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28/03/2018 14:41 BST | Updated 28/03/2018 15:06 BST

Far Cry 5 Review: A Game About Extremism That Says Nothing About Extremism - HuffPost Verdict

Far Cry 5 avoids the issues and instead descends into a fun, but ultimately meaningless pantomime

Ubisoft

K E Y   P O I N T S

  • Set in the fictional landscape of Hope Country, Montana, you play a deputy caught in a miniature coup by the fanatical religious cult Eden’s Gate, led by its ‘Father’ Joseph Seed.

  • As is common across the Far Cry series, this first-person shooter is set in a vast open-world which lets you explore as you please and take on missions in any way that you see fit.

  • New features let you bring in friends online to complete the game, along with a range of new supporting characters including ‘Boomer’ – a dog who’ll tag enemies and protect you.

  • Hope County as a game world is a masterpiece. It’s a living, breathing world with days, nights, and a full ecosystem of jaw-dropping landscapes, weather systems and wildlife. You could happily spend entire sessions just hunting in the hills or fishing in the lakes and not even care there there was a game that needed playing.

  • The game’s failing is that, at a time when extremism, isolationism and gun culture are all under the looking glass, Far Cry 5 fails to address any of the issues, despite its controversial setting and topic.

V E R D I C T

The Far Cry series has always excelled in doing two things: creating a vast explorable open-world that feels ‘alive’ and then giving you the complete freedom to cause unadulterated chaos within it.

To justify that chaos the series has always chosen a despotic dictator - previously masterful creations ranging from the blackly comic to the downright terrifying - to rule an entire country, small pacific island, or in the case of Far Cry 5, a picturesque county in deep Montana. 

Its focus has always been the question: what would happen if ‘Lord of the Flies’ wasn’t about a group of schoolchildren on an island, but an entire nation of heavily armed adults in which you were the only sane one left.

Ubisoft
The Seed family control Hope County through religious rhetoric and fear.

Far Cry 5, then, had the potential to provoke questions about somewhere that many might consider very close to home. Set in the fictional Hope County, it features maniacal cult leader Joseph Seed who, along with his equally mad family, has brainwashed parishioners into rising up against the federal government on the basis that judgement day is coming.

Instead Far Cry 5 fails to address any possible modern-day US parallels of its premise and instead descends into a full-on pantomime. The game’s plot and setting almost goes out of its way to let you know that it bears no resemblance to current events, sidestepping any difficult questions about its tone or timing.

Ubisoft
Yes, that's a giant statue of Joseph Seed. Inexplicably erected without a single federal official noticing.

So a vast concrete statue of Joseph Seed is placed inexplicably and implausibly at the top of a mountain (how did it get there without anyone noticing?); a giant ‘YES’, the buzzword of Seed’s fanatical brother, is written atop another mountain in the font of the Hollywood sign. Both are a constant reminder that through and through, this is just another Far Cry game.

Ignore these missed opportunities, however, and fans of the franchise will feel right at home. The game contains a sprawling world filled with different geographical environments for you to explore using everything from speedboats to Vietnam era helicopters, while quirky characters will require your help in taking down the cult’s almost comically well-armed fighters. Luckily you’re armed to the teeth.

Ubisoft
This is Boomer, he brings you guns if you're in trouble and likes chasing bears.

A new addition to the series means you can co-operatively play the game with a friend online, or hire in-game characters to support you. The most notable of these is ‘Boomer’, an Australian Cattle Dog who’s an extremely Good Boy by tagging enemies for you, protecting you from the wildlife and just generally being great. We like Boomer. 

Like all Far Cry games, this latest instalment revels in the chaos created by giving players true freedom within the game, and Ubisoft have created a vast, stunningly-beautiful canvas upon which to paint your masterpiece. Hope County is easily the most stunning location to date, featuring incredible attention to detail. 

Ubisoft
Putting down a weapon and actually exploring Far Cry 5 is worth doing, the game is utterly stunning,

In the forests, the sun cuts through early morning mist like a scythe; out on the plains vast swathes of corn sway in a light breeze. Head to the mountains and you’ll see how water never takes the same path twice as evening storms move in.

The freedom to approach any encounter and then watch as the world reacts is what makes this, and every other Far Cry so enjoyable. Only in Far Cry will you hijack a convoy, only to then be attacked by a nearby bear which then enrages a field of nearby cattle. The resulting stampede ends with you, a brown bear and 12 heavily armed criminals all lying on the floor, as Far Cry’s developers laugh at your lack of foresight.

Ubisoft
Bears are a problem in Far Cry 5, unless you're called Leonardo DiCaprio, in which case they're just a minor inconvenience.

And annoyingly, it never gets old because while Far Cry’s plot is weak, its individual characters are fascinating creatures. Whether it’s the Seed family or resistance members, each are so utterly unique that by the time you’ve played twice, you’ll put down the controller and look around dazed, feeling like you’ve just experienced a modern, violent reinterpretation of Alice in Wonderland.

T A K E   H O M E   M E S S A G E

Far Cry 5′s plot and setting feel like a massively missed opportunity – it’s only by a determined distancing of itself from reality that it avoids being potentially offensive.

Look past these shortcomings however and this is a technically brilliant entry into the series. Hope County is a visual masterpiece that in terms of graphical fidelity has only Assassin’s Creed: Origins as its equal. This sandbox, combined with Ubisoft’s tried and tested Far Cry recipe, results in a game that while mentally unfulfilling is a pure slice of video game escapism.

Far Cry 5 is available now on PS4, Xbox One and PC.