Saturday 22 September 2018

Far Cry 5 review: Too safe to be a cult hit

Far Cry 5 (PS4/XO/PC) ★★★★ Age: 18+

Far Cry 5
Far Cry 5
Ronan Price

Ronan Price

Political and social satire is a rare beast in gaming. It's not that it doesn't exist - see controversial examples such as JFK Reloaded, The McDonald's Game or Super Columbine Massacre RPG. But at the big-budget level of Far Cry 5, few chances are taken.

So what might appear on the surface a parody of Trump's America, its obsession with guns and the resurgence of fundamentalist supremacy turns out to be merely business as usual for the Far Cry franchise.

FC5 pulls its punches when it comes to saying something meaningful about a murderous cult holed up in a remote patch of Montana. Instead, it rolls out the familiar building blocks of outposts to be conquered, wildlife to be provoked, crafting stuff to be collected and - of course - guns to be shot.

It's never less than entertaining, particularly in the riotous co-op mode - with random chaos only a hair trigger away. To watch your partner take down the last fanatic in a mission only for him to be fatally mauled by a passing grizzly bear - that sort of indiscriminate bedlam never gets old.

So by all means enjoy FC5 and its overused template composed of bits from many Far Cry instalments - and other open-world chaos sims such as Just Cause. Just don't expect it to be the pinnacle of the series nor to offer anything other than empty platitudes about the extremism gnawing at the heart of America.

Ni No Kuni 2: Revenant Kingdom

(PS4/PC) ★★★★ Age: 12+

This sequel to the delightful original JRPG lacks the input this time of the peerless Studio Ghibli but it's still a visual treat, weaving a fairy tale yarn about boy king Evan (a half-cat) seeking to regain his lost throne from an army of evil mice-men (of course!).

After a pleasant but protracted prologue lasting perhaps 10 hours, NNK2 blossoms into something more interesting. Evan's battles with the local flora and fauna gain a greater urgency as he seeks to construct his empire, form allegiances and recruit to his cause. Real-time battles in the modern JRPG style are spliced with city-building sections resembling Civilization, mixed with a top-down strategic war mode, followed by dungeon-crawling.

The absence of Ghibli manifests in the odd blend of narrative (lines fully voiced by regional British actors seguing inexplicably into lines of unspoken text, as if the budget ran out). But it's difficult to resist NNK2's whimsy, silly jokes and breathless combat while you restore Evan to his rightful place in the kingdom.

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