Ubisoft's Far Cry series has always been about open-world exploration, blowing things up and the freedom to pull off cool stunts. And Far Cry 5 holds on to that mantle.
The fifth edition of the franchise takes place in the rugged landscape of the fictional Hope County, Montana, in the United States.
The player takes on the role of a new cop within the local sheriff's office, affectionately known as "Rook" - short for rookie - tasked with arresting megalomaniac cult leader Joseph Seed. Seed is imprisoning the local populace, converting them into a doomsday cult called Eden's Gate and drugging them with a concoction that makes them more amenable to his demands.
The arrest inevitably goes south and Rook manages to escape while his partners are captured by Seed. It is up to Rook to free his (or her) friends and the rest of the county from the cult's clutches.
That simple storyline sets the stage for letting you do whatever you want.
Ubisoft has perfected open-world gameplay throughout its various franchises and Far Cry 5 is no exception. There are mountains to climb, forests to bash through and lakes to swim in, with a healthy sprinkling of cultists to defeat and places to explore.
You can leap off cliffs and glide to your next location with a wingsuit and parachute. You can get into aeroplanes, helicopters and seaplanes to explore the entire game world.
PRICE: $69 (PlayStation 4), $69.90 (Xbox One), $69.99 (PC, version tested)
GENRE: First-person shooter, action-adventure
The graphics are outstanding in full HD and incredibly impressive in 4K, with the rugged Montana wilderness brought to life in near photo-realistic graphics.
Some things you can do border on absolute insanity and is a fitting continuation in the series known for its sprawling, open-ended gameplay.
For instance, I am thrust into a side mission where I am in a car chase with a cultist. I zip through forest and dirt paths, narrowly avoiding trees and rocks, while trying to aim a stick of dynamite at my target vehicle.
The game engine handles such moments extremely well, giving you a real adrenaline rush in such high-paced scenarios that lead to some really exciting, cinematic gameplay moments.
You can hop on a helicopter to try and shoot down planes in the air, launch grenades on enemy boats or hook onto a zipline to swoop deep into enemy-controlled areas, shooting them down while in mid-air.
Weapon combat is nicely done, with fluid controls and aiming, as well as satisfying shooting mechanics.
One gripe I have is that the variety of weapons seems lacking, as most of the rifles handle quite similarly. Once you find one that you really like, there is little reason to switch to another, other than for exploration's sake.
The game does entice you to pay real money for "silver bars" that you can use to buy special custom weapons. But those can be bought with in-game currency as well, so that attempt to get players to pay more money does feel rather lame and half-hearted.
Once you get over the initial premise of the game, the storyline becomes a bit baffling. Why is there an overwhelming, never-ending stream of cultists in this one county? If the player character can commandeer an aeroplane, why doesn't he or she just fly out of the county to get help to deal with the cult?
I am able to beat the main storyline while finishing a healthy number of side quests in 20 hours, but easily spent another 10-plus hours just exploring the world, blowing things up and causing mayhem just because I can.
The game rewards exploration and going off the beaten trail - hints on where to find certain stashes that hold upgrades to your character's skill points, for instance, are told by non-playable characters you stumble on while travelling.
Far Cry 5 understands that good gameplay sometimes requires a healthy suspension of narrative disbelief. For instance, you get to command a giant bear as a companion to do your bidding or can shoot down helicopters, which catch fire and crash spectacularly, with just a rifle.
And like any good Ubisoft game, Far Cry 5 has its share of glitches. Some are annoying - for instance, I run into a few side missions where the quest will not begin unless I restart the game.
But most are hilarious, such as a non-playable character that is driving you to a quest location ends up running over your pet dog because the mutt is coded to follow you closely.
•Verdict: Far Cry 5 is a worthy addition to the franchise, with lots of open-world exploration, action and combat to be had.