After Far Cry 3 struck a chord with its focus on psychotic villain Vaas, the series fell into something of a holding pattern. The fourth game's nemesis, Pagan Min – a flamboyant Kim Jong-Il stand-in – felt like a pale shadow of Vaas, and when Far Cry 5 revealed its own antagonist in the form of cult leader Joseph Seed, it appeared players were in for more of the same. Open world, shooting, stealth, vehicles, and a central figure to dethrone? Been there, played that.
Thankfully, Far Cry 5 subverts those expectations and delivers the most refreshing instalment in the series for years. Seed – known as The Father to his faithful flock, who have taken over the fictional Hope County, Montana – is a uniquely captivating figure, a man whose charisma and manipulative use of scripture engenders dedication rather than fearful obedience from his adherents. His church, The Project at Eden's Gate, operates on a doctrine of saving souls, whether they want to be 'saved' or not, making for a far deeper and more philosophical challenge at the heart of the game as you strive to liberate the surrounding communities from the cult's control.
The scenario enhances the structure of the game too. The massive open-world map is split into three main areas, each controlled by one of Seed's children, Jacob, John, and Faith. Towns furthest from the cult's heart still show signs of resistance, but as you fight to take back ground – triggering ever-greater responses from the twisted siblings – you'll meet tougher opposition from enemies more dedicated to Seed and his teachings. It's a fascinating, interactive exploration of psychosis through belief, forcing you to rethink how you tackle certain areas – running in and gunning everything down won't always be the best option.
The real jewel in the crown though could be Far Cry Arcade — Think Minecraft for Far Cry.
At its core, Far Cry 5 still offers the same freedom of past entries, but brilliantly refined. The old pattern of entering an area, climbing map towers, and picking off easily marked missions is gone. Instead, after a relatively brief training section to get you accustomed to the game's core system of reclaiming territory from Eden's Gate, you're let loose to do whatever you want. Whether that's follow core missions, recruit 'Guns for Hire' or 'Fangs for Hire' – human or animal AI companions that have unique skills to aid in your missions – or bolster your skill tree and perks by following an abundance of side quests, it's up to you. There's a mountain of content to keep you entertained here, and you're free to focus on whatever elements you most enjoy.
Far Cry 5 sees improvements in combat too. The mix of weapons on offer is greater than ever, with increased customisation options across the board. Melee weapons in particular feel more robust, and more items found in the world can be used for up close attacks – great for stealth-based players. Vehicles are also given a welcome overhaul, with aerial craft far easier to control now and more areas accessible via aquatic vessels.
Special mention must also go to the overall polish of the game. It's visually spectacular, from the open skies and beautiful, living landscapes of its Montana setting, to the brilliantly detailed character models. Voice acting impresses too, with a cast delivering emotionally-driven performances throughout, while music by composer Dan Romer – particularly a number of excellent vocal tracks – elevates the entire package.
The real jewel in the crown though could be Far Cry Arcade. Think Minecraft for Far Cry – a content creation suite packed with assets from Ubisoft's library, allowing players to build maps and modes, then share them amongst the community. Although currently only populated by Ubi's own examples, this is a goldmine of potential, providing ample reason to keep coming back to the game long after you've liberated Hope County.
Between its complex story and characters, compelling freeform gameplay, and nigh infinite replay possibilities, Far Cry 5 is a spectacular achievement, proving the new high-water mark for the series going forwards.