E3 was certainly not short on heroes this year. From Destiny 2’s resurgent Guardians, to the courageous GIs of Call of Duty WWII, the various press conferences were packed with protagonists to root for.
However, amongst the familiar faces was a surprise show-stealing newcomer: Boomer the dog. Far Cry 5’s canine sidekick elicited some of the biggest cheers of the week when he helped dispatch a gang of nefarious cultists in an on-stage demo of Ubisoft’s upcoming open world FPS sequel.
Of course, anyone with a passing familiarity with the Far Cry series will know that wildlife plays an integral part in what makes the series stand out from the pack. The games’ playful ecosystems help fuel extraordinary emergent gameplay where the player can never quite predict what the environment is going to throw at them next.
Clearly, with the introduction of Boomer in this year’s E3 gameplay demo, Far Cry 5 has got some big ideas for how it’s going to push things forward further. In search of a little more detail on what the team has up its sleeves, we sat down with the game’s Creative Director Dan Hay. Here’s what we learned…
1. Boomer’s a mangy old mutt – and all the more awesome for it
The kernel of the idea that would later grow into Boomer was an interaction Hay had with their guide and his hunting dog while out on a research trip in Montana during the game’s concepting phase. But who provided the inspiration for Boomer’s appearance? One of the team members’ own pets perhaps?
“He’s a composite,” confirms Hay. “He’s a mutt. We thought about maybe having a dog that was a pure bred, but then we came up with Boomer. He’s just an awesome mutt with real personality. One ear up, one ear down, the way he growls, the way he looks at you for attention… he’s perfect.”
2. Boomer has got your back
“He has this tendency to be protective,” says Hay, with a hint of understatement. Your in-game canine companion will not only take down enemies for you, but he’ll also pick up their weapon and bring it back to you, like an old pair of slippers.
And beyond that, he’s the perfect hunting companion – not only keeping you safe, but leading you down some unexpected gameplay tangents.
“Say I’m out tracking animals and not paying attention, and a bear turns up and tries to attack me from behind,” explains Hay, to illustrate.
“I’ll hear this roar and I’ll turn around – Boomer will bark at it and the bear will back off a bit, then Boomer barks again and he backs off some more, and then it turns to retreat. And before I know it I’m off on a bear hunt with Boomer!”
3. Booomer can’t be killed – but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take care of him
You’ll be glad to hear that Boomer can’t be permanently dispatched by your adversaries – indeed you can play the entire game with him at your side. However, you’ll still want to keep a careful eye on him.
“We’ve made it so that Boomer can be temporarily put out of commission,” says Hay. “We wanted to make sure he didn’t feel invincible, but we also didn’t want to have it so that he could be killed and be gone forever. He can be taken out of commission for a little while, but he will come back.”
4. Far Cry 4’s honey badgers are absent, but don’t get complacent
I’m sure everyone has fond memories of Far Cry 4’s docile, totally un-vicious honey badgers, right? Right? Well, you might be glad to hear that honey badgers are not indigenous to rural Montana. That said, the team might have something similar up its sleeve…
“There are a bunch of animals in the game that I can’t tell you about just yet,” Hay teases. “But there are definitely some… ah, man, I really want to tell you about this one thing. I can’t though! I will say that there is a pretty fierce little guy that has a defence mechanism that is really fun to play with…”
5. Far Cry 5’s animals have a sixth sense for violence
As well as the usual array of wild animals you might have come to expect from a Far Cry game, the upcoming sequel also debuts a variety of placid agricultural creatures.
“For the first time in Far Cry we have rural domestic animals, like cows and horses – the sort of animals that you might walk by and think you can just leave them alone,” explains Hay.
Not so fast though.
“What’s interesting is watching what happens to them as the cult descends on Hope County. As they begin to put pressure on the game’s world and encroach into the community, the animals start to get spooked. You’ll get the feeling that things are starting to shift.”
Before you know it, what was once a predictable farm animal, suddenly starts to become a potential threat…
6. Cat lovers, don’t give up hope
So, since time immemorial there have been dog people and there have been cat people. Boomer has got the former’s needs covered, but what of the latter? Has Far Cry 5 got anything for them? Hays was cagey, but offered a little cause for optimism.
“I desperately want to answer that question but I can’t! If you were to ask me ‘Dan, is there a chance that there is a big cat in this game that could be maybe be your pet,’ I would not be able to answer that question…”
7. Far Cry 5 lets you pick up a rod and go fishing
Given the extraordinary variety of things that the Far Cry series has let players do with animals in the past (for better or worse), it’s perhaps a little odd that they haven’t let us grab a rod and indulge in a spot of fishing yet. Well, that all changes with Far Cry 5.
“Every once in a while you’ll find someone who has been killed by the cult and there might be a fishing rod lying next to them,” explains Hay. “You can pick it up and start to fish. Before you know it, you’ll find yourself trying to catch bigger and bigger fish and competing with friends to land the largest catch.”
It might seem like a frivolous edition, but it’s all part of making the world feel alive.
8. Far Cry 5’s animals are the series’ most realistic creatures yet
TL;DR: expect Far Cry 5’s ecosystem to be seriously sophisticated.
“It has to feel real. Predators and prey have to behave in a believable way,” he insists.
“If you walk down to the river and you know that there are fish there, the chances are you’re not going to be the only living thing that is fishing. It has to make sense that a bear might come down every once in a while, give you a good look, and then go about its business. It has to make sense that when you’re fishing, your dog might decide to go for a swim. These little interactions have to feel real.”