E3 2017: Hands On: Far Cry 5 (PS4, 2018)

As we’ve seen in the lead up to its announce trailer, Far Cry 5‘s premise is a timely one — a church of religious fundamentalists in an isolated town in middle America who wish to remake their nation in their bold new vision of conservativism. That’s where you and your arsenal of weapons come in.

After spending around 20 minutes with Far Cry 5 in the press area behind the Ubisoft E3 booth, one thing becomes clear — mechanically, this is still Far Cry as you know it. The shooting remains meaty, the map remains open and large. You’ll spend time liberating different areas from the control of the villains, and will come across trucks full of baddies hooning about the countryside ready to pull over and shoot at you at a moment’s notice.

Where the game differs substantially is in its scenery. There’s never been a Far Cry game set in the United States before. Further, it’s rare for a game to be set in a part of America like Montana. This makes for environments that look and feel uniquely American, from tall, craggy mountains in the distance to wide rivers that cut across the landscape as you fly over in a plane.

Another new addition is that it let me pick a buddy before even beginning my demo — a pilot, a sniper or a faithful attack dog. I took the sniper as I tend to prefer the quiet approach, but then ended up throwing that plan out the window and going loud when my first shot went wide. Unlike what passes for combat buddy AI in other games, my sniper friend was actually quite useful in a scrap. She’d pick off targets I couldn’t see and wasn’t afraid to get in their faces when she had to.

The build that I played featured a three-part mission in which my sniper buddy and I had to liberate a rural town before heading a ways down the road to a small airfield that was also under siege by zealots. Once dispatched, the owner of the airfield (one of the other potential mission buddies) then hands you the keys to his crop duster plane, outfitted with an honest-to-god bomb bay. You then fly across the country side bombing grain silos. It’s exactly as bombastic and larger-than-life  as you would expect a Far Cry game set in the States to be.

Just about everything else involved felt very Far Cry to me. Not in a bad way, either. Far Cry has had fully five main-line titles to  flesh its formula and game loop out, and that’s before you factor spin-offs like Far Cry Primal into the equation. My time with the game wasn’t quite long enough to show me how much, if any significant changes or improvements have been made the to the formula. It may be Ubi’s hope that the game’s genuinely interesting setting is enough to carry it but as much fun as I had with the E3 build, I was left wanting more.

We’ll see what else Ubi has in store when Far Cry 5 launches on February 27, 2018.

The author is reporting from E3 at the Los Angeles Convention Centre. Accommodation in Los Angeles provided by Hotel Indigo Downtown Los Angeles. For rates and booking, click here.