'Far Cry 5' Review: A Perfect Atmosphere Makes Up For a Lacking Story

8.5 / 10 (Xbox)

The opening of Far Cry 5 will stick with me for years. The scene with the player, controlling a rookie deputy, arresting Joseph Seed, the monstrous and magnetic leader of a doomsday cult, features gripping voice acting, timely relevance and is saturated with a mist-like dread that seeps into your every pore. While the remainder of Far Cry 5 manages to maintain that same sense of dread throughout, the quality of its storytelling unravels from there, revealing a mechanically sound, if familiar, game with uneven and repetitive moments.

From a technical perspective, Far Cry 5 is a triumph. Gameplay is smooth as silk, even if it is virtually identical to previous iterations in the franchise. There's a heavy emphasis on stealth, like previous games, and players can go through the entire campaign in co-op with a friend. There aren't any new weapons from previous games, so expect the same rifles, SMGs, bows, shotguns and rocket launchers you have come to know. As they say, if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Far Cry 5 has a hauntingly perfect atmosphere, but is hindered by odd storytelling Ubisoft

Most of the other Far Cry gameplay staples return as well, like clearing outposts. The one major difference this time around is climbing towers. You'll never have to climb a radio tower to reveal zones on the map this time around. Locations and other items of interest are instead revealed in a more natural way, like finding signs along the side of the road, talking to people in town and listening to voicemails left on telephones.

Far Cry 5 also shines, oftentimes literally. Graphics are stunning, and the lighting especially stood out as impressive. If a standard Xbox One makes this game look so good, I can only imagine what a PS4 Pro, Xbox One X or high-end PC can display. I did experience two brief moments of framerate chugging, but the fact that I can only recall two small incidents throughout my entire playtime is pretty positive.

The one big change to gameplay is character progression. In previous Far Cry games, players would be tasked with hunting specific animals to craft new gear, and could unlock abilities by earning points. Far Cry 5 does away with almost all of the crafting, and many of the perks you'd expect to see early on are included immediately.

Players now must complete challenges to earn perk points to unlock upgrades. These are mostly identical upgrades, like increased ammo capacity or a shorter refresh time between summoning an ally to fight by your side, but made for specific weapons or characters. They didn't feel that cool to unlock, because few actually changed my strategy or how I played. It was nice not having to hunt down a specific, rare animal to finally access a new perk, but this new system isn't the best replacement either.

While gameplay is largely great, Far Cry 5's story has many issues. Players are thrust into a county in Montana that has become overrun by a cult that believes the end of the world is imminent. Life as we know it is coming to a close, so the cult is attacking anything and everything, because that's how cults work, I guess. Ubisoft managed to take this setting and pump in some truly scary stuff. No matter where I was, there were horrifying reminders of the cult's influence everywhere I turned.

The majority of gameplay sees players working in one of three areas to rid the zone of the cult's presence. Each of the three areas is controlled by one of Joseph's siblings, and each sibling has a distinct flair to them. Jacob Seed is militant, and brainwashes people to get them to do his bidding. Faith Seed uses a drug called Bliss to turn minds into mush, while John Seed is more of a televangelist type of leader.

While the leader of each area is different, the story of completing each area is almost beat-for-beat identical. Players get to an area, meet up with some locals and blow stuff up. This gets the attention of the area's boss, and you have several run-ins before ultimately clearing the area.

Far Cry 5 might actually suffer from its open-world organization. If the game were more linear, it would be possible to tell a more cohesive story. Because the player has free roam to tackle missions in any order, sacrifices had to be made in how the story could be told. This leads to weird gaps in storytelling, and characters seemingly ignoring what has already happened.

If you have a problem with Bond villains talking and talking until the secret agent eventually gets free and saves the day, you'll hate Far Cry 5. Players are captured again and again by the Seeds, only for them to let you go every time. It makes for weird moments when you reach certain milestones and know it's time to get hauled off to some bunker, only so you can be released.

All this leads up to the final altercation with Joseph Seed at his compound. It's almost impossible to review this game without mentioning the final moments, so I'll keep this as spoiler-free as possible. This ending was odd, to say the least. It seems to come out of nowhere and almost justifies the Seeds and their horrible cult. Then again, seeing as how Far Cry 5 intentionally messes with your head, you start to wonder if it's even real in the first place.

I'll go further into the ending in a future article, because it's something that is confusing and doesn't make much sense. I'd also love to know your thoughts on it once more people have finished Far Cry 5. For now, please keep the comments section free from all spoilers.

Ultimately, Far Cry 5 is a fun, beautiful game with a knockout opening, but the story meanders throughout. Ubisoft managed to create a world filled with dread and hopelessness, but didn't give that compelling a reason to make us want to fix it. And in the end, it might not mean anything anyway. Damn, I need a drink.

So what do you think? Are you excited to begin your own adventure in Far Cry 5? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.