Very much a 'take the previous template and make it feel primal' approach, Ubisoft's latest imagining on the Far Cry franchise is a smart piece of work. The atmosphere and scope in particular are highlights, making you feel as if you have travelled back to the past where tribes, woolly mammoths and sabre toothed tigers roamed the Earth. There are no guns. There's no radio conversations. There's no pretty much everything you might expect in today's world!
Such a decision has shunted Far Cry into somewhat new territory, too. With an emphasis on what tools were around at the time, crafting and building feels essential from start to finish. Whether that's sculpting a new arrow for your bow, or smashing together a new club to whack someone in the face with, collecting resources is as important as doing missions.
The same can be said for Primal's settlement system. Serving as the game's point of progression, focusing on these RPG-like trees and increasing the population continually offers more rewards. These could be your standard level-up boosts - more health, better speed etc. - but it also ties into what animals you can tame, what extras are available to you and, quite nicely, how many resources you have flowing in your direction - every time night turns to day you'll be given a 'reward stash'. The bigger your miniature home, the more benefits you'll get.
Such evolution is nothing new to the Far Cry games, mind. It's certainly dressed up in different clothes this time - as well as having an addictive nature - but the familiar tentpoles are all there. Nowhere is this more apparent than Primal's mission structure. All set within a map so big it'll make you sick, the majority of the time you'll be hunting animals, recruiting important members of your tribe, or flat out killing your main rivals, the Udam. Certain missions play with the formula a tad (and as you'd expect it's littered with side quests), but a certain routine does set in relatively early.
There's nothing wrong with 'do mission, return home, level up, do another mission', but if you've sunk a lot of time into past Far Cry titles there's a slight chance it may all start to ring a few bells sooner than you'd like. There's only so long you can go looking for a deer to skin until before getting the itch to do something else. When it's good, however, it is entertaining and presented pretty damn well, the visual side of things being an absolute treat.
Whether or not it's better looking than Far Cry 4 is arguable, but from the off Primal is an example of why the current generation is impressive. Be it the sheer size of the thing or how pleasant it is to find a high spot and just stare off into the distance, Ubisoft's engine remains an absolute monster. It's a huge plus, mostly because it turns simply walking around the environment into a joyful experience. And then there's the bow and arrow.
While sharing many traits with the one from 4, having to rely on it so much this time (mostly because there's not an AK47 in sight) forces you to get the hang of it. Once you do, it's a delight. Plunging an arrow into someone's skull is easily as satisfying as a sniped headshot, and stacking these together sees it become better still. The same is true for the spear, making the slight dip when you engage in melee combat a little disappointing. It's certainly not bad, but up close attacks often spiral into button spamming with no real sense that you're trying to smash someone's face in. You're just swinging wildly.
Thankfully there are ways and means to avoid this, namely the ability to tame animals. Far Cry Primal holds nothing back in this regard either: if you want to have a bear as your partner in crime, you can go and get a bear to be your partner in crime. What's more, you can extended your finger, whistle, and the monster will go rip apart your prey. Acting as a party of sorts, it's a constant as you progress, coming into its own when larger beasts become accessible. Much like nearly everything in-game, this can also be ranked up. Before you see the end credits, you'll essentially be a walking disaster.
Far Cry Primal is a very fun video game (which sounds like a sentence a child would write), but it is a video game you've played before. Think how much a new setting means to you - and how much you enjoy Ubisoft's take on the open world genre - and the answer to whether you need this should be very clear. If you're still on the fence, you can ride around on the back of a wooly mammoth should you choose. That's alright...
Version Tested: PS4