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G.R.IND. Games

The G.R.IND. on Far Cry 5 (part one)

Far Cry is a long and varied series that to me is synonymous with mixing the real with the absurd as well as open-world mayhem, with a “do it your way” approach to it. After Far Cry 3 helped redefine the open world gameplay and structure-at the very least for Ubisoft open world games- alongside Vass’s success as a charismatic and psychotic antagonist, Far Cry became more influential and the fans became more demanding from it; we didn’t just expect the game to play, look, sound and run great, we also expect the villain and the narrative to be memorable. With those demands in mind, I left Far Cry 5 slightly disappointed as not all checkboxes were checked; however I’m not saying that it isn’t a great game-because it is; what I am saying is that I can recognize the potential this game had to be truly iconic and reach the highs Far Cry 3 reached as the redefinition of open-world mayhem and marring the real with the absurd in a big AAA game. Despite not reaching that potential, I can recognize and recall the great times I had with this game and go into a lot more detail on what I liked and disliked about the game, as well as the many points where things aren’t as simple as saying that I liked them or disliked them.

Let’s start with the positives first. Far Cry 5 as a game takes a lot of risks, making changes to a formula that was very influential and good; some of those changes work to its favor and some are flawed attempts to evolve certain aspects of the game. One of my favorite aspects of the game is the new HUD or to be more precise the lack of heads up display prominently featured in previous Far Cry games and similar open world experiences. For example the mini map is completely gone and is replaced with a compass on top of the screen and while at first, I was a bit skeptical on the merits of a change like that, after an hour I could already feel the difference. I was immersed a lot quicker, I started noticing things in my surroundings, using my binoculars to set out waypoints in the landscapes because they looked worthy of exploration, an action I mostly never thought of doing in previous Far Cry games, I kept my eyes focused on the world instead of a box in the corner of my screen.

The less busy HUD really does make a difference

Furthermore, the exploration received a much-needed overhaul and turned out excellent. The first time I climbed a Tower in Far Cry 3 I thought to myself “this is a great mechanic” but by the time I was finished with that game I was already feeling fatigued on it. So the attempt to make the discovery of side missions, collectibles and other points of interest, more organic than before was a welcome one. I love the way I can stumble upon a hostage situation, rescue them, and then they tell me where a point of interest is, as a reward for saving them. This also happens in outposts or during missions, which encouraged me to explore and interact with the world at all times, and I was never got tired of doing just that; in fact I ran towards most of my waypoints because I did not want to miss the side stuff that were between me and my objective. A big part of that encouragement though has to go down to the way the game let me express myself and my playing style; although the weapon variety is going to be discussed in less polite terms later on, the player freedom allowed impressed me. One of my favorite tactics in a certain region, for example, was to throw a sticky dynamite stick on a ‘zombie’-or angel as the game call it- and bait it-and its friends- far away from me and blow them to bits; the game didn’t tell me I could do that nor did it encourage me to think of it, but figuring out I could do that and having it work is just one of the great moments I had with Far Cry 5 through its gameplay. I was going to include a clip of this but I’ve lost it; instead here is a clip where I kick a bunny:

However, I have to give a special mention to the look of the game for selling the world; the game looks fantastic, with long draw distances and impressive, visual detail and fidelity. The Dunia Engine has never looked so good, though in other aspects the performance isn’t that great; in terms of visuals, I left the game impressed and satisfied. Another positive change to the formula is made on the side content of the game; besides the more organic way of discovering side content, the content itself is treated differently and is better off for it. NPCs in the world are fully voiced ranging from quest givers to random population and this change is put to good use as each side mission has a unique story attached to it. Some of those stories aren’t that great (more on that later) however some have the best writing and environmental story-telling in the game. For example, I appreciate the changes made to capturing outposts; mechanically they are still an area with lots of guards that the player needs to clear out, so the player can claim the outpost, but each outpost has its own theme and narrative, as well as their own gameplay quirks and layouts. The difference this change makes is huge for me; I can’t tell you anything about any outpost in Far Cry 3 besides they were a lot of fun, but I still remember the Seed Ranch outpost, finding out more about Joseph and his relationship with his family and the difficulty of taking over the outpost due to the alarms being behind dozens of cultists and the open nature of the compound making it hard to sneak in and favoring a long range style. Same thing applies with the “prepper stashes” scattered around Hope County; these bite-sized, light puzzle bunkers that reward perk points, guns and money are a welcome addition to the formula. They exist to break the pace and give variety, but what most impressed me about them are the stories they tell through notes implying what happened and the environment; some of these moments are funny, like the prepper stash puzzle solved by waiting for a dog to poop out the key to the bunker, and some are tragic like the one with a man obsessed with finding Sasquatch that it got him killed.

Just a random place in one of the regions.

But the one that made an impression on me-and perfectly sums up the ability the game has to create memorable moments-is one I just stumbled upon while wandering the mountains in Jacob’s region. As I was heading in the direction of a collectible, I heard a gunshot somewhere nearby. I got curious and followed the sound, until I came to a bunker entrance with the body of a lifeless woman just outside and a cougar lurking. I took care of the cougar and found a key to the bunker on the body of the unfortunate woman which let me in and, after I followed the blood trail, led me towards another unfortunate, lifeless body of a male; but there was something different with this one. Next to his lifeless body were a blood-soaked note and a handgun. The note described that the man and the woman outside made a deal that if anything went wrong, they would ensure at least one was safe thus the man locked himself in the bunker while the woman was dying a horrific death. The man heard everything: The screaming sounds of his friend/spouse’s last, painful moments, and he had witnessed Phil’s last moments as well. He could still hear the screaming. All he wanted was for the screaming to stop, and he made his wish come true… This story is not part of a prepper stash nor do I know who Phil is or the relationship the man had with the woman; I don’t even know what killed the woman: the cougar or the cultists that then took off to find a way in the bunker? All I know is that these moments are the parts that I will definitely take with me now that I’m done with the game.

Besides the dumb physics, this was an insanely fun and satisfying moment.

The last big positive change I’d like to mention is the new “…For Hire” system, which allows players to recruit 9 specialists and use them to help in the game. What I love about this system is that it allowed me to not interact with any aspect of the gameplay I did not want to and improves the aspects I liked; one specialist is a sniper thus allowing for long range solutions, another has a rocket launcher, so I didn’t have to carry one, some are pilots that take care of the aerial threats. There are also animal buddies in the specialists with their own unique abilities: Boomer the dog is a tracker that marks nearby enemies, animals and predators, while there is also Peaches the cougar who can stealthily take down enemies and Cheeseburger the bear that functions as a tank, taking a lot of the heat of me (they don’t always work as intended as I will discuss later on, but they did work occasionally and the intent behind this change is worthy of a mention). In addition to these, there are “fighters”, random NPCs that have random abilities you unlock over time, but as soon as I had two specialists, I stopped using those fighters. There are some smaller changes which I liked as well, such as the added verticality of the world and the added depth in gameplay such as bullet drop, but the most noticeable one, for me, is how the game is brimming with insane moments, that either the developers planned for or are byproducts of the emergent gameplay. For example, the animations and physics of bodies, animals, planes etc. were clearly planned to be bonkers and completely unrealistic; they just add to the insanity of the emergent gameplay. There were multiple times when a group of enemies would spot me and run towards cover, while a bear would get triggered from the woods nearby and come after them. That’s emergent gameplay where systems interact with each other in unexpected ways, but in Far Cry 5 besides being surprising and fun, they were also bonkers. For instance, the clip below shows me trying to fire a mortar and while I was in the aiming screen, a bear was triggered and tried to attack me as I was shooting-which caused the mortar to explode on the bear and kill us both. There are dozens and dozens of these examples I can give but the bottom line is that Far Cry 5 is an insanely fun and funny game to play, above every AI, story, performance, progression and variety issues I have with it.

However, possibly my favorite aspect of Far Cry 5 is not a change but a vast improvement from predecessors: the soundtrack. Although there are some licensed songs that are used in specific missions, the original soundtrack for the game is exceptional; from the mix of string instruments that create the orchestral music for the menus and pause screens to the weirdly catchy and properly creepy cult songs, I had no expectations regarding the music of the game, but I walk away from it with the menu theme stuck in my head and humming Faith’s song; definitely one of the best soundtracks so far this year. Lastly, a quick shout out to the voice over work; from the committed and excellent work of the actors/actresses to the amazing voice direction, ever voice over work I heard throughout the game was flawless in my opinion (the material and the technical execution is a different story though, one I will discuss in part 2). Also, as a side note, I’m not a multiplayer guy so Far Cry Arcade did not interest me in the slightest, however I’ve put an hour or so into it and it seems fun. Finding maps-outside of the ones Ubisoft created- is a bit tricky but the ones I played-again besides the Ubisoft ones which were very good- seemed good for user created levels, but again it’s not my thing and I can’t speak to it in a meaningful way.

The G.R.IND. continues in part two here.

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