s Creed Origins. Even if that’s just because it’s been a while since we did the same stuff before. So we ended up having another crack at the same section from ground level with a machine gun, just for kicks.
In God's country
Once we'd cleared out the town, it was time to take a look around Montana - and what a place it is. Rendered in pristine form on PlayStation 4 Pro, Hope County is home to the kind of lush, rolling farmland that you only ever see in movies where the moral of the story is ‘America’. Seeing this idyllic scenery corrupted by armed roadblocks, violent graffiti and burnt-out debris strikes a powerful image. And that's before you lay eyes on carnal pleasures of the bovine kind.
Though we didn't have much time to explore this huge landscape’s many secrets, what we did see gave us a pretty good flavour of what the game holds in store. After felling a few cult members who were taking shooting practice in a field, we stumbled across a lake with a conveniently placed fishing rod nearby. Five minutes later we were still casting our line out in search of tasty river-bound treats. These catches aren’t just for show either; you’ll also be able to use their carcasses to craft new kit in the main game.
In the meantime, we were just impressed by how lived-in this world feels, even if its characters do all seem a bit incidental. So far, Ubisoft has introduced us to three allies who’ll aid your fight against the bad Seeds: as well as the aforementioned former air force man Nick Rye, there’s bar-owner Mary May and Pastor Jerome. But the former two, in particular, seemed to exist more as a means to dole out quests than to significantly add to FC5’s story.
Want an idicator of this game's general subtley? Mary's saloon is called the Whistling Beaver.
Whether Mary and Nick’s shortcomings are simply a matter of unfamiliarity or not, time was running out on our demo and we had a flight to catch. You see Far Cry 5 is the first game in the series that allows you to take to the skies by piloting a plane.
After helping Nick Rye out of a spot of bother, we were pointed towards a crop duster and told to blow up some enemy installations - a task that we undertook with no little glee. While the aerial thrills of FC5 are never going to rival Microsoft’s Flight Simulator for realism, controlling our plane was pleasingly simple: we just hit the accelerator to take off and were soon nimbly swooping around the Montana skies. Crucially, handling was noticeably distinct from the lorry and 4x4 we’d driven earlier in the demo.
Far Cry 5 initial verdict
While the changes Ubisoft has introduced to FC5 all seem to be for the better, there aren’t a huge number of them. Liberating an outpost, getting a mission and liberating another slightly different outpost is very much a formula Far Cry has adhered to for the past decade or so, and outside of the admittedly gorgeous setting there's not an awful lot that's new here.
For that reason, the story itself is absolutely vital here. Unfortunately, it's really hard to get a proper idea about the quality of a game's narrative in a short demo playthrough. So we'll have to reserve our judgement on that for now.
What we will say is that if the story is any good at all, Far Cry 5 will prove to be something special. Because while it may not be particularly innovative, it sure as hell looks great and plays very well. We’ll have our fingers crossed it all hangs together come its launch on 27 February 2018.