As far as video game villains, the Far Cry franchise has a reputation for delivering morally ambiguous and multi-dimensional villains. Far Cry 5 goes above and beyond: Joseph Seed (known as “The Father”) is despicable, rhetorical, cogent, and wicked. His introduction at the beginning of the game propelled my interest, which subsided shortly thereafter. What followed in my early impression and exploration in Hope County, Montana was a seemingly bland world that failed to excite me, making traveling a chore when compared to the riveting character design.
I should note right away that my time in the single-player campaign and multiplayer was limited to an hour each; I have no doubt my opinions on the game may change when I am not on the clock and am left to my own devices. Far Cry is, after all, about survival, exploration, and random encounters that pepper the scenic backdrop.
However, what I experienced in the time that I had was a perfect blend of interest in the villains and their purpose, and a lack of motivation to travel. The Father is this gargantuan figure for the group of people that you have to interact with and, for many of them, his words are enough to convince them to die for him. Similarly, as with any good villains, their outlook on the world in only a few steps beyond what our current political climate can generate. He feels like a product of our times and I think that’s one of the scariest parts. There have been cults in the past, but toying with the idea that something as big as Hope County, Montana could be real is a genuinely harrowing experience. If you don’t have these inklings when you play the game, at the very least you’ll never want to hear “Amazing Grace” again.
It dawned on me almost as soon as I got a few hundred meters from The Father: traveling this giant landscape on foot is unfeasible, and yet, driving around in a car feels like a chore. You are constantly bumping into “PEGies” (Project Eden’s Gaters) on the roads who don’t necessarily make combat more difficult but instead act as just another thing you need to expend ammo on.
There’s also the addition of the unlockable AI characters who can fight alongside you. During my play, these ranged from random people I rescued from outposts who were fed up with the way of things to a giant bear named “Cheeseburger” who, thanks to his diabetes, can only eat salmon now. The mission to unlock the burly bear was a moment of levity but even when I tried to fish out that salmon to entice him to join me, I wasn’t given any sort of fishing tutorial and had to go into the game’s tutorials to figure it out myself. Having to spend 3-4 minutes in the menus was a surefire way to kill the absurdity buzz I was riding.
And like with previous Far Cry games, the story remains dark while you embrace these light comedic moments throughout a world which increases in entropy as you play. A mission with Hurk, for example, started out with my character engaging in a conversation with a birther conspiracist (Hurk’s father) and then having to find his campaign truck which had been stolen. As with anything Hurk in the Far Cry universe, my experience was bonkers. Hurk was shotgunning beers right before firing a bazooka at his enemies. The dialogue was funny and I was glad that he was driving for a change (despite apparently being intoxicated).
When the game kept me on a mission or fighting to take down the Father, I felt the urge to carry on just to see how Joseph Seed would stack up in the end. The reality was that moving from mission to mission was continually fighting my interest to complete them.
Changing gears, the game’s co-op does a great job at allowing you to play the entire game with a friend, and I think that’s how Far Cry 5 should be played. Having someone to exchange laughs with when utterly incredible things happen on the roads between checkpoints was enough to entertain me and let me look beyond some of the flaws I mentioned.
I can’t stress enough that my opinion is based on a few discombobulated hours of gameplay: I was interrupted on missions in single-player and co-op because of the schedule we were trying to keep at the event. I look forward to reviewing Far Cry 5 when it releases on March 27 because I trust that being free to do what I want when I want will lead to a much healthier gameplay experience. Though as it stood when I played it last week, the game doesn’t seem to know how to deal with the spectrum ranging from its fantastic villain to its buoyant world.
Editors Disclosure: To get hands-on footage of Far Cry 5, DualShockers’ staff was flown out and put up at a hotel by Ubisoft so that I could spend some time in Hope Count, Montana.