Far Cry 5 isn’t an incredible game, but it’s definitely a good one. Like its predecessors, it presents you with a large, untamed open world ruled by an over-the-top villain and – in rightly disparaged Ubisoft fashion – populates your map with a massive list of menial tasks. You’ll blow up silos, capture outposts, defend NPCs, rescue NPCs, escort NPCs, accidentally kill NPCs, hunt animals, fish, and solve puzzles until Far Cry 5 reminds you that it does in fact have a story and you’re about to be forced to take part in it. So far though, that story hasn’t caught my attention. The opening cutscene, while drawn-out, is compelling, but what follows isn’t. We’re given a vague objective – help the resistance – and then left to our own devices. Which is fine. Though Far Cry 5’s advertising may have suggested otherwise, the open-world and gameplay mechanics are clearly the main draw of this game. It may purport a political agenda, but (so far) lacks either the insight or willingness to say what’s on its mind. Its lukewarm conviction makes for a lukewarm narrative, but not necessarily a bad game.
Having recently given up on Far Cry 4 after about 20 hours, I was expecting the burnout I’d experienced on that game to carry over to my playthrough of its sequel. But surprisingly, I found myself enjoying the first few hours of Far Cry 5 far more than I remember enjoying Far Cry 4. There are three main reasons for this. The first is that I believe that through the refinement of certain mechanics and the removal of others, Far Cry 5 greatly improves player experience. Looting is instantaneous, outposts have more climbable structures, animations (while less polished and visceral) are faster, the wingsuit requires a second key-press to deploy, most cutscenes and NPC interactions can be skipped, and there are no towers and no minimap*.* Secondly, the world is much more interesting. Far Cry 5’s rendition of rural Montana feels more carefully designed than Far Cry 4’s repetitive subalpine forest. Flora is thicker and more diverse, building interiors are crafted and often impressively detailed, and enemy encounters are much more frequent. Far Cry 5’s world feels real, immersive and fun, and that’s the best an open world can be.
And the third and most important reason is that unlike Far Cry 4, I didn’t play Far Cry 5 alone.
Far Cry 5’s co-op mode is probably the most fun I’ve had with a game since I played through Doom (2016) earlier this year. To clarify, that means that it’s very fucking fun. So much fun, in fact, that it took me and my friend almost half an hour to get off the first island because we were too busy hitting each other with shovels. Unleashed upon Far Cry 5’s open-world, we promised havoc and left destruction. We’d bully NPCs, throw shovels at anything that moved, drive off cliffs, mow down wildlife – in short, we’d play Far Cry 5 exactly as we would have played it alone. Maybe it’s that all things are better with someone else. But I believe that it’s because Far Cry 5 encourages a psychopathy that’s made hilarious either by seeing it in someone else, or having someone else see it in you. Seeing my friend throw shovels at cultists, be affected by a glitch, punch out bears, ignore my pleas to try stealthing just one outpost, fall and die, and drive off a cliff and explode almost immediately after telling me that it’s always better to go offroad was hysterical, even when doing those exact things on my own was, well, just me playing the game.
As well, it’s a pretty relaxing game. Even on “Hard” difficulty, Far Cry 5’s combat is fairly easy. Having someone to talk to relieves a lot of the game’s potential monotony. Driving has a particular capacity to bore, with most vehicles being an unholy union of poor handling and low speed. But where in a solo playthrough these sections would be tiresome, they provide an opportunity for you and your co-op partner to relax and have a chat before the next encounter.
I’ve really enjoyed my time so far with Far Cry 5. I discovered the Arcade last night and I recommend you check it out, as it’s probably the best AAA first-person James Bond sim out there. But even if you’d rather stick with just the main game, there’s a lot of fun to be had, especially if you bring a friend along for the ride.
Tl;dr If you’re going to pick up Far Cry 5, play co-op.
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