I don’t like the common idea that perfect stealth runs are how we earn a mark of skill. In Far Cry 5, where you’ll be taking back settlements by murdering every bad guy in them, stealth still works perfectly fine. But as I found out, it might be the most unexciting way to play Far Cry this time around. Rural life makes for quite the goofy combat sandbox, a montage of crop duster bombing runs and semi-truck off road shortcuts broken up by quieter activities—in my case, a fairly authentic fly-fishing mini-game. Caught a pretty golden trout from a quiet pond. Fly poles are a fucking inventory item, like, they co-exist with machine guns in your quick select. . Anyway.
My dog is perfect. He’s a good boy with a shiny black coat speckled in white and grey. Like my dad says, they’re the perfect companions: ‘Won’t steal your heart or your pocketbook.’ It’s true. Only thing he steals on command is the skin of a Duck Dynasty cosplay cultist of my choosing (and guns, once you teach him). I mean, he’s the same dog from the latest demo Ubisoft showed off at their E3 conference on Monday—I played the same mission and then some—but they don’t love him like I do.
Small town life
He and I start the mission in the woods on a hill cresting above a small town, which is currently occupied by some cultists. There’s no support sniper to help me like in the demo, just me, a dog, a baseball bat decorated with an American flag graphic, and a trusty pair of binoculars. I spot about 10 men right away, but figure there are more strewn about through the buildings lining main street. I’m getting . And the hue of bluish green on the mountains in the distance—it makes me want to tear up. God damn, I love Montana.
Which makes the fantasy of taking it back from wild mega-Christian cultists even more enticing. How will I go about this? I decide on a flanking route. I’ll move up the buildings on the left side of the street, taking out any errant men inside, and then circle back around, returning down the line of buildings on the other side of the street. It’ll be easy. No one will know I was ever there.
No one does know I’m there, at first. I take out a guard studying a fridge in one house and move to the next. Another guy stands next to a ladder, so I knock his ass out too and climb the ladder to the roof. Jackpot. Sitting behind sandbag cover is a fancy semi-auto long distance rifle and an LMG emplacement.
I hop on the turret and figure, fuck it, and let loose on the crowd of cultists below. It chugs and kicks violently, enveloping the street in dust and light. Conveniently, a crowd is standing next to a flammable tank that I hit in my wild spray of bullets and it goes up, taking out a truck and engulfing the scene in flames and a thick smoky haze.
I hear a crack and my character’s vision goes red. In the chaos, some men snuck up behind me with baseball bats of their own, so I bail off the roof, call my dog, and book it up the street. I end up coming back down the street through the other row of buildings while the remaining cultists look for me. I still have that semi-auto rifle from my rooftop scavenging, so after making a complete flank, I take out the stragglers. The town is ours, and a big graphic splashes on the screen letting me know.
Mary May, the bartender from the trailers, tells me we need to hit the cultists where it hurts by using a modified pontoon plane to bomb them. OK, sure. The plane I need is a mile or so up the road, and the only method of travel I can find is a semi-truck emblazoned with a blazing bald eagle. OK, sure.
I get in and tear up a dirt road, running over a few unlucky cultists on the way. Two trucks carrying cultists pulled in when I arrived at the airfield, so I pressed hard on the gas, leapt out, and tossed a stick of dynamite onto the car pile. The explosion sends the two trucks flying and takes me down to critical health in the process. I hear a man stumbling and yelling in the haze, so I aimed in the direction of the sound and commanded my dog to attack. All I can see is smoke, but I hear him die. My pup emerges from the haze, and I pet him using a prompt. He got a good lick in too. Good boy.
Nick, the exaggerated Montana caricature from the trailers, tells me where his pontoon plane is, so I get into another vehicle and head towards a large pond. There’s a man standing on a dock fly-fishing, so of course I want to get a piece of the action.
I grab an extra fly-pole and hold the cast button, which kicks off an authentic animation, the wrist flicking between 10 and 2 o’clock, the left arm stripping out extra line, and whoosh, the line lands softly. I strip and reel line back which attracts a trout. It nibbles and I jerk, hooking the sucker. As fish do, it swims around in panic, and I move the pole in the opposite direction, tiring it out while reeling in. It’s a quiet, lovely little scene that took me right back to my childhood, an authentic piece of Montana life set dressing I wholly appreciate. That said, my pro fly-fisherman father will have the final word.
A few more casts, and then I get in the pontoon plane and drop a bomb on a silo. Control is super smooth and the Montana landscape looks gorgeous from up here. I see a few small communities, a farm or two, and cultists driving all over the damn place. I’m ambushed by a cultist plane and we get into a dogfight, yawing and spinning all over. A well-timed rocket sends them to the ground in a flaming streak and my demo ends. I’m still thinking about where to find the biggest fish.
Far Cry 5’s marketing may be self-serious, and it won’t address the real and gross ideologies used as indirect backdrops for its story. But the 15 minutes I played was full of ridiculous sandbox action and that will probably be enough for me. Most importantly, that action was broken up by fly-fishing and a prompt for petting my dog. Even if Far Cry 5 can’t get its headier concepts right, we can certainly count on it to be the most chaotic, silly, and varied game in the series yet.