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FAIRBANKS — At its best moments, “Far Cry 5” is an amazing spectacle of a shooter. More than once in my time with the game, I’d find myself going up against a well-fortified outpost with my trusty bad guy-hating cattle dog, Boomer, when a truck with a mounted machine gun and reinforcements would roll up along with a posse of drugged-out cultists brandishing baseball bats all just in time for a bear to come plowing out of the forest and send everyone running.That’s just one of the many ways action in the latest installment of Ubisoft’s “Far Cry” will play out during your time battling a sadistic doomsday cult that’s taken over a picturesque, fictitious Montana valley called Hope County.The open world is split into three main areas each lorded over by one of the religious leader’s siblings who’ve seized control and cut off the valley from the outside world with their personal militia and mind-altering drugs. You, playing as a sheriff’s deputy unlucky enough to have been the backup to a U.S. marshal trying to arrest the Project at Eden’s Gate cult’s spooky leader Joseph Seed, will work to destabilize the cult’s grip on each area by doing missions given by local resistance fighters, blowing up cultist supplies and taking down cultist outposts.You’ll have helicopters, sniper rifles, explosives and even a trained cougar to help liberate each area. Beyond a few points in the game, you’re also able to play the game in whatever order you see fit, tackling challenges at your pace.The main story progresses as you hit benchmarks for how much chaos you’ve caused in each area, and you’ll be swept off to an encounter with one of the bosses.The “Far Cry” series has long followed a similar thematic setup. Players take over the role of outsider-turned-action-movie-star hero in a foreign war-torn world dominated by charismatic leaders with their own personal militias and delusions of grandeur. But over multiple releases, the games began to fall into ruts of similar gameplay loops — famously you’d unlock maps of an area by climbing towers — that felt more grind than fun.“Far Cry 5” brings meaningful streamlining to the series by removing some of the slog that became sources of frustrations for long-time players of the series. There’s no longer as much tower climbing, and you’ll no longer be hunting down that rare white tiger required to build a bigger wallet. It’s also the first of the series to be set in the United States.New to the series is a guns for hire system that allows you to recruit people from the area — as well as Boomer (who frustratingly can’t ride shotgun in your car), a friendly grizzly bear named Hamburger and a cougar named Peaches — that will fight alongside you. Friends can also join in through the game’s online co-op system.Taken together it’s a refreshing change of pace that places more focus on the action, but that’s also where the game will eventually start to fall flat.There’s simply not all that much variation in the combat you come across in the open world. Taking down an outpost or hitting a supply convoy plays pretty much the same in the first few hours as it does at hour 20 and beyond. You’ll have unlocked a few more guns, friends and vehicles along the way, but none will dramatically change how you play the game.After a few dozen hours into the game, I began to ignore the pitter patter of gunfire that would lure you to action in the open world and head straight for the tailored missions. Without a satisfying reason for exploration, the open world is left feeling empty.The crafted missions can also be pretty hit-or-miss. Some will be action movie-esque gun battles while others won’t be much more than fetching a trailer from the other side of the map.The one shining piece of the open world are the many prepper stashes littered around the world. By rescuing people from the cult, you’ll get hints about the location of the stashes and each presents a puzzle to crack. Many have their own little, sad stories to tell: a note left for a friend who’d never come or an answering machine with a worried message from a mom. The stashes hint a much bigger and more complicated world than the game gives otherwise.Thankfully, at least on the action front, “Far Cry 5” brings with it an arcade mode that allows you to craft new levels or encounters to share online with other players. They can be played solo, in co-op or competitive multiplayer. Already, there’s a dizzying variety of levels that you can plan and more are constantly being added.Ultimately, “Far Cry 5” falls short of making its beautifully detailed open world stay interesting later in the game. The story itself falls flat in large part because it’s doled out at predetermined points in the game. Still, there are very high points offered in some of the missions, open world and the endless Arcade mode that offer plenty of fun.Matt Buxton is a freelance writer and gamer. He can be reached at matt.a.buxton@gmail.com.

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