An underwhelming hands-on experience.
Ubisoft’s Far Cry 5 has been the talk of the internet town since its reveal last month. Its Montana setting had fans excited as it brings about a change from the more exotic settings that players have explored in the past few titles. On top of that, the game’s E3 2017 trailer showed off some pretty violent gameplay with some enemy literally being mauled into a bloody pulp by the player as they cruised across a field in a tractor. It was all looking like Far Cry 5 would be a true turning point for the series, taking the criticisms of its predecessors and adding in some intriguing new features to boot. While it does address some things, it doesn’t feel anywhere near as different as Ubisoft wants you to believe.
During my hands-on time with Far Cry 5 at E3 2017, I was guided through the demo by a member of the development team. This started off the same way that Far Cry 5’s E3 gameplay trailer did. I took care of the same small outpost before the demo changed things up. I was then sent to help out Nick Rye, an NPC with access to a plane, before then taking to the skies in said plane to blow up a silo, and an enemy aircraft. It was just as action-packed as it sounds, but it highlighted just how similar Far Cry 5 feels to its predecessor and how little of an impact these features will likely have on the overall experience.
The E3 demo’s focus was clearly on the ‘For Hire’ NPCs you have at your disposal. You’ve got Nick Rye, a prop plane pilot who can rain death from above; Boomer, a dog that’ll maul your enemies to death and bring you their guns; and Grace Armstrong, a sniper who’ll drop the extremists from range. These add a new dynamic to Far Cry 5’s combat, but it’s one that I imagine I’ll rarely use when playing the full game next year. This all comes down to the way that these are executed.
To mark an enemy for execution, players have to have the enemy in their sights with L2/ LT, and then use left on the d-pad to initiate the action. You’ve then got to wait for them to take care of the target, which they don’t always take care of on the first attempt. As a result, I often found myself waiting around for my AI partner to finish the job, before getting tired of waiting and finishing them off myself. It’s a neat mechanic, but one that rarely feels like the right thing to do when you could easily press R2/ RT and just pop them yourself, especially when you’re pinned down by gunfire from all angles.
Once I’d cleared out the first outpost, the developer told me a little bit about how things have been changed regarding the open world. Fans will be pleased to know that radio stations are gone. Instead, the whole map is unlocked from the start and you’ll uncover places of interest through examining billboards, notes, and acquiring intel from NPCs at the end of certain missions. It’s great to hear the radio towers are gone, but the demo didn’t really show how this new exploration system will really work. Here’s hoping this’ll rejuvenate the world exploration in Far Cry 5.
With the outpost cleared of enemies, a bar on the left-hand side of the screen shot up. I was told this was my resistance meter, which represented the support I’d gathered from those Montana residents who had opted to try and fight against the doomsday cult. Unfortunately, when asking what this meant for the overall gameplay, the answer was a little underwhelming. Simply put, players will face more resistance from the enemy AI. Future outposts will have more enemies with more powerful weapons and vehicles at their disposal. So basically, just like every other Far Cry game.
It’s not all bad, though. With the map completely open from the beginning, missions are unlocked by raising said resistance level. This actually sounds like a neat idea, providing players with more freedom to go and tackle the game in whatever way and order that they want. Unfortunately, this isn’t something that I could get to grips with in the demo and, hopefully, will be a feature of Far Cry 5 that will prove me wrong when the full game releases.
Before taking to the skies for the final part of the demo, I was told I could take some time out from the action to enjoy a spot of fishing. This is one of the side quests that players will be able to pass their time in Montana with upon the game’s full release alongside hunting and others that Ubisoft wouldn’t talk about. Reeling in a catch provides you with crafting materials to upgrade your equipment. It felt like less of a chore than sprinting after wildlife with your knife, but not enough to make crafting feel like a natural part of your progression through the game.
Ultimately, Far Cry 5 still feels very much like its predecessors. The setting is great and there’s certainly an authentic feel to Montana more than any other setting we’ve seen in the series, but the new features at the heart of the demo felt insignificant in the grand scheme of things. While I could be proven wrong by the features that couldn’t be explored in the demo, Far Cry 5 doesn’t feel like the overhaul the series is beginning to need.