I had the opportunity last week to sit down and play several hours of the Far Cry 5 story mode. My time with the rapidly approaching open-world shooter was surprising, as it finally convinced me that it is worth checking out and has secured its place on my radar for upcoming games.
Before we dive into the nitty-gritty of what I experienced, let me give you a little bit of context on my interest in Far Cry 5 and why I believe it arrives at just the right time. My only real history with the franchise was with the title that skyrocketed its popularity: Far Cry 3.
The several dozen hours that I spent with Far Cry 3 were great, but when I was done with it, I was completely and totally done. I haven't batted an eye towards later installments like Far Cry 4 and Primal in the slightest. Much like how I feel about the original Dark Souls, Far Cry 3 satisfied me in such a way where I never felt like playing another in the series.
Far Cry 5 already had that against it, but it was only made worse when it was officially unveiled last year. I scoffed at its announcement, immediately put off by its less than exotic setting and seemingly politically charged message. It didn't seem like a game for me at all, but my time with it recently changed that completely.
Far Cry 5 Preview: Not the Same Game
I got to check out the opening portion of the game, starting with creating my own character. Though meager in its set of customization options, it was a nice touch to be able to create my own (male or female) deputy sheriff to play with. Unsurprisingly, Far Cry 5 immediately drops you in the middle of the action.
Without spoiling anything major, the game kicks off with you on assignment to arrest main villain and cult leader Father Joseph Seed. The mood of this opening is dark and grimy and escalates about as quickly as you'd expect. Before I knew it, chaos was all around me and those fond memories I have of Far Cry 3 resurfaced.
While not much has changed gameplay-wise, shooting, driving, and even stealth has been tweaked just enough to feel tighter than ever before. Whether it's shooting explosive barrels to incinerate foes or gunning down enemy vehicles from the passenger seat of a beat-up truck, the action is just as insane as you'd expect.
Though the gameplay aspect of Far Cry 5 is by and large the same, the setting and premise are where it departs significantly from other games in the series. However, my worries about both were quickly put at ease. After the intense prologue, the sun rose and I was able to truly glance at my surroundings.
The first thing I noticed was the ultra-realistic lighting. When the sunlight shined down on me for the first time, I was blinded by it like I had just walked out of being in a dim room for hours playing games. The rays illuminated the forests, rivers, and mountains that encapsulated Hope County, Montana.
As I made my way through the immense forests, I couldn't help but be in awe of the detailed foliage and gorgeous water effects. Despite growing up in the South and West, Far Cry 5 made me want to explore this somehow strange and unfamiliar place that exists in the same country I've always lived in.
Far Cry 5 Preview: Let's Go Down to the River
Far Cry 5 presents a disturbing scenario with real-world undertones, making it all the more unsettling as a result. Father Joseph and his cult are handled well. My favorite moments of this preview were when Joseph was in the room, with him stealing every scene he's in and giving Far Cry villains like Vaas and Pagan Min a run for their money. As the story went on, his speeches and backstory made me understand why so many people would willingly follow him, which is crucial to a story like this.
But at the end of the day, we all know that Far Cry 5 is about liberating Hope County from his rule and the progression of doing so feels natural. Instead of simply climbing up a tower to reveal a region (something the game even pokes fun at), you organically get to know the environment as you play.
The HUD feels purposefully cleaner and less cluttered, making you want to explore and discover everything on your own. There are puzzle quests to solve for loot, citizens and outposts to liberate, cult property to destroy, companions to recruit and more. In the time I spent with the game, the mission variety didn't become repetitive, something which is crucial to an open-world game of this nature.
Far Cry 5 Preview: You've Got a Friend in Me
Far Cry 5 puts a lot of focus on its partner system. You aren't meant to fight the cult on your own, as the game has numerous guns- and fangs-for-hire for you to recruit to accompany you on missions. Some of these two- and four-legged companions even have entire questlines that you can dive into and find out more about them.
The companions had reliable AI, actually assisting during missions rather than hindering you. No matter if you choose stealth or go for the guns blazing approach, your partners will respond accordingly. I found that stealth is certainly the way to go most of the time, with the game frequently encouraging you to do so.
This is fine for someone like me who enjoys sneaking around in the grass and then taking down each enemy one at a time, but some may find this focus off-putting if it stretches too far into the game on the whole. Two story missions I completed I completed in a span of only a few hours forced me to be sneaky, with both of them revolving around saving hostages that would be killed if I was seen. Though there was an ample amount of things to do in Far Cry 5, hopefully the manner in which you can tackle its story missions has much more variety in the finished game.
There were some strange technical issues, too, that I hope are ironed out by the time of release. I was randomly killed a couple of times during cutscenes; I would be talking to a person and therefore unable to move, and enemies would target my defenseless character from nearby. This happened a couple of times and made me lose progress in the process.
Thankfully, those hiccups did little to deter me from my enjoyment of Far Cry 5, and I was surprised by how much of a good time I had with it considering my feelings on the series. When it was all said and done, all I wanted was to go back and just run around causing mayhem in a helicopter or dive deeper into the rabbit hole surrounding Father Joseph and the Eden's Gate cult.
That's why it's easy to say there's no better time for this game to release than now. For those like me that have lost interest in the series, it's shaping up to be different enough to bring you back into the fold. It looks like Far Cry 5 has arrived at just the right time.