The older I get the less excited I get about new games coming out.
Don't get me wrong, I can still be turned into a jibbering mess once in a while. The first time Nintendo showed us what Mario could do with his hat in Super Mario Odyssey had me punching there air and screaming "OH MY GOD HE CAN CHUCK IT ON A DINOSAUR" in front of my wife and child.
It's just that I've noticed that fewer games get this sort of reaction out of me and long gone are the days where I would read everything about a game before release. I no longer keep refreshing forum threads, or pray to the almighty Dave Perry every night in a hope that Amazon send out my copy early.
It takes a lot for me to genuinely fall head over heals in excitement for a game.
Far Cry 5
achieved this. That initial trailer hit home with me in so many ways. I've loved every Far Cry
game I've played but it's fair to say that things hadn't really moved on much since 3
managed to offer something different but it never felt like a huge step forward in terms of mechanics and overall experience.
Far Cry 5
's marketing campaign set my expectations high. It suggested that the time was right to focus down on the narrative and comment on not only the world as it is today but the possibility of what some fear it could become. It looked like it had something to say, and I was excited to find out what that was.
Things start off well in this regard. The opening sequence is dripping with an unsettling combination of horror and calm. Characters are softly spoken, speaking of peace and love. Everyone moves slowly, people hold out their arms in acceptance, meanwhile in the background there's slaughter, blood and guns.
There's a moment where you're walking back to a helicopter after arresting someone and people are screaming in agony at what is going on. The man you're arresting doesn't fight, he calms everyone down as he's lead away and you feel uneasy.
It's a commentary on how and why so many people have fallen into a cult that has turned barbaric. You could have been killed the moment you landed. Instead things played out differently and you start to understand why the cult has built a following. What you want to know is why they're abusing their position.
It's this strong opening that makes the rest of the plot more than a little disappointing. Far Cry
games have never had a fantastic overall plot. 4
did the best job of trying to tie all of your activities together and give them meaning but it still felt a little forced. What those games did have, though, were memorable characters. From charismatic antagonists to comedic side characters, the Far Cry series was full of them but they seem to be lacking here.
Most of the people you stumble across when exploring Ubisoft's near post-apocalyptic Montana are nothing more than cliches that are hardly given any time to develop. There are alien-chasing hippies, a man with a flame thrower burning cult members while playing Disco Inferno over his speaker system and a sherrif who appears to be working on his last day before retirement before getting captured.
When we are treated to something a little different, our time with them is so brief that you'd wished that the games was a little more focused on fewer personalities rather than have a huge ensemble filled with people straight out of the Little Britain
book of character design.
There are characters that stand out. There's Jess Black, a tortured woman eager to get revenge not only for herself but for the people she's met throughout her life, or Adelade Druman, a boot-kicking, tobacco-chewing mother figure who loves raining down fire from her pimped out helicopter as much as she does tweaking your cheeks and ruffling your hair. Both are fantastic, but they're drowned out but the screaming bomb loving, paper thin cringe filled humans they share their space with.
Even the majority of the cult's head family fall into the forgotten world of uninteresting beings. John and Jacob are both nothing to write home about. Faith is the most interesting of the group, beautiful but terrifying with her manipulation, she's how I'd always thought Catwoman or Poison Ivy should be, but she nails the sweetness with death in her eyes better than they do. It's a shame, then, that this game goes nowhere with her and, bogged down with the mission structure, is forced into predictable entrances and narrative beats that don't offer her a chance to shine.
Then there's Joseph, or Jesus as he would like to be seen as. He has a touch of all of the others and it culminates in a truly haunting figure, but as usual with those games he's only really used sparingly throughout and although it's always a joy when he is, he never does enough to become anything more than just someone you're working towards killing.
The tone isn't in fitting with the opening either. You go from fearing the world around you to blowing it up in no time. The oppressive nature of the first location you're in disintegrates the moment you are first let free and you meet thousands who see the cult as nothing more than flies to swat.
Along with all this, Far Cry 5
fails to deliver on what it appeared to be marketing in terms of storytelling. It doesn't address real world issues at any point, and instead focuses on indoctrination through lies, drugs and conditioning, which is something the series has already dealt with a number of times. Because of this it really has nothing to say beyond bad guys are bad and you're a good guy and you should stop them. It's a real shame.
But... having said all that
. Beyond the disappointment of this side of the game there is at the heart of it all the same old Far Cry
that we know and love, and one that has been improved in so many ways.