Far Cry 5 blossoms into something wonderful once you kill the plot-baddies

far-cry-faith

The way I see it, there are only two significant failings in Far Cry 5. These are its story and the way it creates action in its open world. “But Alec,” asks the imagined reader who hangs on my every word and doesn’t just skip to the end in the hope I actually have something worthwhile to say, “doesn’t that mean basically the whole game?”

“Ho-ho,” I reply in this farcical imagined conversation in which I have already been infinitely more erudite than I am in any real conversation, “you have fallen for my clever introductory ruse designed to either make you nod in furious agreement or raise your fists heavenward in furious disagreement, and in either case you are now unable to resist the siren call to read on. And if, somehow, you are not, how about this: Far Cry 5 blossoms from infuriatingly stupid caterpillar into beautifully madcap butterfly once you have summarily murdered its terrible bosses.”

There are shovelfuls of minor ones too, but honestly, I really do think there are only two significant failings in Far Cry 5, the story and the way it creates action in its open world. I share John’s distaste for the former, and particularly his frustration at how, at certain junctures, this sandbox game will forcibly interrupt me with yet more pompous cutscenes that take a painfully long time to say nothing at all, and will further add that the ‘Faith’ magic drug-witch character comprises some of the most woefully vapid videogame storytelling in recent memory.

What I’m saying is that a Far Cry 5 in which the entire narrative design comprised a single sentence at the start reading “kill the bad men” would be a significantly more intelligent and rewarding Far Cry 5 than the one we got.

far-cry-5-crash

But even then, we’d still have the other problem, one that you can’t skip wholesale by pressing Escape. That being that, unless you’re knee-deep in a setpiece mission, Far Cry 5 sprays countless angry bad men all over the place like a dog shaking itself dry after a swim in a sheep piss-polluted stream. Sure, sure, you’re the de facto rebel leader running amok in a landscape in which almost everyone else is mindlessly obedient to the local man-bun’n’mumblecore despot (the plot is inconsistent on the question of whether this is a cult of personality or if Drugs Did It), so it’s hardly the place to be if you’re after a relaxing country stroll-about.

Even so, this forested tract of Montana is a big old place, with an infinity of places to hide and no shortage of treacherous terrain, so the propensity of dozens of Bad Men (each of which are allocated one of five faces) to near-instantly arrive at the one place you stood up in for five seconds is quite remarkable. I’m particularly impressed by helicopter pilots’ ability to discern, from 1,500 feet, that my scorched and blood-splattered checkered shirt is meaningfully different to the thousands of other blood-splattered and scorched checkered shirts worn by most everyone else in this blighted but beautiful place.

The overall effect is of a game pathologically afraid that its players might become bored. Wherever you go, unless you’re locked into a crouch and a long way from roads at all time, barrow-loads of bellowing killers will arrive. While you’re fighting one lot, another two groups of them will likely arrive, and during all that at least one hapless neutral NPC will drive their car into the the thick of things. Literally so, given how chaotic the driving AI is – these guys will plough right into a firefight, attempt to drive right over a truck or up the nearest wall, and the consequence of that is only more and more wreckage, explosions and pile-up.

far-cry-5-plan

It’s a spectacle, sure, but most of all it’s simply annoying, like being repeatedly stopped by people hawking Burger King discount vouchers or surveys about your opinion on Vodafone while you’re trying to walk through town to catch a bus.

Here’s an example, a short tunnel in the North of the region, which I fetched up at after completing a nearby quest, and decided to hang around just to see how mad things would get. The answer: yeah, quite mad. Planes falling from the sky, random bear attacks, van after van after van full of Bad Men… So much wreckage, so much death. This ten minutes of unbridled chaos while staying on the same tiny stretch of mountain road is very much The Far Cry 5 Experience:

Now, you might argue that all this is because I, the Most Wanted in this place, hung around the same spot, word inevitably got out and every enemy in the area zeroed in on me. That would make sense. That is, however, not what is going on here. The game’s unseen Director Of Constant Ridiculous Action does not care where you are, how long you’ve been there or even what you’re doing. All it cares about is that you’re there, and therefore it will rain down enemies upon you for as long as you are. Because if it didn’t, why, you might have the time and space to question what the heck you’re doing with your time and stop playing, and we just can’t have that, otherwise you might not buy the DLC.

Between this and the diabolical, forced ‘capture’ cutscenes which happen three times per zone, exploring Far Cry 5’s gorgeous environments can feel a lot like going to the cinema only to wind up sat next to a boozed-up stag party group who are convinced you’re profoundly interested in the tale of how Dezza once took his trousers off during the Arsenal match. A surprisingly ambient game of exploration and random adventures that I greatly enjoy, held hostage by the screeching cacophony of focus-grouped #engagement.

far-cry-5-bliss

There is, thank the unspecified god that the endless cutscene dialogue forgets to say anything at all about, a solution. It does not, unfortunately, take the form of a big button on the main menu marked 'Time-wasting Bullshit On/Off'. What it requires instead is pouring at least a dozen hours – and potentially as many as 30 – into the game, and, I’m afraid, actively seeking out all of Far Cry 5’s most wretched storytelling in quick succession.

The game map’s divided into three primary zones, each of which has an overlord who will grow increasingly angry with you as you complete resistance missions within that zone. As they grow angrier, the zone will grow hotter – more enemies, better-armed enemies, enemies in helicopters, and so forth. You’ll also, as I say, get captured a couple of times, and made to sit through more painfully long cutscenes about nothing at all, but on the third time this happens, you get to go kill the overlord afterwards. And then? Then there is bliss.

The zone doesn’t become enemy-free, but it does massively dial-down the number of roaming or teleported-in Bad Men, by-and-large replacing them with equally interchangeable friendly NPCs. Finding trouble is not at all hard – you can scan with your binoculars, investigate unvisited locations or take up one of the many, many missions you’ve yet to do – but, crucially, you now go looking for trouble, as opposed to trouble endlessly, comically finding you whenever you have the temerity to have a quick look around.

far-cry-bliss

I’ve flipped the Time-Wasting Bullshit button to Off in two of the three zones now, and I’m so happy noodling about them, finding secret hideouts, going fishing, wingsuiting from clifftops, taking on races, liberating strongholds – all that good Far Cry stuff without the bad Far Cry stuff. I have, many hours later, zero inclination to go to the other zone and finish the story. I’m having too good a time exploring the now-sane other two.

I can now go to that same tunnel in the video above and, though I’ll see plenty of traffic, it won’t become a twenty-car, forty-body pile-up. I can climb the mountains nearby or glide down to the valley below and, probably but not definitely, I won’t get shot at until I start shooting at something. You might call that boring, but I call it playing on my terms, free to explore this amazing space, following an untaken road and very possibly finding a firefight at the end of it. That feels so much more tense and considered than the constant human pinata it was before I beat the boss. Icing on the cake is that I never, ever have to hear another pointless word from that boss’ dreary mouth again.

The more I play Far Cry 5, the more my certainty grows that this a very considered game in a surprisingly soulful place, at risk of suffocation from a very ill-considered game draped loosely on top of it, which howls and screeches in what it believes is expected fashion. I had to do 30 hours of digging first, but now I’ve found my way to the gold.

34 Comments

  1. satan says:

    What the hell, I failed the math problem I was asked to solve when logging in… 0+1=? 1! But that was wrong? I wasn’t trying to multiply 0 by something, I was adding something to it…

  2. The Regulator Guy says:

    Welcome to the Bliss.

  3. Grizzly says:

    I’ve been playing and replaying quite a bit of the older Far Cries at this point, and I always tempt myself into restarting a game with a mod.

    And then, I stop, because even the best mods make me sit trough a lot of the arbitrary stuff again, and I revert back to the old savegame where I finished the game and play from that, and just press the button that resets all the outposts again. It’s simply a far more enjoyable way to experience these games.

    • Sin Vega says:

      There’s a mod for FC3 that skips all the story bullshit (frustratingly not the tutorial) and lets you dick around straight away. It also makes changes to the crafting etc so there’s more incentive to do so. And you can do the godawful story missions if you want, it just doesn’t keep badgering you about it.

      • Grizzly says:

        I know the mod you refer to, but it’s still got the whole crafting shenaniganery which I don’t enjoy in Far Cry with the exception of Primal.

      • Stevostin says:

        Actually FC4 let you do that without a mod. Just wait during the first cinematic and eventually the baddy come back, you’ll have dinner and you end the game. I assume you get to the endgame map access from there.

        I read there’s a simikar tricks in fc5.
        link to m.youtube.com
        Can anyone check what happens after the credit ?

    • PancakeWizard says:

      I went back to Far Cry 2 (with Dylan’s Realism Mod) instead of buying the new one, and I have no regrets. The tutorial is quick (by today’s standards), and you’re basically told at the end ‘OK here’s what these icons mean, now do what you want’ and that’s it. The Jackal is also a far more compelling antagonist than the cartoon villains the later installments went with. It’d make a pretty great movie, IMO.

      The mod calms down the checkpoint respawns amongst other things, which was the biggest gripe people seemed to have with the game.

      • Grizzly says:

        I’ve got about 130 hours on Steam clocked for Far Cry 2, and I played quite a bit of that game before I even got the steam version. It is an excellent game, no mistake, but the lovely mods for it are still somewhat too limited in scope for me to want to return to it.

      • MrEvilGuy says:

        I love FC1 + 2, hate all the others!

        FC1 is probably too dated by now, but I’d imagine FC2 is worth checking out for those who haven’t played it before.

      • fearandloathing says:

        Modded FC2 has been one of the most satisfying FPS experiences I’ve ever witnessed, and I played it in 2016 if I’m not wrong. Read Heart of Darkness, watch Apocalypse Now, play FC2, and you’ll wander through oppressive jungles in your sleep.

  4. haldolium says:

    “all that good Far Cry stuff without the bad Far Cry stuff.”

    All that stuff other games do a lot better. I constantly felt the urge to reinstall Just Cause, GTA, Saints Row, Dying Light, Wildlands because they all have better gameplay in terms of shenanigans or the core loop, or both. FC5 doesn’t do anything particular good, except having the bear and the cougar and being able to pet both.

    • jroger says:

      I can’t talk about Wildlands, but none of the others have particularly satisfying shooting.

    • Stevostin says:

      GTA or Saint Row fights are really reaally shitty compared to even the worst of FC.

  5. Zenicetus says:

    I finally bailed on the game, about halfway through. Cleared John Seed’s zone, and yeah, the remaining story missions and exploring were more fun in that area afterwards. Then halfway into the animal guy’s zone, I hit one capture sequence that was just tedious and not fun at all. That was enough.

    There is just too much scripted nonsense in this game, and not just the captured player bits. Some of the story missions are equally dreadful. The “emergent” combat in the open world can be fun, but then it’s ruined by how few enemy types there are. I swear I’ve killed the exact same guys with their identical trucks and ATV’s 1000 times now. I don’t need to kill 1000 more exactly the same way, to clear all three areas and start having more fun.

    Maybe I’ll go back and finish it one day, but at halfway through, I feel like I’ve already milked this game for what it has to offer. I have other games in the backlog that won’t have this level of fun-interruptus and mindless padding.

  6. Chorltonwheelie says:

    Dezza’s a good lad really.
    Claims his drink was spiked…I suspect he’s just a lightweight.

  7. Doug Exeter says:

    I wasn’t interested playing it until I realized it was Co-op, now I think despite the complaints it still sounds like fun. My discord was playing it and I chuckled when these articles started popping up since the number 1 complaint that kept coming up was “Oh what the hell, it’s making us do a story mission again”

  8. lucasdigital says:

    Finished the game last night. Possibly the most jarring and cynical endings of any game I’ve ever played. It felt like a kick in the teeth – one not as clever as its creators probably think and too lacking in real foreshadowing to provide me with much satisfaction. That said, I loved the game, Ubisoft has polished and streamlined their hike-drive-murder-fishing simulator to new heights. And that arcade mode…

  9. tslog says:

    With my playthrough you didn’t have to leave the roads for long at all before there were hardly any human enemies to engage in the open world past the grossly underwhelming and repetitive side/mini missions.
    During world exploration There were some animal to “loot” after you chose to take them down, but it’s never fun. Animals on Hard can be easily defeated with regular assault rifles, or you can try the bow and Arrow but if you miss once or twice or take on a heavier animal they will frequently run away in the opposite direction and you’re never likely to catch up.
    There’s hardly any groups of animals to fight. Apart from a few Bisons in groups.
    Any There’s a grouping of swooping eagles once I reached 1 hill peak.
    That is a failing of the open game world combat director that’s past major roads, and of open world combat engagement design that FC 3 and 4 did better.

    Also, All the companions that fight alongside you if you choose also badly break the balancing of the game. I’m playing on hard and I’m only at max an above average skilled gamer, yet Any NPC assistance will make the game too easy.
    I’m forced to do self balancing by not using NPC assistance , not using homeopathics unless desperate, and low use of explosives to balance the game for actually “Hard” levels of tension.
    Sure they Can be fun for bouts of OP, but not when it’s this badly unbalanced.

    And it’s amazing that no one hardly ever talks about this, but AI is essential to the future of gaming. It’s bad enough in FC 5, and actually was then in three and four.

    How many article across the day media divided time to Fsr Cry’s AI ?

    Still not as bad as the widespread wilful omission of the terrible Souls series AI, but the trend continues. Ensuring that observing Publishers and developers will ignore good AI a lot like later but gamers don’t care either.

    FC5 world is a nice place that I like to run and walk around in, bit i’m in action style gamer and I’m not satisfied here.

    • Hyena Grin says:

      “Animals on Hard can be easily defeated with regular assault rifles”

      This quasi-complaint got a chortle out of me.

  10. Minglefingler says:

    I bought this despite some misgivings having heard about the enemy spawn rate. Alec’s video pretty much sums up my experience with the game which I turned off today after three planes spawned within ten minutes, one of which spotted me as I was inside a building. Not to mention the cultists who appeared right beside me with a prisoner in tow whilst I was shooting down plane number two. Or the randomly placed helicopter on the ground that respawned within two minutes of a plane blowing it up. This took place at a prepper stash that was nowhere near a road. I don’t think I can be arsed playing any more unless they patch this nonsense out.

  11. fearandloathing says:

    It’s confirmed: FC5 will make it to the bestest of the year list. Seen this before with The Division and other FCs, “the game is shit and shit like that, oh but once you spend a lot of your precious time, and overlook all those shittyness, it’s gorgeous and solid”, it’s an AAA title with multi-million budget, of course it will be solid and gorgeous. I don’t see non-AAA games having it easy like this, it’s as if I’m reading IGN when it comes to Ubi games.

    • Traipse says:

      Is it that hard to believe that a game can have both positive and negative traits, and the fact that the negative traits exist don’t mean that the game is entirely without value? Something can be both fun _and_ infuriating.

      • fearandloathing says:

        Not at all. Yet when it comes to Ubi games, any positives tend to weigh in much more, so much that their verdict ends up contradicting what they had said so far. Either show the same mercy to all games, or don’t spend bigger chunk of articles to complain so much about a game that you’re gonna end up putting in the bestests of the year list.

  12. Enigma-3D says:

    Not a single mention of how the attack-choppers in the game totally break it?

    • GAmbrose says:

      In what way? Does the game force you to use them?

      • Josh W says:

        In the way that games can be broken by things you’re not forced to use?

  13. Arglebargle says:

    Sounds like FC5 will be worth the $5 I will eventually pay for the game, once modders have fixed all the conceptual errors the developers spent millions on.

  14. AyeBraine says:

    I’ll just comment so that it’s there, also. I liked Far Cry 3’s story and story missions. Yes, they were on the rails, but only compared to the freedom everyone (and me) liked in the game. And as a screenwriter, I liked the work they put in those missions. Maybe it’s the modern setting, but I almost liked it more than Skyrim’s story missions.

    Behind the ridiculous A-Team setpieces there was an unsettling game, a game about deranged actual people who do stuff in a hellish playground of an archipelago – creating their own cartoonish, regressive reality like warlords tend to do in civil war zones, no matter if it’s early 90’s Tadjikistan or mid-90’s Balkans, or Eastern Timor.

    It was not immersive the way Far Cry 2 must have been (I’ve yet to dive into it finally for good), but without these horrible characters and scripted sequences, islands would not give the same impact for me. I’ve even went back to check – yes, RPS gave FC3 a very warm review especially praising the plot and plot missions. Maybe the current aversion to Far Cries as plot games is a reaction to this? Like a desire to correct past mistakes? Note that I also liked Bioshock Infinite’s plot, so I realize that I’ll just have to deal with the fact RPS despises both of these.

  15. Vegas says:

    “I can climb the mountains nearby or glide down to the valley below and, probably but not definitely, I won’t get shot at until I start shooting at something. You might call that boring, but I call it playing on my terms, free to explore this amazing space, following an untaken road and very possibly finding a firefight at the end of it”

    As good as your writing is, I find my tastes diverging from yours these days in this specific way. I find it very difficult to treat video games as these kind of tranquil, scenic lands to explore. I’d much rather just go outside and take in the fresh air, sunlight, and real nature if I’m in that kind of mood.

    • Marclev says:

      The enemy spawn rate does seem either broken in FC5, or worse the designers actually thought people wanted to have constant combat without pause.

      But turning it into a glorified walking simulator (a genre which I can only assume is a big practical joke that reviewers keep on falling for) seems boring to me too, there surely has to be some happy medium between the two.

    • Angel Dust says:

      Based on his views of this and that American truck simulator, I reckon Alec has a particular fondness for the American landscape and he obviously can’t get that by walking outside wherever in Britain he lives.

      I mean, I live in New Zealand and there is no shortage of spectacular nature, that I definitely take in from time to time, but I still like doing a little bit of virtual tourism of places I have very little chance of ever actually going to.