I had the opportunity to play Ubisoft’s upcoming Far Cry 5 at a preview event. The demo took place after the liberation of Fall’s End (previously seen at E3), so I had free reign to explore the Holland Valley region, a massive landmass covering about a third of the game’s world. Creative director Dan Hay emphasized that in that region alone, there were 10-15 hours of narrative content, not including the roughly 30 additional hours you could spend exploring it. I only had a couple of hours with the demo, but its open rural American setting populated with rich characters had me craving more.
Here is my interview with creative director Dan Hay.
Unlike the more exotic locations from past games in the series, Far Cry 5 takes place in the state of Montana, specifically in the fictional Hope County. Although it may not sound as exciting as the Himalayan mountains or islands in the Pacific, the game’s representation of modern-day Montana is a captivating sight, covered in lush forests, tall mountains, and vast plains. The great outdoors of rural America was a breath of fresh air, and in every direction, there were wide open expanses of nature. However, there were also empty pockets of similar-looking areas that seemed to drag on as I ran through them. It felt especially slow when I simply desired to reach the next destination. Luckily, I could usually find a vehicle, such as a car or a quad bike, and cruise along much faster. It was easier once I unlocked a fast-travel point, which I didn't need to climb a tower to access.
But danger also resides in Hope County. The land has been taken over by a cult known as “Project by Eden’s Gate,” run by “The Father,” a man named Joseph Seed who believes the end of the world is near and wishes to save it in his own megalomaniacal way. The vast area is divided into three regions, each controlled by one of the Father’s siblings, dubbed the “Heralds.” The Heralds’ unique personalities and micro-stories help inform their region. As such, you learn different aspects and motivations about the Heralds, the Cult, and the oppressed citizens. What is most fascinating about this setup is the Resistance Meter, an indication of your progress within a region. In the demo, I started with 250 points out of 10,000 in Holland Valley. As you complete more of the story, you fill in that meter, eventually giving you the opportunity to face the Herald and liberate the area. It’s a clever mechanic that allows you to explore as you wish, performing missions in any order, for a completely different experience than any other player; and yet you still have the same end goal in mind. It also frees you up to travel between different Heralds’ regions and build your own story.
As a customizable avatar, I played through a few missions during my time in Hope County. Some were fairly basic, like defending a church from cultists (known as “Peggies”) or liberating an outpost. In these straightforward examples, it was a simple matter of killing all the Peggies. Combat should feel familiar to veterans. A handy weapon wheel lets you select from a handful of firearms and throwable items like knives. You can also take down an enemy with your bare hands if you are stealthy enough. The AI seemed fairly smart, hiding in clever locations to take out their prey. I had more fun with the more drawn-out quests. During one story mission, I had to sneak around a camp searching for a plane, which I then got to fly out in – an enjoyable task. The most stand-out mission involved the town’s special festival, the Testy Festy. It started out normal enough: shoot down a bird to get a key that opens a barn, then drive a festival trailer to the event. Afterwards, it got weird. I found myself freeing cows so they could engage with bulls in acts of passion, set to smooth mood-making grooves. Needless to say, I sat jaw wide open at what I witnessed. Ahh, Testy Festy.
I was accompanied by a Gun for Hire, a helpful backup who revived me whenever necessary. My hired bow hunter was a decent shot, but she was nothing compared to the fun I had with another player in co-op mode. It was satisfying and sometimes hilarious to traverse the world as a pair, and it especially helped for driving sections since one of us could focus on shooting out of the window. The demo was still a work-in-progress, though, and I experienced some odd bugs like parachuting out of a car seat. Hopefully, Ubisoft can use the remaining pre-launch time to patch those out. There were some other annoying segments, like our difficulties climbing mountains and ending up separated, or the fact that one of you can actually sabotage a mission with a button prompt.
So far, the game looks beautiful. The locations feel true to life, and the characters speak and move in a manner that gives them a sense of realism. It helps that their stories feel authentic given their oppressive situation. The frame rate was smooth, and there was never a point where the game slowed down, though I did experience some motion blur at times. The licensed tracks and subdued country stylings fit both the rugged landscape and the somber tone.
Far Cry 5 is shaping up to be a game that both fans and newcomers will enjoy. Veterans will likely find the gameplay familiar, but the radically different setting of rural Montana is fresh enough to warrant a look. With my short session, I felt like I only scratched the surface. I wish I had also gone fishing, hunted more wildlife, and explored the far reaches of this wasteland. And of course, I wanted to see more of the interesting tale of the Father and his Heralds. The game has an inviting world, and should you step foot into its badlands, it might be tough to leave. Far Cry 5 launches on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC on March 27, 2018.
I am a lifelong gamer, having grown up with Nintendo since I was young. My passion for gaming led to one of the greatest moments of my life, my video game themed wedding!