Behind closed doors at E3 2017, I got to spend some time with Far Cry 5 . It’s a game that has a lot to live up to, considering all the chatter surrounding its setting and characters. I was able to play the game for a bit over a half hour and go through what seemed to be some introductory missions early in the game, assuming this was a real slice of the final product and not cobbled together in that fun, E3 way. My biggest takeaway is that Far Cry 5 feels familiar, but the cooperative gimmick makes for more active, engaging firefights. Also, playing it with headphones on really accentuates Far Cry 5 s surprisingly compelling sound design.
At the start of the demo, I was prompted to choose my partner. I made the only logical choice a reasonable human would make, opting for the dog. This is because, as the gentleman responsible for walking me through put it, “You can pet the dog.” I most certainly petted the dog. I petted him twice, actually, as he was a Very Good Boy. Why? Because he killed some dude for me.
Working with your companion is as simple as holding the ironsights button and pairing it with a contextual press of the d-pad. With the dog, I was able to send him after individual enemies. This allowed me to use him to set up flanks, disarm people, and even set me up with easy tags. With such a simple command, I felt like my dog buddy was able to do a variety of different things, all of them helpful! It felt like the feature was something important, something I should be constantly paying attention to. Some games give you little tertiary actions with cooldowns that are sort of cool, but not made essential enough that you remember them all the time. With this mechanic, I was constantly making sure I knew what my partner was up to, because it felt mandatory for cleanly surviving an ambush or firefight.
Structurally, Far Cry 5 feels a lot like any other recent game in the series. There’s a huge map with waypoints all over it, and enemies constantly spawn along the way. It’s a busy game for sure, and one that wants to constantly push you to be doing Something. Despite the demo being a limited chunk of the game, I was able to find multiple opportunities to do little sidequests and have emergent adventures beyond the critical path. I could have probably found a way to play Far Cry 5 ’s E3 demo for way longer than half an hour if I wanted to, honestly.
Beyond sending man’s best friend off to maul Midwest cultists and doing the whole “putting bullets in people from all my guns” thing, the Far Cry 5 demo also served as a brief introduction to some of the supporting cast. It was brief and fleeting, barely giving you any time to get to know them, but the it definitely wanted to emphasize that Far Cry 5 is about interacting with a group of allies rather than the usual one or two major characters.
Finally, the end piece of the demo put me in the driver’s seat of the airplane, one of the more strongly-advertised new additions. The one you get is practically a weaponized crop-duster, a testament to the game’s setting and neat little diversion from the run-and-gun stuff. Flying it around feels fine. The weapons, including a machine gun, rockets and bombs, didn’t wow me, but functioned as expected. Shifting the camera perspective and dropping bombs on targets seems like the big gimmick with the plane, although it feels like it contradicts the tagging-based encounters in Far Cry. It was hard to tell what to shoot at when I was getting hit from below.
That said, things got way more interesting when, at the very end of the Far Cry 5 demo, I got to participate in a dogfight. An enemy plane comes after you after you bomb a few weapon silos, and things get Very Real Very Quickly. I went from lazily floating towards my destination to frantically chasing my airborne opponent with my machine guns. Trying to line up rocket shots was a big failure on my part, but eventually I downed the sucker and left the Far Cry 5 demo feeling accomplished.
What I’m really curious about with Far Cry 5 is the story. This game positioned itself early on as having something interesting to say, but the E3 demo didn’t seem interested in giving me a taste. It was all about the gameplay loops and showing off how the new companion systems work. I was impressed with the latter, and the former was exactly what I expected out of a new Far Cry. Dogfighting was fun enough, although I’ll definitely need more on “the why” than “the how” if I’m going to invest more time in Far Cry 5 .