It hasn’t been that long since players last jumped into the world of Far Cry, which makes Far Cry 5 feel like reconnecting with an old friend. Ubisoft isn’t shying away from that fact either, but is embracing it with an E3 2017 demo that highlights everything that is essential to Far Cry, albeit packaged in a completely new setting.

Over the course of E3 2017, we have had the opportunity to play Far Cry 5 twice. One demo was focused exclusively on clearing out a small town, the game’s version of an outpost, by eliminating every hostile enemy around. The other simply added a story mission onto the backend of that encounter – a chance to play around in the open world.

As is typical of the franchise, Far Cry 5 offers a lot of freedom in how players take control of the town, even more so with the Guns for Hire. For this demo, there were only three Guns for Hire available: Nick, Grace, and Boomer. Nick is a pilot that crosses above the player in his single prop plane, ready to drop down a hail of gunfire or bombs should the player request help. Grace is a sniper, who will take out targets from long range. And Boomer is a roaming dog that will be right alongside the player, tearing enemies to shreds.far cry 5 plane combat

Once players familiarize themselves with their Gun for Hire, the familiar feel of Far Cry starts to work its magic. Players can eliminate every enemy from afar with a sniper rifle, get right into the thick of it and use automatic weapons to kill, or use any combination therein. They can even sit back and let one of the Guns for Hire do all the work, until the town is free and the resistance sets up camp there.

Some will likely say that Far Cry 5 has a lot of the familiar trappings of the series’ 3rd and 4th iterations, and they aren’t wrong. It took a few minutes to get our bearings, but once the gunfire started it wasn’t long before we were sliding through the fields, whacking baddies with our baseball bat, and making sure backup can be called.

It’s really the setting that makes Far Cry 5 standout; this doesn’t feel like a conflict in some remote tropical locale or prehistoric times. Ubisoft has thrust players into middle America and put them against radical citizens with violent inclinations. In some ways it may feel too real for players, but it’s hard to truly decode the tone of the game based on the trailers released thus far. What we played was mostly focused on combat, and any story beats were meant to introduce the characters fighting alongside the player.

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These characters are plenty colorful, though, much in the spirit of Far Cry’s best quest givers. In a following story mission from the town takeover, Nick gave us access to a plane and had us do a bombing run on some key locations. It’s that kind of over the top fun that helps pull some of the realism out of Far Cry 5 and keep it distant enough to be entertaining.

And trust us when we say the game is just as engaging as ever. Far Cry 4 was by no means a bad game, but it didn’t feel like enough of a step away from its predecessor. This game, however, has all of what players want from a sequel, a fresh environment, some smart additions to combat, and more fun characters to interact with. Whether or not that gameplay loop will feel as exciting as it does a dozen hours in is unclear, but for our first taste of Hope County it was great to jump back into this world.

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Far Cry 5 releases February 27, 2017 for PC, PS4, and Xbox One.