Far Cry 5 Preview: Guns, God, and a Giant Bear

far cry 5, far cry 5 controversy

Ubisoft's extended version of the Far Cry 5 key art (Ubisoft)

The Far Cry series obtained popularity thanks to its memorable villains, colorful supporting characters, morally dubious stories, and a strong emphasis on player choice. Far Cry 5 certainly retains these familiar elements, but it also aims to refine almost every aspect of this title. With a greater emphasis on player choice and playing with others, Far Cry 5 feels like a natural evolution for the series’ chaotic gameplay. However, players shouldn’t expect a radical departure from the franchises’ overall structure. If someone didn’t like previous Far Cry games there may not be enough here to win them back. Yet, as a long time fan, Far Cry 5 is shaping up to be the most engaging and fun game in the series.

In our preview, we got a chance to play the first hour of the game and then an additional hour with an upgraded character. We say character because unlike previous entries in this series players are not assuming the role of a specific protagonist. Instead, users will customize their own deputy via various templates and clothing options. This character is completely mute, so all of the story and dialogue is spoken to the player and not held in a conversational manner. While having a sense of personalization is important, we worry that this could cause the overall narrative to suffer. Balancing storytelling with a mute protagonist is always tricky and this is Far Cry’s first foray into this design choice.

We sat down with Ubisoft Montreal’s executive producer Dan Hay who shed some light on the difficulties in developing a mute protagonist.

“There were a ton of challenges – like a ton. I think the protagonist and having a voice gives you a great deal of being able to explain what’s happening moment to moment. But the challenge we also wanted to make sure we delivered on was making sure it was organic to the player. What we kept saying right from the beginning is ‘Maybe people won’t notice this. Maybe people won’t appreciate it unless they play the game twice.’ I’ve played the game six times now and every single time that I’ve played it, I’ve played it differently. And so, my perception of what I would say is a character is very different moment to moment. And then the perception of what I would say next to what I said before is very different.

So we don’t know how all those things are going to connect. It’s very much a choose your own adventure. At the beginning, it was super hard to offer a narrative where the protagonist couldn’t speak. But at the end, as we look at the game and the way players are playing it, makes sense. The game is responsive to what you do, to the things you decide to do. You’re the author of your own experience. So it just kind of makes sense that it’s your character”

Thankfully, a lot of the supporting characters are already beginning to shine and many instantly became memorable. While we didn’t get to interact with everyone, I did meet an intriguing handful of protagonists and antagonists. The most compelling is clearly the game’s main villain and cult leader Joseph Seed aka Father. There was an unsettling nature about Father thanks to the quiet, yet powerful performance. Far Cry has always had a habit of making their main enemies bombastic and cartoonishly evil, but Father feels completely different. You can feel the power of his words and the weight his threats carry. He’s not someone to be entertained by like Vaas, but a villain to genuinely fear.

Far Cry 5

As for the protagonists, they are on a sliding scale of believable to downright goofy. This is fine, but I worry that teaming up with a bazooka-toting redneck might kill any sense of seriousness that the main plot is trying to convey. Hay also spoke to us about striking a balance between the mature and wacky themes in Far Cry 5’s story.

“Far Cry is known for that. We’re known for being irreverent. We’re known for being interesting and having zany characters right next to earnest characters. We’re known for it. We’ve shown it in 3, we’ve shown it in 4. I think there’s no question that from the standpoint of some of the moments you’re going to have in the game there’s going to be deep emotion and there’s going to be earnest stories. But that’s okay to put you next to somebody who’s bombastic.

We’ve proven that we can do that. We’ve proven that it’s fun. I think the bigger sin would have been trying to keep that from the player. Yes, as somebody who is developing a story you want to have a deep emotional moment, but if the player wants to bring a bear with them to that deep emotional moment that’s what we’re going to do. Player first. “

In order to even get to those story-driven moments, players will need to disrupt the cult’s activity in one of three regions. Every action you take will upset the cult’s control, but this will eventually cause them to fight back. During my play time, I upset the cult enough that patrol helicopters were sent out to patrol the region for my location. I had to determine if it was worth staying in that area or to just return when I was strong enough to fight these ariel death machines. This makes Far Cry 5’s world feel more organic and reactive to your presence. Even the simple act of gather intelligence on your foes gives this overtaken county more depth.

Instead of just scouting, players can speak with locals who will offer up information they know about the cult. The catch is these details are not always correct and many are second, sometime third-hand claims that might not have the full picture. Because of this, Far Cry 5 is able to craft some tense situations where you hope that there aren’t any additional reinforcements or special enemies that could ruin your plan. It feels natural to the world and how someone in a small town setting would gather intel on Eden’s Gate.

Combat is still the same mix of high octane action and methodical stealth, but the mechanics feel more refined this time around. Gun battles are trickier as the A.I. doesn’t just wait for you to take cover and heal. Multiple times when I was low on health a group of cult members would rush me and force me out of position. It’s a nice change of pace to the normal shooting gallery design of the previous Far Cry games and adds to the near-suicidal mentality of the cult members.

For stealth players, you’ll have your normal assortment of bows, backstabs, and hiding bodies in bushes. Enemies still have questionable sightlines, but some Outposts alleviate this by not offering the player a ton of hiding spaces. This forces the player to really slow down and think about how they want to approach a location, especially if you aren’t upgraded with any perks. Ammo for the bow was far more limited than I expected and the cult even has a few of their own stealth-focused recruits. You can even the odds, however, with the new Guns for Hire mechanic that is perhaps Far Cry 5’s most ambitious addition.

While hiring packs of mercenaries for reinforcements is nothing new, Far Cry 5 steps this up and adds specialty characters. Scattered all across the map, it’s up to the player to not only meet them but earn their trust via a side quest or two. These are fully fleshed out supporting characters that interact with the world and each other. It helps lend a hand to the overall storytelling and establish an important connection with players. Far Cry 5 makes a point to not just relegate these  Guns for Hire as tools, but people that we should care about and want to help. There are also a few animals that can tag along like the enemy scouting dog Boomer or the massive bear Cheeseburger that can tank a ton of damage. Yes, you can actually have a bear as your ally and it’s just as hilarious as it sounds.

When asked Hay about the flexibility of the Guns for Hire mechanic and if it’s designed to tailor to all playstyles.

“It’s why we built the roster. The right tool for the right job. If you decide you want to go in and do distance shooting, sniper gameplay – grab Grace and you’re good. If you want to do death from above and blow everything up, you’ve got Nick. If you decide you want a living, organic tank in Cheeseburger (bear) – go in and do it.

You may want somebody who is good with fire. You may want somebody who’s good with an RPG. You may want to have somebody who is definitely going to lean into stealth, like Boomer (dog). If you decide you want to play with stealth the nice thing about Boomer is he’s an organic drone. Send him in and he tags everybody and you’re like ‘I’ve got it. I’m good to go.’ I’ve played the game six times now and when it comes to the rotisserie of what I do, I will have as many of those Guns for Hire with me.

Then I’ll look at it and go ‘Okay what’s the key to this lock? Who goes away, who comes with me? What combos do I get?’ What’s really, really cool that we’re starting to see and it’s super powerful is these characters known each other. Some of them like each other. Some of them don’t like each. Not only do you get the benefit of building a roster, you get a roster with personality.”

Final Thoughts

From my brief time with Far Cry 5, it’s clear that Ubisoft Montreal is committed to delivering a polished, engaging experience. However, there probably isn’t enough new content to win over anyone who hasn’t been a fan of this series. That being said, I cannot wait to dive back in and uncover more about Father and his twisted cult. There are still some lingering concerns, but my preview of Far Cry 5 left me with hope and optimism that this another step in the right direction for this franchise.

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