Far Cry 5 [official site] is a Far Cry game. It's impossible for me to say whether it'll be a great Far Cry game, an adequate Far Cry game or a poor Far Cry game, but after playing it at E3, I can definitively state that it is a Far Cry game. Clearing out a town of angry cult members, I sniped, shotgunned, stealthed and 'sploded my way through a bunch of buildings, and had a jolly good time.
You know about this though. You've played a Far Cry game, right? So let's assume all of the vehicles and guns and missions are working fine, and if not we'll figure that out when we have review code and can take a proper look. For now, it seems best to talk about the dog.
Boomer is the dog's name and that is a fine name for a dog. He's a wiry mongrel, the kind of dog I'd happily describe as a tyke or a ragamuffin, and he is one of your 'guns for hire' even though he doesn't actually have a gun. Here are the important things I learned about him, with occasional thoughts on the other guns for hire I used.
Boomer likes to play fetch. With guns.
Giving Boomer commands is simple. You hold down a button, then click a target. That target can be an area, an object or a person. If it's a person and that person is bad, Boomer is going to sic 'em. If it's an area, he'll scout it for you, acting as a second pair of eyes, and marking points of interest (including enemy locations) on the minimap.
At one point I was pinned down behind a scrapped car, running low on ammo. Boomer snarled somewhere in the distance and I picked him out in the thick of the action, savaging a rifle-toting baddie. When he'd finished the guy off, Boomer collected the rifle in his mouth and trotted back to me, bullets whistling past his wonky little ears, and dropped it at my feet. Fresh clip, new gun, good boy.
I was delighted to find sticks of dynamite in my inventory, attached to a hotkey. Lobbing them around is fun but I have to admit to mild disappointment that Boomer doesn't chase after them, bring them back and drop them at my feet. Sure, it'd be potentially horrific but it'd be hilarious. And...
He cannot die
...even if he did carry a lit stick of dynamite for just a little longer than he should, Boomer would be fine. If you've ever listened to Marc Maron's interview podcast, WTF, you may have heard him saying “Boomer lives” in reference to his lost cat. This Boomer also lives. Possibly forever.
He can get taken out of the action if the baddies damage him enough, but you can call him back in once the fight is over. This is true of all the companions and while it's lovely that I don't have to worry about digging a hole in the Montana dirt for my good buddy Boomer, in a world that is so full of violence and its consequences, it feels odd to have immortals walking among us. That feeds into my biggest concern about the guns for hire...
A little too much help from my friends?
The three Far Cry companions I've seen might do too much of my job for me. The two human chums available in the demo provide such powerful assistance that I completed the takeover during one playthrough while I was hiding next to a toilet. I'd told Grace Armstrong, my snipey companion, to take up a position on a guard tower, and as soon as the fight started, she picked off enemies one after another. I didn't even see the last one fall.
Nick, the cropduster turned air support, flies above whatever battlefield you've found yourself in and rains down death from above. It's spectacular and chaotic in a way that suits Far Cry to a tee, but it does feel a little to much like using a magical power. That's probably not going to be an issue later in the game, when the enemies are more numerous and tougher, and I could always choose to leave Nick behind, but I'd rather have useful companions who are fragile than invincible powers in the form of men, women and dogs.
It's worth repeating that they will be taken down if their health gets too low, so they're not strictly unstoppable; they will be back in action when you next need them though. I can't help but think this might relate to their position in the narrative (I hope that Boomer, in particular, has a big role to play in the story) – gotta keep them alive so they can deliver their lines... and possibly die in a cutscene much later on.
Boomer makes enemies twitchy
It's often the little details that stand out rather than the big, explosive setpieces. I had no idea if Boomer's fuzzy little face appeared on any Wanted posters across Hope County, or if the baddies saw him as just one more mutt hunting for kibble and a scratch behind the ear. Turns out, they have no idea he's a freedom fighting Fido and won't shoot on sight when he comes sniffing around their enclosures (a traditional dog greeting), but they will react.
This is important and goes some way toward countering my previous point. If Boomer passed completely unnoticed, he'd feel invisible and that'd exacerbate my worry that he's essentially a shortcut, doing bits of the Far Cry job for me. Instead, the subtle animations as he passes through a camp make him seem like a part of the world. People shoo him away, point their guns at him, and are startled to see him trotting along with such purpose. They won't open fire and ruin your stealthy approach, but they don't act like he's non-existent, and that makes him feel like more than a cheat code or extension of an existing skill.
You can pet him
Did you know that you can pet dogs in Watch Dogs 2? You can watch them too, of course, but how lovely that you can befriend them briefly. It's the same in Far Cry 5.
Anyone who doesn't reward Boomer with a quick stroke and a scratch when he brings them a gun is a terrible person. Please be sure to let the dog know how much you appreciate his assistance, and his existence.