After a wave of previews and a subsequent wave of controversy, we already have a good sense of what Far Cry 5 is about. Now the question is, “how does it play?”

The answer, as least regarding its moment-to-moment gameplay, is unsurprising. It plays exactly like a Far Cry game.

In a short demo at E3 2017, we ambushed, shot, punched, and scrambled our way through a Far Cry 5 outpost-style mission. Despite early suggestions that the game’s overall structure has changed, the shooting feels familiar.

As you might expect from a game whose primary pitch is its setting and premise, what makes Far Cry 5 different, and potentially more interesting than its predecessors, is in the details of its designs. Some of these details are mechanical, and others are aesthetic, but when combined with the series’ well-established and (generally) well-liked fundamentals, Far Cry 5 has the potential to awesomely chaotic.


In the mission we played, we set about saving the town of Fall’s End (population 38), which was under siege by a group of men from the militant cult Eden’s Gate. If you’ve played Far Cry 34, or Primal, then the scenario will be very familiar. A group of alert, well-positioned enemies have occupied a space, and it’s up to you to clear them out. You can, in theory, approach the town from any side, dispatching your enemies stealthily, or blowing your way in with heavy weaponry.

This seems like the classic Far Cry “outpost” scenario, but there are a few new twists. Rather than standing around or patrolling, the cultists are hard at work rounding up and terrorizing the people in town. At the outset, two men were lined up on their knees in the front of a church on the edge of town. When a cultist cracks one of the two men over the head with a baseball bat, he walks off and drags another victim over.

Mechanically, there’s no difference between this and a guard on patrol — both men stand in a spot, then move to another — but there’s a much greater urgency instilled when you see violence and chaos on the street. Reclaiming territory is an abstract idea. Saving people’s lives feels concrete.


Your character now automatically “marks” targets, placing a red arrow over an enemy’s head

The gameplay is not without innovation, though. As game director Dan Hay told us last month, much of the game is about finding, recruiting, and using a set of companions called “guns for hire,” which can provide different kinds of combat support. You can choose to have one of these buddies with you at a time, and give them orders to move into specific positions, as well as attack, distract, or otherwise interact with the world in specific ways.

In the demo, we had access to three companions. There was Grace, a sniper; Nick, a pilot who drops bombs on your enemies; and Boomer, your trusty dog who can distract enemies without raising suspicions, keep them from shooting at you in combat, and bring you nearby guns and ammo.

In theory, choosing a companion is as important as choosing a weapon. It makes sense to plan for every scenario based on what they bring to the table. Conversely, it makes sense to pick the companion for the mission (or missions) that you want to approach. This would naturally lead to you spending more time scouting missions, rather than running in half-cocked with what you have on you.

We say “in theory,” because you could only choose one of the three for the demo. Obviously we chose Boomer, because he’s a good dog. We are thrilled to inform you that you can pet him at any time by walking up to him and pressing square.

There was also at least one smaller mechanical tweak made to streamline the experience. Your character now automatically “marks” targets, placing a red arrow over an enemy’s head, simply by looking at them for a couple of seconds from within a certain range.

All of these elements, from big mechanical additions, to little artistic flourishes (like your character’s stars-and-stripes baseball bat), paint a picture of a game that has well honed, singular vision.

Far Cry 5 seems like a game that can reel in both former fans and new players. Yes, it’s very much a Far Cry title, with all that entails. Yet it feels like a fresh take on the game’s aging concepts.

Far Cry 5 launches on Xbox One, PS4, and PC February 27, 2018.

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