Seven new things we've learned about Far Cry 5's sandbox

Far Cry 5 is a very silly game. James established this a while back, but I recently had the opportunity to return to the preview area to test the limits of the sandbox. I had access to the same patch of Montana, which is a pretty but relatively flat farmland area featuring an airfield and a tiny town that you liberate at the beginning of the demo.

For the real fun in these demos you have to go off the beaten path a little to see how the game reacts to random acts of savagery. Far Cry is a series about a heavily armed lone gun infliciting carnage on an entire region, so let's begin.

You can use the repair tool to set fire to cultists

As any Far Cry player knows, holding a welding tool against a broken vehicle heals it in minutes. Touch that magical blue flame to a person and it unheals them in minutes. Light and shade.

I managed to sneak up on three cultists doing some target practice in a field, and discovered that guns aren't a great defense when you are too on fire to pull a trigger. It only takes a few seconds to set someone alight. They thrash around for a bit and shout "aaaaah!" for about a minute before the fire goes out. There is a pause while they seem to register how much damage they've taken, then they keel over dead.

It's neat that the rules of Far Cry 5's all-destroying repair tool also apply to your companions, but it does seem that Far Cry's excellent fire-spreading system has been toned down. Igniting a patch of grass creates a small burn that goes out quickly. I miss the firestorms of Far Cry 2.

Your dog is an immortal flame-retardant superhero

One from the 'just because you can doesn't mean you should' column of Far Cry sandbox crimes—you can set your dog on fire with the repair tool. When he catches light he runs off yelping, but when the fire goes out he plods back to you unharmed as though nothing happened. In fact during my hour with the game he proved to be an unusually fire-resistant mutt. A multi-car explosion set fire to most of an airfield. I walked around the wreckage to find my dog walking calmly through the flames, alight, totally unfazed by the whole ordeal. This guy would have broken Pavlov.

If could have my time again I would set the dog on fire and then order him to attack an enemy, just to see if the fire spreads to the human victim.

Your dog is so badass wolves flee from him

We know what the dog can do against humans.  You point him at a cultist and he takes them down for an easy kill. However, I was delighted to see him react differently to other targets in the demo. If you point him at a wolf he goes face to face and the two have a noisy bark-off for a few minutes before the wolf turns tail and flees in terror. Good boy.

Your flying companion is a little too overprotective

Speaking of dogs and their stressful existence in the world of Far Cry 5, I would like to take a moment to commemorate one ranger's hound who committed the crime of walking too close to me while airborne companion Nick Rye circled above. I had been investigating a small watchtower when I came across the ranger, a non-threatening hunter sort in a red jacket with a little dog at her side. I approached intending to strike up conversation when a screaming strafing run carved past us both. I looked down to see the dog lying on its side, quite dead. Its owner didn't seem to care, or even notice, but using the attack command I tried to order Rye to dive bomb himself in retaliation. He did not respond.

You can, and should, kick NPCs in the nuts while they are giving you missions

Far Cry 5's dialogue system is surprisingly adaptive. You can walk away from a mission-giver mid conversation and they get annoyed and stop talking. They get even more annoyed if you hit the melee attack button and kick them in the groin in the middle of their spiel. The guy I did this to at the airfield stopped his speech to tell me off. Then, when I re-engaged him he picked up his thread where he left off. I wish more games worked like this. 

Of course, he never again acknowledged that I attacked him mid-sentence. And he let me fly his plane even though I've never flown a plane before. What a guy.

You can weaponise harvesters

There were a few tractors navigating the fields. You can hijack them, but they are problematic assault vehicles. You have big gaps to the front and sides that you can shoot out of (shooting out of vehicles in Far Cry 5 feels very good) but they are slow and you look like an idiot. No-one will laugh at you in a harvester, because the rotating blades on the front are serious business. There was nothing living that wouldn't die to being slowly rammed by the spinning blades. Your victims vanish from view with a squirt of blood.

You can call in an airstrike on a cow, if you really want to

I was impressed at the airman Rye's ability to accurately hit a target that a man miles below has pointed at with his arm. Rye hit a cow square on the head first-time in one target practice. He even managed to hit a huge mast that I pointed at from a field away (it didn't collapse, sadly). Of the companions, he seems insanely powerful, though that's likely down to the balancing of the demo build. The companions behave very differently.

Far Cry 5 is shaping up well. It's not doing much to shake up the formula Ubisoft has honed in recent years, but it doesn't feel like Far Cry is in need of a radical shakeup as long as it's generating this sort of chaos. I do miss the soaring peaks of Kyrat, but the final Far Cry 5 map may contain more topographical variety.