I watched Merle Briggs die half a dozen times before a helicopter finally saved us. Our mission was to hold off devotees of the Project of Eden’s Gate, a violent religious cult that took over much of Hope County, Montana. We fired at them with mortars and shotguns, but failed to escape over and over again. Waves of enemies would sneak up on us, beating us to death with baseball bats. Other times Merle refused to get in the helicopter. Once, the helicopter just exploded for no reason.
This is the world of Far Cry 5: chaotic, frustrating, glitchy and, at its best, a riotously fun, blood-filled adventure in the Montana wilderness.
The Far Cry series debuted in 2004 to rave PC reviews. Each iteration features a Hardened Male Protagonist (though Far Cry 5 does allow character customization, including gender) mowing down thousands of people in pursuit of some goal in an exotic land. In Far Cry 3, it’s saving your friends from pirates on a tropical island. In the original, it’s saving a journalist on a tropical … archipelago.
The series has its share of detractors, but the story has always been second to the mechanics. It’s just as likely you’ll have an absolute blast in its expansive maps as it is you won’t care about the conflict taking place.
This game is set in fictional Hope County. You play a deputy tasked with saving your cop friends (shocker) from the inscrutable Eden’s Gate cult, whose motivations and ideology are mostly unintelligible. How you save the day is your choice. Far Cry 5 can be a stealth game or an explosion simulator.
Of most interest to Indy readers is its setting. Its depiction of Montana is simultaneously spot-on and heinously ill-informed. When emulating the look and feel of the state, the game nails it. One character speaks about being a few hours away from Missoula. Driving through the game’s small towns and backroads feels uncannily like driving north of the Flathead Valley.
While the scenery is gorgeous, its residents are laughably off-base. These Montanans sound an awful lot like cartoon Texans, and there is a baffling lack of indigenous characters. It’s a strange disconnect that definitely affects the story. One early mission sees the player on a quest to steal a vehicle called “The Widowmaker,” a semi truck mounted with two rail guns. While games like Far Cry 5 demand a certain suspension of disbelief, the notion that Montana is a state where such things could exist feels a touch exploitative. Still, driving the Widowmaker through blockades of religious fanatics is exhilarating. Watching that gorgeous scenery blow past you as you wreak cartoonish havoc makes for some of the most fun I’ve ever had playing a video game. Missions of that caliber happen somewhat frequently. It’s hard to be bored playing it.
For every fun encounter, though, players will find themselves on frustrating missions mired with glitchy enemy AI. The best video games make each player death feel deserved, and they teach the player how to perform better next time. Here, your failure stems just as often from the game’s flaws as it does your own. Those latter moments get old quickly, particularly when attached to a $60 price tag.
As a storytelling exercise, Far Cry 5 falls short. But the rapturous gameplay, though occasionally flawed, largely makes up for those frustrations. Far Cry 5 is more like a popcorn flick than an artistic experience. One Twitter user recommended I remind readers that you can, in fact, shoot a TEC-9 in this game. Sometimes, that’s more than enough.