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Montana Itself Is the Real Star of Far Cry 5

From IGN - February 12, 2018
By Brandin Tyrrel

Some of my most memorable moments in my time spent exploring the first of three regions in Far Cry 5 didnt involve explosions, trigger-happy cultists, or psychotic religious figures. While those moments certainly took place, and with the kind of insanity weve come to expect from the series, it was the much more serene and spontaneous times that have stayed with me since Ubisoft Montreal invited us up to play a roughly 15-hour chunk of what the teams been cooking up for the last several years.

About an hour into my playthrough, I discovered a cool feature where if you pull out the binoculars, and then quick toggle the HUD off, you could walk around viewing the world through what is effectively a camera lens. From that moment on I spent a lot of my time exploring the rugged mountains, valleys, rivers, and open plains as a budding documentarian. And in all honesty, I was surprised how engaging this quiet act of observation could be in a game where Im also allowed shoot explosive tipped arrows at helicopters while parachuting from a World War 2-era fighter plane I had stalled and ditched seconds earlier.

What struck me hardest was the validity of Hope County, Montana, the games fictional locale, and how it so effectively portrays the raw beauty of its inspiration. Growing up in Montana, my childhood weekends were spent inhaling breakfast so I could head out into the woods with my BB gun and fishing rod to explore and adventure until sundown. And in all honesty, having lived in the San Francisco Bay Area for more than 20 years, Ive been so removed from those dayswhat it was like to be enveloped by naturethat playing Far Cry 5 genuinely surprised me with memories Id all but forgotten.

Im sure all this sounds hopelessly cheesy. But Ubisofts recreation of that placethe steep hills, expansive golden farmland, and thick, chapped bark of the pineslend the kind of eerie, organic authenticity that you can only find in a place youre familiar with. While the tropical island and Himalayan settings of the two previous numbered entries in the franchise were amazing to behold, Far Cry 5s Montana resonates with me in a way those couldnt.

Im excited to share the wildlife and environment pieces that weve got in the works for later this monthall of which will live on our Far Cry 5 IGN First hub so you can see exactly what Im talking about when I say that Hope County feels like a persistent place teeming with the uniquely Monatanian animals and landscapes you cant find anywhere else in America. But even beyond the nature aspect of the environment, Hope County is dotted with small-town folks and blue collar business that drive the way of life outside the cities.

The level of detail to be found in the farms, junk yards, rail yards, lumber yards, auto shops, and the local watering holes that serve as both dingy dive bars and family restaurants is incredible. No location I wandered through felt out of place, or worse, placed there for the sole purpose of filling space. Theres a pervasive sense of lived-in at the core of this environment thats really impressive.

But like all things, theres an absurd yang to the serene ying of Far Cry 5s natural setting. After all, Hope County is a war zone, where everyone is armed to the teeth out of necessity, and where there are next to no rules when it comes to the interaction between people and between people and the environment. As I stated earlier, this is a series that isnt known for subtlety, and watching these two principles clash is both amusing and bewildering.

For example, at one point I had sat myself on the bank of a river with my binocular-camera zoomed in on a whitetail deer grazing on the far shore. Suddenly a black bear emerged from the woods and, to my surprise, didnt immediately lunge for the deer. They were both just foraging near one another, completely unphased by one another, or me, lurking from a distance. All of the sudden, the deer lifted its head, tensed up, and immediately bolted back into the brush. I had thought the animals AI had finally kicked in, but instead, the low hum of an engine is what drove the deer away.

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