Far Cry 5 is a game paralyzed by its potential social relevance. Ubisoft's open-world shooter series generally involves fictitious conflicts in non-existent countries, far from the United States coasts. But the last installment, launched last week, takes place in rural Montana. The players are fighting against an enemy that is much closer to home: a cult of arms whose images evoke the separatist militias and fundamentalist Christianity.
The general consensus since the launch of the game is that Far Cry 5 spoils it completely. Ben Kuchera in Polygon writes that Far Cry 5 makes gestures towards serious issues such as religious extremism or the culture of firearms, but gets nervous and hits, without being neither apolitical nor seriously opportune. The GQ review described it as "a video game for cowards". Andrew Webster of The Verge called it a game that "creates the illusion that he has something to say, and then refuses to say anything."
But, intentionally or not, Far Cry 5 does not feel like a failed attempt to explore far-right separatism. It feels like a game that started freely based on contemporary contemporary politics and right-wing splinter groups; it was derailed by the hard and sudden turn of the real world in a political catastrophe; and it ended up as a mess of "topical" buzzwords.
The game feels made for a world with different priorities
All fiction comes from the world that surrounds it, and for Far Cry 5, it feels like a world with very different ideas about what was important and controversial. Creative director Dan Hay began writing the story in response to events ranging from the 2008 financial crisis to the January 2016 siege of Ammon Bundy in Oregon. But it was conceived before members of the militia marched with neo-Nazis in Charlottesville and the "little city of the United States" became a shorthand for "the hard country Trump" and before a sense of uneasiness became absolute panic in 2017. Much of Far Cry 5 feels less like a game about a modern world in crisis, and more like a conservative fantasy about the triumph of the small city of the United States.
Against most of the exaggeration prior to the release of Ubisoft, the group that most resembles a conservative militia in Far Cry 5 is not the cult of Eden & s Gate. It is the resistance movement that the players create to fight the cult in the fictional county of Hope, Montana, a town already full of weapons enthusiasts and members of the existing militias. As you progress through the game, popping things up to increase your "resistance meter", cult leaders will periodically accuse you of being too violent, evoking the standard first person shooter trope "both sides are bad". But the cult is so ridiculously monstrous that it's just an obvious hypocrisy. When a member of the resistance implicitly tortures a member of the cult at one point, it is played as an extravagant detail, while the cult engages in an exaggerated monstrosity such as making children eat their own parents.
Far Cry 5 is peppered with references in his nose, like a corrupt politician who wants to "make Hope County great again" and a parallel search involving the apocryphal Trump tape. But his most direct and important arguments are generally about pastors, veterans, farmers and other positive rural archetypes of the United States that protect their way of life. I recruited a comrade defending the tombs of the war heroes of the cult members who were trying to "erase our history" and shooting dozens of enemies shouting things like "Destroy the monument!" It also makes more sense than anyone in the resistance to use their literally infinite planes and helicopters to go and look for the National Guard if it is a conservative militia; There is a longstanding animosity among Northwestern survivors and the application of federal law after incidents such as the infamous Ruby Ridge confrontation in 1992 in Idaho.
& # 39; Far Cry 5 & # 39; Far Cry 5 & # 39; deals with weapons and religion in the same way that women's prison films deal with the reform of criminal justice
The members of Eden Gate obviously accumulate weapons, and theoretically they are Christians: they scribble the names of several deadly sins on every available surface, which is why many critics have criticized the cult of Far Cry 5 for not being inspired by fundamentalists real or neoconservative Christians. Nazi ideology But if you ignore the interviews and marketing of Ubisoft, you get the feeling that the game does not avoid these issues. He just is not interested in them.
Despite the solemn public relations campaign of Ubisoft, Far Cry 5 is not a serious narrative game about political extremism hampered by the mechanics of the shooter or executives timid by controversy. It is the playful equivalent of a trashy exploitation film, with a core of ultraviolence bathed in a bright layer of social commentary. Far Cry 5 is "about" weapons and religion in the same way that women's films of the 1950s dealt with criminal justice reform. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with that, but it is not surprising that coherent political messages fall into the background in the face of shootings and explosions.
If images are ignored at the surface level, many elements of Eden's Gate feel less like a right-wing cult and more like a representation of the Manson family with a feverish dream, which is a conservative example of radical violence. from left. He is a collective sadist of "peace and love" with a superficial adherence to the apocalyptic writings, full of drug addicts who, like a real game mechanic, are controlled by rock music. The game's "happiness" plant, a hallucinogen that irrevocably transforms cultists into murderous zombies, is an easy way to make players feel better by killing cultists. But it also reflects the broad cultural trope of brainwashing cultured by LSD. (By the way, one of the many conspiracy theories against Barack Obama implied that Obama was controlled by radicals of the 60s, something that today is much less relevant).
Austin Walker in Waypoint expressed the idea that the players of Far Cry 5 are "the agent of the broken status quo", that works for the theoreticians of the conservative conspiracy and defends a hyperindividualist culture of personal bunkers against a collectivist threat. Walker quickly dismissed the idea, but it is the most coherent interpretation of Far Cry 5 that I have seen, except that in this world the status quo is not supposed to be broken, and the conspiracy theorists were right.
The previous deployment of Ubisoft basically disagrees with the game itself
I doubt that Ubisoft wanted this reading of the game. Again, Hay was inspired by Bundy's occupation in 2016 of a wildlife refuge in Oregon, which implicitly turns Eden's Gate into anti-government extremists. And his character asks for help from a government official, who discreetly observes that fighting against violent extremists would be "a blessing." This is the approach of Far Cry 5 to direct the current policy: awkwardly placing buzzwords in the mouths of the characters as a neural network trained in an infinite loop of Fox & Friends.
Under the Clinton presidency, Far Cry 5 could have resembled the original Deus Ex, which threw the theoretical militants of the anti-UN conspiracy as heroes in a stylized science fiction story. Fiction something like Bundy's showdown would have been political, but probably not as explosive as it seems (and really, everything) now. It would have been easier to accept a story that gathered a lot of environmental tropes about cults, instead of committing to seriously exploring the separatist militias of the 21st century. Instead of a deliberate political statement, it would seem more the obvious path of least resistance for a "topical" but meaningless video game assembled by hundreds of people over the course of several years.
However, when a character preaches about the apocalypse he feels awfully close, and Far Cry 5, an entertaining and absurd game where cultists fly combat jets and have a bear named Cheeseburger, seems to be adrift in this climate. Several people have compared the game unfavorably with Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus last year, an equally extravagant but more narrative and incisive shooter. Wolfenstein recognized and adapted to a world where firing Nazis was suddenly controversial. Far Cry 5 threw references to Trump, false news and gerrymandering in what is essentially an updated version of Red Dawn.
It is not surprising that the results sent criticism in search of another Wolfenstein and found that Far Cry 5 wanted. Ubisoft spent months insinuating a political message that is at odds with the real plot of the game, at a time when people are desperate for stories that will help make sense of contemporary America. Far Cry 5 wanted to play with controversial issues, instead of analyzing them seriously, but at the current political moment, that simply makes it seem irrelevant.