By Spencer Smith ’19 / / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
Sometimes it’s hard to talk about a game because it simply doesn’t give too much material to write about. It’s not a game that’s bad, there’s plenty of craft and care put into it, it just never rises above the value of a bargain bin grab. Far Cry 5 is such a game, and if anything, it’s even more disappointing in the face of not just other Far Cry games, but in its failure to live up to the heights it boasted.
Far Cry 5 shifts the long-tropical franchise to Montana in the valley of Hope County. In this playground, the player character is a deputy sent to apprehend the preacher Joseph Seed. Seed is the leader of a cult called Eden’s Gate which are an extremist evangelical group that seek to “save” Hope Country from collapse. The disastrous attempt at arrest results in the deputy’s three allies being captured by Seed’s three lieutenants: Jacob, John, and Faith, and it’s up to you to save them. Notice how there is no name for the player character as Far Cry 5 eschews the franchises’ named protagonists in favor of a nameless title for the player to assume. This is presumably for the player to decide for themselves what side they’re on.
Far Cry 5 had buzz all over it and some of it was quite controversial. The marketing behind Far Cry 5 posited the player against an extreme right-wing cult to take out a charismatic leader who preached of God and “the old way of doing things.” There’s more to it of course: the setting, the rhetoric (characters frequently discuss the end times from “the guys up top” and talk of “walls being built”), the attitude, it all reminds the player of America’s current Commander-in-Chief and the rise in hate groups since 2016. Yet, the game never seems to really ground itself in either harsh satire or commentary on today’s politics.
Of course, Far Cry 5 was likely in pre-production before the result of the 2016 election so perhaps it’s unrealistic to assume its insights could amount to more than gentle ribbing. Yet the game also feels incredibly safe. It never forces the player to identify with the cult members or people under Joseph’s spell. No insight is gained on why people fall for charismatic leaders despite their impossible promises or how the hierarchy of a cult really works. In fact, it’s implied that most cult members are just brainwashed into believe everything Eden’s Gate preaches as opposed to any realistic beliefs.
This could be forgiven if the story or characters were memorable, but it’s standard Far Cry affair. A charismatic villain who likes to talk to the player about “how they’re alike”, allies ranging from the composed to the slightly quirky all the way to batsh*t crazy, and crazy drug-fueled hallucination sequences. It’s not that these aren’t particularly bad, the voice acting is quite good and Far Cry is still a master at insane hallucination sequences, but all of these have been done better in other Far Cry games and that extends to the gameplay department.
While the core mechanics of Far Cry are still intact, it feels as if a significant amount of the gameplay has been stripped down, and not for the better. For one, all hunting, fishing, and other such activities are used for nothing besides making money. In previous games, hunting and side activities reaped rewards that aided in giving rewards that went into crafting throwables, drugs, and accessories. Now you kill an animal, you skin it, and sell it for cash to buy ammo and guns. That’s it. All of the crafting elements feel completely unnecessary since money is so easy to come by and why craft something you can buy it without the hassle.
Stealth, once a major part of the Far Cry formula, has gone through some questionable changes as well. Firstly, if an enemy is killed with anything other than knives or arrows, other enemies will somehow hear this and instantly become suspicious. Secondly, if the player is detected instantly every enemy in the base will know their location. This comes from the “pure crap” type of stealth game and is baffling, especially for long time Far Cry fans. The rest of the gameplay is virtually unchanged; it’s still as playable as ever and in shootouts is quite fun. For all of its faults the game is still a decent play, its mechanics are mostly well-polished despite the stripped-down approach, and the visual presentation is still top notch. The buddy system is well balanced and it’s always fun to send a mountain lion after an enemy.
But in the end, there’s no reason to buy Far Cry 5 when Far Cry 3, the peak of the series, is still here. If you want the best Far Cry experience then maybe it’d be best to go to Steam or your 7th generation console, pull out Far Cry 3 and give it a play. It’s still well worth the money.