I'm going to say it: I have barely played the Far Cry series. I own both Far Cry 4 and Far Cry Primal, and both have been recommended to me multiple times, but I have never had the time and I haven't been super interested. The little that I have played has left me slightly impressed - with each game's focus on immersive landscapes and hunting - but I'm mostly pretty ignorant to the series' tropes. Still, nothing about these games really stuck out to me - they always seemed like straight forward action games without a lot of substance.
When I saw Far Cry 5, I was surprised. They shirked their exotic locations and larger-than-life villains for something a little more homegrown - a massive, militaristic cult which has assumed control over Hope County, Montana. It's not a groundbreaking idea, but even I was surprised at the slight political stance that the series seemed to have taken. Of course, after playing the game, I am a little less impressed, but we'll get to that later.
In Far Cry 5, you take control of an unnamed Junior Deputy who has been tasked with apprehending the charismatic and psychotic leader of the cult of Eden's Gate, Joseph Seed. However, things do not go as planned, and you end up separated from your team and thrown right in the middle of a war zone. You are eventually picked up by a man named Dutch who tasks you to help lead a new resistance against the evil cult.
How do you do this? You take the territories from Seed's evil family, and take Hope County back.
There's a lot of good in this game. First off, you get to play a semi-customizable character instead of a character that already existed in fiction. I say "semi-customizable" because the game doesn't give you a lot of freedom in character creation, and the only reason I don't hold this against them is that this game isn't about making an amazingly cool character. Still, this small bit of power over your character's appearance is fun. But what can I say? I'm a slut for any kind of character creation in a video game.
Then we have the game's narrative - which is still as big and crazy as these games get, but there's a bit of realness to this one. Joseph Seed, the enigmatic leader of Eden's Gate, feels like someone we've seen before in a very insidious way. He's got a Jim Jones feel - but smarter and injected with a little bit of Charles Manson. The opening scene, the attempt to extract Seed from Eden's Gate, was one of the most tense and creepy openings to an action game I ever played.
Fighting him and his family to save your friends? The thought of that at the beginning actually felt daunting to me, because the writers have gone out of their way to make sure that Seed feels as powerful as he's described by the other characters. This combined with a serious and less-comedic nature throughout has made parts of the game incredibly atmospheric despite its action-y nature.
Of course, the game would be nowhere without it's setting. The calmness of the Montana backdrop has served as the perfect foil to the game's horrid nature. One minute, you're walking through lush forests with blue, sunny skies - and then you're crouching down in a redneck's farm, watching some peggies (the name for Seed's minions) shoot a man's stomach out. This adds a level of creepiness that makes you feel on edge as you walk from one checkpoint to the next.
Of course, there are some issues that I have with the way game has presented itself.
As much as I love the backdrop and the game's more serious tone - there's a lot of it that just doesn't add up. The beginning of the game felt almost like the set up for The Sacrament and less like a bombastic opening to an action game. Even as you were driving away and shooting down peggies left and right - it evoked more of an "I can't believe they've gotten so strong" vibe and less of an "It's time to fuck shit up" vibe.
So, when I started the actual game, I felt disappointed that it didn't keep that same feel throughout. Sure, there are some isolated moments that align with the game we're introduced to, but then a lot of it ends up being firefights to take down some enemy waypoints. Am I being unfair? After all, this is an action game.
No, I don't think I am. A game tells a story and if a story has a lot of tonal dissonance - that's a problem. When I'm playing a game, no matter how fun it is, I want it to feel like the same game throughout. Far Cry 5 doesn't feel that way - it feels like two different games packed into one. This isn't a glaring mistake, because the game is still fun and the narrative is still compelling, but it is jarring and disappointing.
Not to mention, it also shies away from the political implications of its premise. We've been living in some tough political times, and militant religious groups, routinely committing genocide and forcing their beliefs down people's throats should have felt more relevant. But I think the game's creators were trying hard not to offend and that made the game feel almost lukewarm.
THE BOTTOM LINE
This could have been a near perfect game if the developers had the courage to take it that extra step. Instead, we're left with a off-tone action game that, while fun, is just a little too generic to be groundbreaking. Still, it's beautiful and fun, and a great way to lose yourself when you've had a bad day a work and just need to kill some bad guys. Should you take a look? Definitely. Should you spend sixty bucks? That's up to you.
I mean, I don't regret buying it.
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