Far Cry 5 is tackling a new environment for the franchise: the fictional Hope County, in modern day Montana. The series is about immersing the player in a new exotic playground, but Ubisoft felt it could offer something unique by setting the next Far Cry in middle America. While my last article was all about the developers capturing the visual feel of Montana, this time we're tackling all the things that you can do within Hope County.
What use is a beautiful and detailed game world if there's nothing to experience? The Far Cry staples have to be present in Far Cry 5, but with a distinctly 'Montana' feel to them. Authenticity isn't just the look, it's also the play.
"It needs to be fun. It needs to fulfill the player's fantasies of using all these things. But it needs to also makes sense with where we are in the world. It needs to make sense in Montana," said Far Cry 5 Lead Programmer Raphael Parent. "We wanted out activities to really feel like they belonged."
Field & Stream
Hunting has always been a core part of Ubisoft's Far Cry and that returns here with a full system focused on hunting everything up to big game. There are wolves, bears, moose, bulls, ducks, deer, skunk, and two absolutely vicious creatures: the wolverine and the turkey. The wolverine takes the place of the Honey Badger from Far Cry 4, a tiny whirling rageball that's out for everyone's blood.
Fishing is a completely new addition to the series, as Ubisoft noticed that fishing was a "really big part" of Montana culture. Ubisoft wanted fishing to feel great, so they added complexity to the average cast-and-reel mini-game you find in some titles. There are different types of lures and different fish depending on where you are in Hope County. If Ubisoft hits its promises, players are really going to have to plan and fight hard when they go for the big catches.
"We really wanted that to be something that the player could have fun with for hours upon hours if they wanted to. We even had a tester who was fishing the entire time while his guns-for-hire were destroying an outpost," said Parent.
Armed To The Teeth
Speaking of destroying an outpost, you'll have to rely on a series of distinctly American weapons in Far Cry 5. Weapons that make sense in the heartlands of the United States, like the D2 snubnosed shotgun, the classic M1911 pistol, and the good old all-American baseball bat. There's the SIG Sauer P226, which is a weapon actually used by law enforcement in Montana. The default weapon of your antagonists, the Project at Eden's Gate, is the AR-C, a fictional assault weapon in style of the modern Remington GPC. Ubisoft even added the MP40, which is a German weapon, but real-life gun was brought back from World War II by a number of veterans, hence its inclusion in Far Cry 5.
"You have your different types of weapons obviously, but we really wanted them to feel like they belonged in Montana," said Parent. "In every Far Cry, we've had classic weapons that made sense with the context of where we are."
The bow and arrow returns as the modern compound bow, a tool used frequently by hunters these days. Ubisoft also added the Slingshot, a weapon that debuted in Far Cry Primal. Instead of that game's ancient spin-and-sling style weapon, Far Cry 5 uses the pull-and-release style slingshot you'd find in your local Bass Pro Shops or other outdoor store. Finally, melee weapons are getting a big boost. Players can always tussle with their bare hands, but in addition to the baseball bat, there are found melee weapons like the shovel, the hoe, and the metal pipe. If that's your jam, each one has its own special takedown and Ubisoft actually motion captured every one of them.
Get Your Motor Runnin'
In the United States and the mid-West in particular, anything with a motor should be larger than life. The roar of the engine, the gas-guzzling might of the muscle car, and the sheer power of the pick-up truck. There's a number of cars and trucks in the game, including a hefty big rig, but the vehicles in Far Cry 5 extend beyond that. There's the tractor—which you can attach a mulcher on the front—which makes sense given the wide expanse of farmland in the area. The plane is also a major facet of Far Cry 5, allowing players to see Hope County from high in the air.
Ubisoft is offering a nice little surprise for Far Cry 5's vehicles: customization. There was some limited customization in the series before, but Ubisoft is leaning hard on being able to make the vehicles your own.
"For the first time around, you're going to be able to customize your vehicles," said Parent. "You're going to be able to add turrets, the mulcher on the tractor, different paintjobs. It was just a matter of giving that control to the player. How deep does it go? Well I can't give you all the details just yet."
Sometimes You Have To Play Inside
The expanded interiors of Hope County had to be taken into account when it came to combat specifically. It wasn't just about the player being able to navigate a home or store in Hope County, the AI had to be able to do so as well. Interiors means doors, and doors only existed on safe houses in Far Cry 4. Doors which automatically opened in previous games, can now be dynamically opened to sneak into places. So, the AI has to know what a door is, be able to navigate an interior and know where to take cover. They have to be able to look through windows and be able to understand what's going on inside a house. That required a rebuilding of Far Cry's core systems.
"For our game, since we never really had many interiors, we also had to adapt our gameplay. We had to deal with windows, doors, and all these things," said Parent. "All of that had to be taken into account with interiors. We had some before, but it wasn't a big part of what the game was."
The other snag with the rampant interiors of Far Cry 5 comes from the addition of planes and air combat.
"Since we have planes and choppers that can be driven by guns-for-hire or hostile AI, you have to have AI that reacts to what's going on outside. One of the good ways to react when something is dropping bombs on your head is to just get indoors. That's another place we had to tweak our AI," said Parent.
Bushes have always been one facet of cover in Far Cry, but with the addition Montana farmland, Ubisoft added a new type of cover: tall grass. When you crouch down in tall grass or a cornfield, the enemy can't see you, allowing you to use fields as one entry point into enemy territory.
Another intriguing change in Far Cry 5's AI comes in the form of long-range combat. Montana is full of flat fields, whereas the series has generally been good about always providing variety in elevation, especially in the mountains of Far Cry 4's Kyrat or the valley of Oros in Far Cry: Primal.
"We had to rethink the way bullets traveled through far distances. So now we have a bullet drop," explained Parent. "Whenever you shoot someone, it drops after a while. If you want to shoot someone from afar, you have to think about it and adjust your aim."
The same is true for your enemies. They have to be able to correctly discern if they're vulnerable in an open field, or decide that they need to get to high ground to attack the player. If you're in a plane, they'll lean on explosives and rifles as a counter-measure. These are new considerations for Ubisoft in terms of the Far Cry series.
All of these additions had to happen because Montana is a more modern environment than the remote or historic locations of previous Far Cry titles. Ubisoft never had to worry about some of these aspects, like interior design or branding. Planes also force the team to keep track of how things look from above, resulting in design and engine improvements.
"I think before we were getting by without [these additions]," said Parent. "But having it for future Far Crys is only going to put us in a better position. AI driving on the right side of the road: we could've done it in [Far Cry 4], but we didn't think it was useful. Whatever to do next, all this cool new stuff will be used. We tend to reuse most of what we did on previous games."
Regardless, we'll be waiting just a little bit longer for Far Cry 5 on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. The game was supposed to launch on February 27, 2018, but it was recently delayed a month to March 28, 2018.