The good news is that the key selling points of the game series are still present in FC5: i) the gorgeous open-world setting, with dynamic natural wildlife and features; ii) the crazy-ass villain, who adds some depth and backstory to your motivation to go on killing sprees; and iii) the ability to achieve tasks in whichever way you want.
The bad news: the bits that are ‘on rails’ really stand out, and there are too many of them. You can bask in the open-world adventures and have incredible freedom as to how you build up the Resistance to the Eden’s Gate cult, which is excellent. But once the resistance meter hits a certain level, then you suddenly vanish (even if, like me, you were hovering overhead in a helicopter!) and get tied up, and have to escape the bunker/imprisonment/torture. This happens TWICE with ALL THREE siblings of the main baddie, before you have the inevitable boss fight. Not only does this become extremely repetitive, but it rips you out of that carefully crafted open world, and shows some of the ugly dynamics of the game underneath. The worst offender is Jacob Seed, where the SAME mission (no spoiler!) is revisited in quite cruel and infuriating ways. By the time that finished, suddenly it’s the final final boss fight – Joseph Seed. And that was just sloppy and ill-judged.
When it’s good, Montana and the environment are simply *stunning*. Driving by car into sunsets, or taking a seaplane or helicopter over the mountains was just good old open-world *fun*; there is more flying in this game, including wing suits and parachutes, and it’s done really well. Liberating outposts, finding Prepper Stashes, upgrading weapons – all these are fun game loops to be involved in. But the writing, the script, the over-hammy acting in the cutscenes, those interminable boss fights – that’s where it all fell down. It seemed rushed, ill thought-out. 66% of this game was simply a blast to play. But the remaining 33% is where the dev team really dropped the ball, and it soured me on the whole thing. Maybe I’m getting too old for these games and I should take up golf. But at least I’ll have memories of picking off Cultists from a mile away with my silenced semi-automatic SA-50 sniper rifle.