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Yahtzee reviews Far Cry 5.

Transcript Edit

I noticed the sun saw fit to rise again this morning, so I guess Ubisoft is putting a sandbox game out. They really are to sandbox games what Sierra was to point-and-click adventures in the 90's. "Let's just hack out two or three a year, 'cos all those Tom Clancy plushies don't pay for themselves. But never mind that we're single-handedly making the sandbox game market look like what most online dating sites look like to heterosexual women!"

Last year was Assassin's Creed's go, so now it's Far Cry's turn, so since I guess we're hacking out the usual thing: charismatic villain with an army of followers takes over small, helpless, isolated nation and has to be opposed by gormless tit with untapped survival skills they developed from routinely leaving all their gift-shopping to the last weekend before Christmas. But where to choose for a setting? What part of the world could audiences credibly believe would allow itself to be taken over and isolated by a charismatic psycho with inexplicable legions of mindless followers, and which, furthermore, has a greater density of firearms than it has effective social services? Hmm, I wonder... "Thank you, Yahtz. I think everyone's gotten the joke." Oh, hello, rural America! Didn't see you there, hiding under Canada's frilly miniskirt! You ever read The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire? 'Cos by my reckoning, the U.S. is up to about Volume IV.

So an isolated county in Montana has been taken over by a doomsday cult run by the prerequisite charismatic villain, so charismatic that there was no money left for the player character's charisma budget, so it's Faceless Silent Protagonist a Go Go - Faceless Silent Police Deputy, rather - sent into the heart of Cultland to arrest their leader, but making the rookie mistake of showing up in a helicopter which, in the prologue of a video game, is always tempting fate. Someone didn't play Outlast 2! Predictably enough, we soon find ourselves minus one helicopter, in deep behind enemy lines, and tasked with liberating the county piece by piece from the evil Trump voters. Well, actually, while one might get that vibe from the premise, in practice, the politics are more even-handed; yes, the cult are all religious fundamentalists to whom gun ownership is more important than basic personal hygiene, but they're also very racially diverse psychedelic drug users sporting hipster beards and man buns, so you've pretty much covered whoever you personally think are other people presently ruining the country.

Well, Far Cry 5 has much of what should now be expected from the Ubisoft sandbox (a phrase that, for me, must now be said with the same tone as "the Rape of Nanking"): liberate the outposts, stop the convoys, find collectibles, stare at people till little icons appear over their heads like fairies on Christmas trees. But some effort seems to have been made to escape some of the Ubisoft sandbox's worst excesses. For example, you don't climb radio towers to unlock the map; in fact, the game makes a little joke about that with the air of an unpopular teacher humiliating themselves in the Christmas play in the hope that the kids will start liking them now. And as for liberating districts, there are only three, one for each of the main sub-bosses, although the charisma budget was still running low, so they're all basically the same character as the main boss: infuriatingly self-assured, soft-spoken religious nutter talking condescendingly at you like a Bay Area health food specialist.

The game as a whole is also laid out the way I personally think all sandbox games should be laid out: the linear plot advances to the next stage after you've done a certain amount of missions; it doesn't matter which or in what order. What is, after all, the point of a sandbox if it's just a rigid critical path of plot missions and all the side stuff is so much leftover Thanksgiving gravy? Or indeed, of using a leveling system to ensure that only a tiny chunk of a sandbox is worth hanging around in at any one time? Yes, thankfully, unlike Assassin's Creed Origins, it doesn't feel like everything's designed around loot box and micropayment bollockry; although, there are still micropayments, so I'm not going to toot Ubisoft's horn just for being not quite as big, horrible, money-grubbing bastards as we know they're capable of being.

Also, it actually has an ending; it doesn't just dump you back in the sandbox after the final story mission and go, "Hooray! The day is saved! I know, from a layman's perspective, it might seem like everything's as fucked as it's always been, but maybe you can finish up the last few side missions and then, I don't know, buy yourself a bunch of flowers." So don't plan to leave stuff for post-ending fuckabouts, 'cos there ain't none. Focused as I am on narrative gameplay, I do appreciate this, because a story without an ending is orders worse than a story without a beginning, mainly because a story without a beginning just doesn't exist, and therefore, isn't much worth worrying about.

But having said all that, the ending of Far Cry 5 - let's raise the Spoiler Alert Level to "Elevated" - is a bit of a downer; not disappointing, more depressing. And granted, that's why I seek out stories - to actually feel something other than the usual background radiation of slightly aroused contempt - but it's kind of killed any future inclination I might have to replay the game, knowing it's not going to turn out well. And unlike, say, God of War III, in which turning off the game is the only way to ensure that Kratos doesn't fuck the whole world up a dog's bumhole and yet we play anyway for the fun and spectacular combat, the gameplay of Far Cry 5 is just going through the same Ubisoft sandbox motions as always.

The apple has fallen far from the unforgiving trees of Far Cry 1 and 2; it's still relatively easy to get yourself a bow or a silenced sniper rifle, squat in a bush, and have all the outposts, alarms, and half the guards taken out before they can finish daydreaming about knobbing their first cousins. But it's also hardly worth using clever tactics like that, 'cos on one occasion, the outpost got alerted, but the whole lot of them were taken out by the random NPC support character I brought along while I was still scoping out the area for cougars.

Also, the game seems to have absentmindedly forgotten that we can spawn as many attack helicopters as we want; 90% of the missions are outdoors and get real fucking trivial when you show up in an attack helicopter. Although granted, it becomes much more likely that the mission will somehow fuck up if you do that; after I finished the last sub-boss, I promptly attack helicopter-ed over to the big boss's stronghold, 'cos that's what the game had always said to do, only to find it deserted. I was wondering if that was the point and was keeping an eye out for vats of Kool-Aid, but no, after I fast-traveled somewhere else, I got a message from one of my earpiece friends going, "All right, now go to the boss's stronghold. Sorry, we hadn't finished blowing up the party balloons."

Far Cry 5 is about as good as Ubisoft sandboxes get these days, and take that for the massively qualified statement it sounds like. It's got Ubisoft's strengths on display and not so many of its bad habits; tight and killer gameplay that has been polished for over umpteen games to a state of perfect functionality with a decent story to spice it up. The tying of missions to individual NPCs GTA-style creates a deep cast of characters with admittedly some overlap; all three regions have their own version of "tough, no-nonsense leader lady" and about nine variations on "frivolous comedic violence-liking person". The story is also pretty fucking relevant for the times; that was almost depressing about it. "The world's spiraling towards nuclear war? Well, yeah, obviously, that's a pisser, but hang on; is there something we can conceivably blame on the Democrats?"

Addenda Edit

  • The far side: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
  • I'm not sure it sends a positive message to imply that abusing psychotropic drugs essentially turns you into a fucking all-powerful wizard
  • This election season vote for the Drugs and Facial Hair Party

Extra: Differently Morphous Edit

My latest book, Differently Morphous, is out now on audible.com as an Audible Original, meaning audiobook first with print version further down the line, so get those ears unstuffed. It's a contemporary paranormal fantasy about the difficulties of adapting to modern life when you're a formless Lovecraftian horror from beyond the veil of time and space.

Episodes
2007 - 2010
2007
Q3 The Darkness Demo · Fable: The Lost Chapters · Zero Punctuation (Episode) · Heavenly Sword and Other Stuff · Psychonauts · Console Rundown · BioShock · Tomb Raider: Anniversary · Manhunt · Peggle
Q4 Halo 3 · Tabula Rasa · The Orange Box · Super Paper Mario · Medal of Honor: Airborne · The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass · Clive Barker's Jericho · F.E.A.R. Perseus Mandate · Assassin's Creed · Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock · Mass Effect
2008
Q1 Super Mario Galaxy · Silent Hill: Origins · Crysis · The Witcher · Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles · Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare · SimCity Societies · Yahtzee Goes to GDC · Uncharted: Drake's Fortune · Devil May Cry 4 · Burnout: Paradise · Turok · Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure
Q2 Army of Two · No More Heroes · Condemned 2: Bloodshot · Super Smash Bros. Brawl · God of War: Chains of Olympus · Mailbag Showdown · Grand Theft Auto IV · Painkiller · The World Ends With You · The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion · Haze · Metal Gear Solid 4
Q3 Webcomics · Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures · Alone in the Dark · Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures · The E3 Trailer Park · Ninja Gaiden II · Prince of Persia Retrospective · Soulcalibur IV · Braid · EVE Online · Too Human · Spore · XBLA Double Bill
Q4 Mercenaries 2: World in Flames · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed · S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky · Silent Hill: Homecoming · Saints Row 2 · Dead Space · Fable II · Fallout 3 · Guitar Hero: World Tour · Mirror's Edge · Left 4 Dead · Sonic Unleashed · The Year in Review - 2008 · Prince of Persia
2009
Q1 Awards for 2008 · Tomb Raider: Underworld · Far Cry 2 · Gears of War 2 · LittleBigPlanet · Thief: The Dark Project · Skate 2 · F.E.A.R. 2 · Spider-Man: Web of Shadows · The House of the Dead: Overkill · 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand · Resident Evil 5
Q2 X-Blades/Halo Wars · Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars · MadWorld · Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X · Siren: Blood Curse · The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena · Valkyria Chronicles · Velvet Assassin · Duke Nukem Forever · Bionic Commando · InFamous · The Second Annual E3 Hype Massacre · Prototype
Q3 The Sims 3 · Ghostbusters: The Video Game · Overlord 2 · Red Faction Guerrilla · Wii Sports Resort · Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood · The Conduit · Silent Hill 2 · 2.5-D Hoedown · Tales of Monkey Island · Wolfenstein · Batman: Arkham Asylum · Beatles Rock Band & Guitar Hero 5 · Darkest of Days
Q4 Scribblenauts · Wet · Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story · Brutal Legend · Washington D.C. · Uncharted 2: Among Thieves · Dragon Age: Origins · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 · Assassin's Creed 2 · Left 4 Dead 2 & New Super Mario Bros. Wii · Demon's Souls · Holiday 2009 · The Saboteur
2010
Q1 Awards for 2009 · Torchlight · Darksiders · Bayonetta · Dark Void · Borderlands · Mass Effect 2 · Dante's Inferno · BioShock 2 · Aliens vs Predator · Heavy Rain · Battlefield: Bad Company 2 · Final Fantasy XIII
Q2 April Fools 2010 · God of War III · Red Steel 2 · Just Cause 2 · Silent Hill: Shattered Memories · Splinter Cell: Conviction · Nier · Dead to Rights: Retribution · Monster Hunter Tri · Alan Wake · Red Dead Redemption · Alpha Protocol · Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands · E3 2010
Q3 No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle · Super Mario Galaxy 2 · Singularity · Crackdown 2 · DeathSpank & Limbo · Shadow of the Colossus · Split Second: Velocity · Transformers: War for Cybertron · Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days · Mafia II · Metroid: Other M · Video Game Voters Network · Amnesia: The Dark Descent
Q4 Halo: Reach · Dead Rising 2 · Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow · Enslaved: Odyssey to the West · Fallout: New Vegas · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II · Call of Duty: Black Ops · IPhone Games · Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood · Splatterhouse · Epic Mickey · Holiday 2010
2011 - 2014
2011
Q1 Top 5 of 2010 · World of Warcraft: Cataclysm · Fable III · Minecraft · A Shadow's Tale · Dead Space 2 · DC Universe Online · MindJack · Two Worlds II · Bulletstorm · Killzone 3 · Kirby's Epic Yarn · Dragon Age II
Q2 Pokémon White · Yakuza 4 · Crysis 2 · Nintendo 3DS · Portal 2 · Castlevania: Symphony of the Night · Mortal Kombat · Brink · L.A. Noire · The Witcher 2 · Hunted: The Demon's Forge · Duke Nukem Forever (for real this time) · InFamous 2
Q3 Alice: Madness Returns · Shadows of the Damned · F.E.A.R. 3 · The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D · Call of Juarez: The Cartel · Bastion and From Dust · Catherine · Red Faction: Armageddon · Deus Ex · Deus Ex: Human Revolution · Driver: San Francisco · Dead Island · Resistance 3
Q4 Gears of War 3 · Hard Reset · Rage · Kinect · Batman: Arkham City · Battlefield 3 · Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 · The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim · Saints Row: The Third · Assassin's Creed: Revelations · The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
2012
Q1 Serious Sam 3: BFE · Top 5 of 2011 · Super Mario 3D Land & Rayman Origins · Sonic Generations · Star Wars: The Old Republic · Amy · Resident Evil: Revelations · Darkness 2 · Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning · NeverDead · Syndicate · Mass Effect 3 · Twisted Metal
Q2 Yakuza: Dead Souls · Ninja Gaiden 3 · Silent Hill: Downpour · Kid Icarus: Uprising · Fez and I Am Alive · Prototype 2 · Risen 2: Dark Waters · Sniper Elite V2 · Diablo 3 · Max Payne 3 · Dragon's Dogma · E3 2012 · Lollipop Chainsaw
Q3 Quantum Conundrum · Spec Ops: The Line · Walking Dead · Inversion · The Amazing Spider-Man · Half-Life · Wreckateer and Deadlight · Steam Roundup · Sleeping Dogs · Darksiders 2 · DayZ · Guild Wars 2
Q4 Borderlands 2 · FIFA 13 · Resident Evil 6 · Dishonored · XCOM: Enemy Unknown · Medal of Honor: Warfighter & Doom 3: BFG Edition · Assassin's Creed 3 · Halo 4 · Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 · Hitman: Absolution · Far Cry 3 · ZombiU
2013
Q1 Top 5 of 2012 · Paper Mario: Sticker Star · Black Knight Sword & Hotline Miami · Anarchy Reigns · DMC: Devil May Cry · The Cave · Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch · Dead Space 3 · Aliens: Colonial Marines · Crysis 3 · Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance · Tomb Raider · SimCity
Q2 The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct · BioShock Infinite · Lego City Undercover · Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon · Injustice: Gods Among Us · Star Trek · Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon · System Shock 2 · Metro: Last Light · Next Gen Buyer's Guide · Fuse · Remember Me · E3 2013
Q3 The Last of Us · Deadpool · Animal Crossing: New Leaf · Ride to Hell: Retribution · Dark · Mario & Luigi: Dream Team · Rise of the Triad · Papers, Please & Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons · Pikmin 3 · The Bureau: XCOM Declassified · Saints Row 4 · Killer is Dead · Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs
Q4 Grand Theft Auto V · Lost Planet 3 · Beyond: Two Souls · The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD · Batman: Arkham Origins · Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag · Call of Duty: Ghosts · Exclusives Showdown · Ryse: Son of Rome · Dead Rising 3 · Super Mario 3D World
2014
Q1 Top 5 of 2013 · Knack · Killzone: Shadow Fall · Survival Special · Broken Age · Might & Magic X: Legacy · The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds · Dark Souls · Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII · Strider · Thief · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 · Dark Souls II
Q2 Titanfall · InFamous: Second Son · Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes · The Elder Scrolls Online · South Park: The Stick of Truth · FTL: Faster Than Light · Child of Day-Light · The Amazing Spider-Man 2 · Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure · Wolfenstein: The New Order · WATCH DOGS · E3 2014 · Murdered: Soul Suspect
Q3 Tomodachi Life · Enemy Front & Valiant Hearts: The Great War · Shovel Knight · EarthBound · Transistor · E.T. · Firefall · Sacred 3 · Risen 3: Titan Lords · Daikatana · Lichdom: Battlemage · The Sims 4 · Destiny
Q4 D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die · Hyrule Warriors · Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor · Alien Isolation · The Evil Within · Bayonetta 2 · Sunset Overdrive · Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare · Assassin's Creed: Unity · Far Cry 4 · Dragon Age: Inquisition · Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric · Top 5 Games of 2014
2015 - 2018
2015
Q1 The Talos Principle · Elite: Dangerous · Five Nights at Freddy's and This War of Mine · Lords of the Fallen · Saints Row: Gat out of Hell · Dying Light · Grim Fandango · Evolve · The Order: 1886 · The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D · Resident Evil Revelations 2 · Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number & Ori and the Blind Forest
Q2 Battlefield: Hardline · Bloodborne · Half-Life 2 Update · Axiom Verge & Stealth Inc 2 · Mortal Kombat X · Grand Theft Auto Online · Broken Age: Act 2 · Wolfenstein: The Old Blood · Cyberpunk Double · The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt · Splatoon · Hatred · E3 2015
Q3 Alone in the Dark: Illumination · Batman: Arkham Knight · Yoshi's Woolly World · Cave Story · Godzilla · Rocket League & Tembo the Badass Elephant · King's Quest: A Knight to Remember · Nom Nom Galaxy & Freedom Planet · Everybody's Gone To The Rapture · Volume · Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain · Mad Max · Gears of War Ultimate Edition · Until Dawn
Q4 Super Mario Maker · SOMA · Rock Band 4 · Assassin's Creed Syndicate · Halo 5: Guardians · Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 · Rise of the Tomb Raider · Fallout 4 · Star Wars: Battlefront · Just Cause 3 · Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water
2016
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2015 · Devil's Third · Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam · Assassin's Creed Chronicles · Xenoblade Chronicles X · The Witness & Bombshell · Gravity Rush · XCOM 2 · Firewatch & Layers of Fear · Far Cry Primal · Stardew Valley & SUPERHOT · The Division · Salt and Sanctuary
Q2 Republique · Shadow Warrior · Quantum Break · Dark Souls III · Ratchet & Clank · Star Fox Zero · Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door · Uncharted 4: A Thief's End · Doom · Homefront: The Revolution · Overwatch & Battleborn · Mirror's Edge: Catalyst · E3 2016
Q3 Mighty No. 9 · Inside & Shadow of the Beast · The Technomancer · Furi & Song of the Deep · I Am Setsuna · Headlander & Quadrilateral Cowboy · Quake · No Man's Sky · Grow Up · Deus Ex: Mankind Divided · Metroid Prime: Federation Force · The Curious Expedition & Mother Russia Bleeds · ReCore
Q4 Capcom Five · Clustertruck & Lichtspeer · Paper Mario: Color Splash · Mafia III · Gears of War 4 · PlayStation VR · Battlefield 1 · Titanfall 2 vs Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare · Dishonored 2 · WATCH DOGS 2 · Final Fantasy XV · The Last Guardian
2017
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2016 · Let It Die · Dead Rising 4 · Hitman · Gravity Rush 2 · Resident Evil 7 · Yakuza 0 · Nioh · For Honor · Nintendo Switch & Breath of the Wild · Horizon Zero Dawn · Nier Automata · Ghost Recon Wildlands
Q2 Mass Effect Andromeda · Yooka-Laylee · Persona 5 · Remastered Editions · Outlast 2 · Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 · Prey · Wilson's Heart · The Surge · Injustice 2 · Vanquish · E3 2017 · Strafe
Q3 Get Even · Hollow Knight / Dead Cells · Fifth Console Generation · The End is Nigh, and Yonder: Cloud Catcher Chronicles · Pyre · Splatoon 2 · Hellblade · Agents of Mayhem · Sonic Mania · Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle · Destiny 2 · Metroid: Samus Returns
Q4 Knack 2 and SteamWorld Dig 2 · Cuphead · Hob and A Hat in Time · Middle-earth: Shadow of War · The Evil Within 2 · Super Mario Odyssey · Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus · Assassin's Creed Origins · Sonic Forces · Star Wars Battlefront II · Hand of Fate 2 · South Park: The Fractured but Whole
2018
Q1 Top 5 of 2017 · Okami HD · PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds · Fortnite and Dusk · Doki Doki Literature Club! · The Inpatient and Doom VFR · Monster Hunter World · Subnautica · Kingdom Come: Deliverance · Metal Gear Survive · Hot Coffee · Hunt Down The Freeman · Ghost of a Tale
Q2 A Way Out · Far Cry 5 · Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom · Extinction and Attack on Titan 2 · God of War 4 · Yakuza 6: The Song of Life · Silent Hill 4: The Room · Conan Exiles · House Flipper and FAR: Lone Sails · Detroit Become Human · Agony · E3 2018 · Vampyr
Q3 Jurassic World Evolution · Resident Evil 4 · Totally Accurate Battlegrounds and Moonlighter · The Crew 2 · Octopath Traveler · Observer · Chasm and This Is the Police 2