Platforms: Xbox One (reviewed), PS4, PC

Early in Far Cry 5, I was poking holes through the game’s plot. Nevermind that video games are nothing but fantasy and “what ifs,” but if the federal government sent U.S. Marshals to arrest a cult leader for allegedly kidnapping people and the Marshals happened to disappear? Federal law enforcement would descend upon that compound like honey bees on a hornet.

Sure there isn’t any cell phone signal, the area in Montana is remote, and it’d be difficult to call for help or backup, but if a federal agent failed to check in with his superiors after an apparent big time arrest, you couldn’t tell me there wouldn’t be a small force standing by.

But as a rookie deputy in Hope County, Montana, the Marshals you’re escorting are taken and you can’t do anything about it but save your own life. There’s no backup, there’s no small force, there’s no one. Like the character Dutch says, when he rescues you after being chased through a Montana forest, by the time backup arrives, it’d be too late anyway. I’d be dead, my fellow officers would be dead, and cult leader Joseph Seed aka The Father’s following would swell, even if he is eventually captured. So it’s better to fight for survival, find my fellow law men and women, and since we’re there, save Hope County from the terror of the Eden’s Gate cult.

So I suspend my belief and dig in.

Middle America

After an opening segment that introduces you to the game’s villain, you’re able to lightly customize your character, a first for a Far Cry game. There’s nothing too in-depth here. Just a handful of faces, skin tones, and hair styles to choose from to at least make the character feel like your own. Then you’re able to choose some raggedy clothes and start exploring Hope County.

The folks at Ubisoft Montreal did a tremendous job with the look of Far Cry 5. The game is gorgeous and captures that clear blue sky, mountainous feel that most of us would expect northwestern Montana to be like. There are fish jumping in and out of water, deer grazing in the forest, birds chirping in the distance, and predator growls in the shadows. The world feels alive and always moving when you and the other characters are standing still.

Along with nature’s glory, there are plenty of ranches, farms, small towns, and store fronts that fit right in with the environment. And if you explore deep enough, you’ll find caves, abandoned shacks, and underground bunkers filled with loot and gear. Hope County is such a huge open world that even if you didn’t attempt any missions, the environment itself will keep you busy for hours.

Building a resistance

If you’re a fan of the Far Cry series, Far Cry 5 feels and plays just like previous Far Cry games gameplay-wise. There aren’t any noticeable changes to the way the game plays, unlike Assassin’s Creed Origins combat overhaul. You move, run, shoot, jump, throw, melee, and drive the same. Although I wish there was a third person view for driving, the auto drive feature helps you get to where you need to go.

The difference in Far Cry 5 than previous games is the way the story and progression is organized. There are three regions, each controlled by one of Joseph Seed’s three siblings. Each region requires you to build a resistance in order to liberate it. You build a resistance by doing the story missions, side missions, destroying Eden’s Gate structures, taking control of outposts, rescuing prisoners, capturing and looting trucks, killing VIPs, and other activities. You’ll see your progress every time you complete an activity or if you go to the world map and hover over the region.

The cool thing about this is that Far Cry 5 is a true open world where you can move region-to-region freely and do missions and activities and build your resistance at your pace and timing. I once commandeered a plane in John Seed’s Holland Valley and got into a dogfight with a couple of other planes that were hounding me while I was trying to carry out missions. Of course, I was able to take them out but I took on a lot of damage. I quickly made my way over to Faith Seed’s Henbane River region, jumped out of the plane before it exploded, and wingsuited then parachuted into a cult outpost where I engaged in a firefight on the ground. Thanks to the help of one of my Guns-for-Hire characters, we were able to take the outpost in no time.

Something to keep in mind, the game’s story is tied to the growth of your resistance. Once you reach a certain level in your resistance progress, you’ll get “marked,” “hunted,” or “blessed” which means you’ll get kidnapped or captured, get a cut scene to get to know the villains a bit better, then find a way to escape and continue your resistance building.

The aspect I like most is the idea of having three major bosses before getting to the final boss. When it’s time to liberate a region, each of them have a unique set piece that’s action-packed, exhilarating, and a lot of fun. The freedom of Far Cry 5 is a welcome change to the game making it feel like a true sandbox.

Despite my issues with how the story begins, I can’t deny how interesting each of the bosses are. I always looked forward to the cut scenes to see what kind of propaganda they’d be spewing next.

Tools of the trade

As you move through the game, you acquire several weapons, usually from Eden’s Gate goons or an abandoned camp or weapons stash. A handgun here, a shotgun there, an assault rifle every now and then. There are also sniper rifles, machine guns, rocket launchers, slingshots, and bows and arrows. You also get melee weapons like pipes, bats, and brass knuckles. If you’re impatient and want weapons right away, you can buy them in the in-game shop. You earn money by looting the goons you kill, gear stashes all over the regions, and Pepper Stashes, which are like hidden treasures all over the map. You can also earn money by hunting and fishing and selling the animal hide. The money you spend can also go towards ammo, throwables like dynamite, grenades, and Molotov cocktails (which you can also craft, among other items, with resources found in Hope County).

I used a lot of my money to refill ammo and customize the weapons I found. I added bigger magazines to my favorite guns, silencers to my pistols, and better scopes to my automatic weapons. You’ll also be able to buy cars, planes, helicopters, and boats. And trust me, you’ll want them. While fast travel is available in the game, it’s not available in certain areas until you discover the region’s locations.

Again, I’m not a fan of the driving in the game. Everything is first-person driving/flying. I would prefer third person controls as an option because car chases, boat chases, and dog fights in the air would seem so much easier. But alas, the game does offer auto drive to help stay on the road when heading out to a marked waypoint.

You also get help throughout the game with the For Hire system, which a vast improvement over Far Cry 4. While you run across a number of non-playable characters throughout the game that you can hire to join you in specific missions, earning Specialist Guns-For-Hire or Fangs-for-Hire (animal companions) is a highlight of the game. Each region has two Specialists and one Fang and they each have a mission tied to acquiring their services. Once you earn their services, you can call on them any time to help you out. After you take out your first sibling boss, you’ll be able to acquire a perk (there's a bunch of perks that range from better weapon handling to increased health) allowing two specialists or Fangs to join you. They all have their own stories, their own personalities, and their own dynamics with each other.

My favorites? Nick Rye, a pilot who will fly in and bomb the hell out of an outpost and afterward you can come in and take out any survivors. Peaches, a cougar who will stealthily take out unsuspecting goons patrolling an area. Grace Armstrong, a sniper who does a tremendous job of having my back. And of course, Boomer, a dog who can tag all nearby enemies, kill a goon trying to sneak up on you, then bring you their gun. There’s also Cheeseburger, a vicious Grizzly bear, Jess Black, a hunter with a bow and arrow, Sharkey Boshaw, a flame throwing dude, Adelaide Drubman, a helicopter pilot, and Hurk Drubman, a rocket launching specialist. Mixing and matching these Specialists and Fangs is highly suggested to figure out who works best in certain situations.

Co-op and Far Cry Arcade

The entire solo campaign is playable with one other friend, there is one caveat though. When playing co-op, one person is a host and one person is a guest. The person who is hosting, usually the person who invites you to play or if you join their game, gets the game and story progression, while the player doesn’t. Meaning, if you join a friend’s game and you guys end up doing The Lesson mission in the Henbane River region, unless you already did it prior to helping your friend, you’ll still have to do the mission on your own. You won’t get credit for completing it. Ubisoft says this system is in place because each player’s solo playthrough is different and every narrative is different. Guest players do get to keep player progression, XP, in-game currency, items found, etc. While two player co-op for all the missions in Far Cry 5 is a welcome addition to the game, I just wish there was a way for guest players to keep the story and world progression when they play with a friend.

Like I said in my preview of Far Cry Arcade, it’s a solid mode to keep you playing Far Cry 5 long after you finish the campaign. Most of the perks, weapons, customizations, and gear you earned in the campaign, you can take into Far Cry Arcade. Far Cry Arcade’s bread and butter is its user generated content. Players can create maps for a handful of multiplayer modes and solo experiences. Of course, my time with the game was before the game’s worldwide launch so there wasn’t much to choose from yet, but the folks at Ubisoft created a handful of maps to get you started.

The Arcade Editor lets you create your own maps, either from scratch or you get some premade maps to start with. Plus, as was stated in the Far Cry Arcade preview, there will be assets from other Ubisoft games that creators will be able to use to build their worlds.