Before Far Cry 5 starts, you see the following message: Far Cry 5 is based on a modern reality. Any relation to real persons is purely coincidental. And while this seems like a typical message to put on any piece of art, it’s rather telling what Ubisoft is trying to convey. Far Cry 5 is based on our current reality, with a bigoted white man reigning supreme over tiny, scared individuals. Except that it’s not actually based on our reality at all. In fact, it’s not really grounded in any controversial politics. For months, Far Cry 5 has been marketed as a rebellion in our current political climate. The cover was a portrayal of Leonardo Da Vinci’s The Last Supper, with the main antagonist as Jesus in the center and an American flag and a machine gun as its centerpiece. With religious beliefs and gun control dividing American politics, this game felt like a response to the white supremacy that has plagued our nation. But alas, Far Cry 5 fails to fulfill that potential. While visually appealing, its promised story of revenge against white nationalism falls flat.
Far Cry 5 opens in a helicopter. You’re a new recruit in the Hope County Sheriff Department and have been called to arrest Joseph Seed, the charismatic leader of the cult called The Project at Eden’s Gate. Its commune has grown in numbers and has taken over Hope’s County, Montana with brute force. His militia-style followers, simply referred to as “Peggies,” take Joseph’s word as gospel and will do anything to protect their “savior.” And by protecting, that means crashing your helicopter into the trees and taking everybody prisoner. You manage to escape, but your comrades are all taken prisoner, and to rescue them, you must defeat each member of the Seed family. There’s John, the youngest and most sadistic; Faith, the groupie; and Jacob, the brainwashing older brother.
Unlike Far Cry 3 and 4, the protagonist is a blank slate; no more can players have mystical tattoos or become one with Shangri-La. Instead, players are a nameless, mute deputy who has no personality. Players can customize male or female characters with different outfits and faces. However, it makes no difference because it’s a first-person shooter, and the only time you see your whole body is when you die. Don’t expect any interesting unique characters models on anyone in general. I can count on my fingers the number of enemy faces there are, and the NPCs are basically just molds of each other. But if Skyrim has taught us anything, it’s that you should never judge a game by how many times you see the same white guy walking down the street.
Structure-wise, you have the traditional Far Cry mold: liberate outposts, hunt for animals, and blow as much shit up as possible. One aspect the game moved away from was climbing towers (one of the characters even joked about how they won’t make you climb radio towers all day). It was a surprisingly refreshing decision and allowed for players to concentrate on other aspects such as side missions and outposts. Completing each mission and outpost rewards the player with resistance points, which are the key to progressing in the game. Once you garner enough resistance points, you’re able to face each member of the Seed family.
There may be fewer outpost locations than in previous installments, but it’s for a good reason. Each outpost is set in a specific location and is used to help provide the cult with different resources. For example, there is an outpost set up on a farm for the cult members to grow their own food, and liberating that area cuts them off from their food supply. There are also certain side quests available at each location that correspond with the theme (such as car-related missions on car lots and animal-related quests at slaughterhouses). It actually makes the player feel like they’re tearing the cult down from the inside out rather than just finishing a generic shooter level.
Hunting is still present in Far Cry 5, but has nowhere near a presence as in previous installments. Instead of being requiring to craft items, animal parts are simply there to sell. That means it’s not necessary to kill any critters to create medkits or additional items. It takes the thrill out of the activity, but the downgrade allows for easier access to materials.
Instead, power-ups are acquired through the new perk point system. Players are awarded perk points for completing certain challenges such as getting enough kills with specific weapons. At first glance, it seems like it would be difficult to get a lot of points, but the challenges are pretty mundane in themselves. Points can be used to get more health, weapon damage and other benefits.
One way to get perk points easily is through the newly added prepper stashes. Scattered throughout, these stashes are hidden bunkers supposedly built by the rebelling townspeople. They contain the usual treats such as weapons and crafting items, but the biggest takeaway are the hunting magazines, which reward players with more perk points to put toward their next power-up And with how many stashes there are in the world, you won’t have to ever worry about lacking points.
While Far Cry’s open world is certainly something to ogle at, the story brings down its potential. Joseph Seed may be charismatic, but he’s no Vaas. Instead, he’s a Father John Misty look-alike who should be asking how you like your pour-over rather than act as the poster boy for a made up religion. It’s never said what the beliefs stem from or how Joseph created this “utopia.” It’s a really hollow attempt at trying to make a cult seem interesting and believable. His minions fit the mustache twirling villain mold nicely, but never quite grow beyond sadistic torturers. The only villain who had some depth was Faith, but it’s only through a few readable documents spread out across the map. But still, you keep going because you believe that there is a good ending to this. The game has to be building to something worthwhile.
Alas, Far Cry 5 lets you down in the worst possible way: leading us to wonder why we spent so many hours wasted over this game. Not only does the ending not make sense, but also its attempt at shock value is borderline insulting (and possibly creepy if you are playing as a female character). Far Cry’s storylines are known for being pretty silly and out there, but their endings usually tied everything up pretty nicely. Far Cry 5 has 2 endings to achieve, but neither of them are satisfying. With all of the meat taken out of it, we are left with only the bare bones of an intriguing tale. Gameplay and environment might make for a pretty game, but it can’t hide the fact that Ubisoft shied away from a truly remarkable idea.