Far Cry 5 preview

Far Cry 5 looks set to be not only one of the biggest games of 2018, but also one of the most controversial, pitting you against a far-right Christian sect in modern day Montana, a setting that might hit uncomfortably close to home for some.

Still, touchy themes aside, Far Cry 5 follows more of the same open-world violence that made earlier titles such massive hits, and if you believe the hype, it’ll be bigger and even more explosion-y than before.

We’ve spent time hands-on with Far Cry 5 at Gamescom 2017, running through a few mini-missions and exploring some of the open world, and here’s what we think.

How to pre-order Far Cry 5

Far Cry 5 is set to be released on 27 February 2018, and will come out on PS4, Xbox One, and PC - with support for both PS4 Pro and Xbox One X.

You can pre-order the game now for £49.99/$59.99 from Amazon, though if you don't mind spending a little more there's the Gold Edition, which includes some exclusive content and the DLC season pass, and the Father Edition, which throws in a collector's box, steelbook case, printed map, and exclusive figurine.

If you'd rather buy the game from elsewhere, you can also get it from Game or Argos in the UK, or GameStop or Best Buy in the US, along with plenty of other retailers too.

Far Cry 5 preview

For those unaware, Far Cry 5 is a continuation of Ubisoft's long-running open-world first-person-shooter series, though it's ditching the previously 'exotic' locales for rural Montana, with villains that sit uncomfortably close to the real-life alt-right. 

Ubisoft’s Gamescom demo kicks off with what looks likely to be a core part of Far Cry 5: liberating a small township from the armed goons occupying it. In case you can’t read between the lines, “liberating” mostly consists of shooting (or cracking) skulls open - you’re not going to negotiate your way through much here.

Thankfully, you’re not alone in the task, with a ‘gun-for-hire’ at your side - an NPC companion who’ll follow you around offer covering fire and quips. Unless you choose the dog, that is, in case there are more barks than witty remarks.

As with prior Far Cry games, the emphasis here is firmly on choosing your own way to approach each scenario - whether that means stealth or all-out violence, targeting enemies directly or shooting the ubiquitous explosive red barrels to take them out, or even heading onto a roof to use a mounted machine gun to clear them out.

Gunplay is responsive and satisfying, and there’s the usual array of weaponry to play with, along with melee weapons - we got our hands on a stars-and-stripes baseball bat that proved more satisfying than we’d like to admit for crunchy stealth kills.

Those stealth kills are likely to prove vital to your success. You can only hold two weapons at a time, so the more enemies you can eliminate before you have to face them head-on, the better your odds. Again, so far, so Far Cry.

“Liberating” the township (again: murdering just about everyone in it) restores it to some semblance of its former glory, with NPCs returning to go about their ordinary lives. This is your chance to explore a bit more calmly, talk to the local characters, and pick up side-quests to populate your map.

We were asked to help out a local airstrip owner who was under attack, and duly obliged, heading down south in an 18-wheeler with a flaming paint job to wreak havoc.

We found a similar set-up to last time - we were asked to ‘liberate’ the airstrip by means most violent - but this time the bad guys were singularly focused on attacking its owner, offering the chance to try out some different tactics, picking them off one by one at range, or working through the mob from the rear forwards.

More exciting was what we unlocked for our troubles: the chance to pilot a (surprisingly heavily armed) plane to destroy a few fuel silos and even dogfight with another pilot. I mean, we’re not sure why a small plane in Montana comes equipped with machine guns, missiles, and bombs, but hey, ‘Murica!

Big moments like that may look great in the trailers, but it’s the smaller touches that make Far Cry 5 feel like a world to spend time in. There’s the trucks of armed guards just driving around waiting for an off-the-cuff fight; the wild animals lurking in the woods to attack the unsuspecting; the surprise discovery that, of all things, you can stop for a while to just go fishing.

What’s not clear from our time so far is whether that sort of expansive open world - Ubisoft’s bread-and-butter these days - can match the standard set by Breath of the Wild and Horizon Zero Dawn, which built worlds that made players want to explore for its own sake, and not just to tick off objectives or clear map markers.

It’s also hard to say if the game’s setting is designed to tackle controversy or merely bait it. We didn’t come face to face with any of the main villains, and instead just mowed down grunts with Southern accents, which makes it hard to guess how well Far Cry 5 will tackle the issues around race and religion that are dominating American politics right now.

It’s easy to see that Ubisoft might worry that taking an overt political line would alienate part of its fanbase, but it’s also hard to see how the game can stay neutral when its setting directly evokes the most divisive political problems in decades.

Still, maybe fixing American race relations is a bit too big of an ask for a game that has only really promised one thing: a giant open space filled with cars, guns, and people ready to use them. And on that front, it’s delivered.

OUR VERDICT

Far Cry 5 looks a lot like what you probably expect: the classic Far Cry gameplay transplanted into the US, with a few tweaks thrown in along the way. We're worried the open-world genre has moved on too much for Far Cry to keep up, but the core action is as satisfying as ever - and that's hard to resist.