After Three Hours With 'Far Cry 5,' Its Politics Are Far From Clear

Last year, during its initial reveal, we learned that Far Cry 5’s fictional Hope County, Montana has come under control of the Project at Eden’s Gate an aggressive, militia-like cult that believes the end of the world is around the corner. It turned out to be a controversial premise, and one that was setting a high bar.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://waypoint.vice.com/en_us/article/evm7ve/far-cry-5-hands-on-politics-progression
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Everything I’m seeing about FC5 is just so disappointing. I’m actually shocked by how disappointed I am? Like, oof, every person writing about this, at Waypoint and beyond, is just crushing.

I’m a weirdo in that I really liked FC4? A lot of that game felt like the studio trying to tell a big nuanced story and they stumbled in some places, but to me personally it landed enough big moments that I have played it three times (mostly on the power of how much I really love the main cast, especially Ajay Ghale). And there was enough good in FC4 that I really genuinely feel there was enough of a skeleton for Ubisoft to land this one.

I’m just so disappointed. Like, the “let’s fuck up some white supremcists” demographic is throwing money these days. It’s easy money! And they softballed it! In 2018, the age of Trump!

Maaaaan. Can I teleport to the alternate universe where this game put the foot down and ramped into the sun amid a bunch of rainbow fireworks?

/ENORMOUS SIGH

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I’m not a fan of the “just turn off your brain” mindset for entertainment, but I don’t get why people look at the slick marketing, and the huge budgets, the big publishers, and just the sheer number of chefs in the kitchen, and still get hyped up to expect a coherent political message from the video game equivalents of Transformers and Marvel flicks.

Games like this trying to have their cake and eat it too is always brought up like it’s a flaw or like the developers made a mistake and failed. The ganes are like that by design.

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Because you have hope in stuff. I think it’s easier to be jaded than to root for the best, especially in this situation where I think we could all see the potential here. There’s worth in being vocally disappointed. I want Ubisoft to look at the commercial and critical success of Wolfenstein 2, look at the coverage of this game going into launch, and know they missed out on a passionate demographic.

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Remember prior to Wolfenstein II’s launch when Pete Hines said that “Bethesda doesn’t develop games to make specific statements or incite political discussions”? Then the game dropped and I think it’s safe to say it had more than a few statements to make.

I’m still holding out hope that the devs and marketing people have been coached to be a bit hush-hush about some of this game’s content/themes, because I honestly can’t see any way this thing avoids including touchy political subject matter and taking some sort of stance whether it meant to or not.

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TO BE FAIR, Hines’ statement is factually accurate. They may not develop games like that, but they sure publish them. :wink:

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“But Mr. Hines aren’t the Stormcloaks just a thinly veiled analogue for actual white supremacists advocating for a white ethno-sta-“
“Alright press conference over thanks for coming everyone”

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From reading Austin’s thoughts on the game and everything that has already been shown in trailers, demos, etc. I think it seems like a pretty clear case of “just another Far Cry game”. They are big loud action games that aren’t even close to capable of handling the difficult material they sometimes engage with, responding with carpet bombings where a surgical scalpel would probably be preferable.

I do find it encouraging to hear that they are shaking up the formula a fair bit as I personally found 4 to be a pretty sterile and uninteresting experience all things considered. It sounds like they at the very least are aware of the issues they had with the gameplay loop and pacing. The narrative problems, however, I’m starting to wonder if there’s even a way for them to fix.

Far Cry games try to deal with absurd spectacle and heavier narrative them and they have been notoriously bad at that balancing act for years. The spectacle is such a big part of the games appeal, that the only way I see them fixing the narrative issues is to just try and aim lower, because I simply don’t know that I trust them to perform that balancing act in a satisfactory manner.

Far Cry 5 and Detroit: Become Human are quickly occupying similar spaces in my brain. I have a feeling I’m going to have some really big problems with the way they tackle many topics they try to discuss (not to mention the whole problem of Quantic Dream’s studio culture), but I still have a morbid curiosity to see just how badly they fumble their stories. At the same time, I also feel like there are so many more positive things I could do with my time than play games that more than likely will frustrate me.

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I think the difference between them is that while Far Cry 5 can try to compensate for it’s bad story with it’s supposedly revitalized gameplay, Detroit: Become Human has nothing of the sort to fall back on. It is 100% committed to whatever shitty takes it may have and nothing else.

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In my head, I’m just going to assume that every Dutch in the game is a variation on the question “What if Vinny Caravella lived in Montana?”

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Exactly. Good things do sometimes escape the maws of the AAA industry, and while indie games are usually a lot more interesting, we shouldn’t be cynical when stuff like Wolf II is around. Hell, Ubisoft themselves made Valiant Hearts, and Watch Dogs II, for all its flaws, had very positive examples of PoC and trans characters.

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Part of me was hoping that Far Cry 5 would be the video game version of Justified that I always wanted, but it seems like the game is too toothless for even that. I think this will end up being a discount pickup that I co-op with a friend while ignoring the story.

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That was in a preview trailer? I missed that. I was howling when I an encountered that line.

Why do you have to get my hopes up like that? That would have been really interesting.

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Ugh, tell me about it. I was so disappointed when RDR2 was revealed to be a prequel rather than a modern western tale. Why does the video game industry hate Gangstagrass*?

*NOTE: This was rhetorical.

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It was one of the more long-winded gameplay previews where they just play a section uncut (I believe it was the Roswell demo that’s >25 minutes long), but it was out there even before Beth’s own social media marketing was contradicting Hines/the writer’s fluffy marketing talk.

Meanwhile, people with lots of time in FC5 have dug up nothin but awesome dialogue like the “Obama-loving libtards” bit, or “I don’t wanna assume gender or nothin, i just call people dude and bro regardless of vagitalia or penislessness” because haha wacky

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Oh that makes more sense. I usually don’t watch those extended walkthroughs before release.

Wow, I’m even less interested in FC5 now.

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Typically, the problem with open world sandbox games is the main story is thematically dissonant to the side content but also gated behind the player having to do enough side content to unlock the next portion of the main story. The result is a thematic mess where the pacing is ruined and the tone flips between goofy schlock to a take me seriously please main story. I wonder how much of this is because the publisher/developer fears that if the main story was accessible in succession they’d find players complaining that the game can be completed too quickly and doesn’t provide the 30+ hours of filler content so that players can feel they got their $60 worth.

This Far Cry looks as formulaic as the last. It does make me want to play Firewatch again though.

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I’ll throw my two cents in here. I am absolutely part of the “Turn off your brain and enjoy” camp when it comes to my entertainment. Not all pieces of media need to be this, but I prefer my “stuff I turn my brain on and get concerned about” to be written, spoken and face to face. Stuff I use to decompress from this tend to be games, movies and music.

Is there room in movies and music for political and/or social statements and takes? Absolutely. Are we in a place now where games can and should be able to be that too? Yes, absolutely. But since I grew up in an era where games were not such things, I prefer to live in a world where I have the option to have games that allow for pure ‘turn your brain off’ escapism.

For me, Far Cry, the series, has never stuck out as one trying to make this big political statement. Ever since Far Cry 5 was announced it felt like it just happen to have picked topics meant to be ‘fun and non-political’ that turned out to be. Honestly I feel the same way about Wolfenstein last year. I do not believe that when they sat down to develop that game they thought “Nazi’s are bad” was going to be anything but an excuse to give the player a reason to shoot the bad-guys. Not a relevant and real-world message that clearly brought up on-going political issues. The fact that it ended up being such was to me part marketing ploy/success on the part of the developers, and a welcome expression of my personal political believe re-affirmed in the wake of a world that seemed to be rejecting it.

I get that given the age we live in then, a lot of people might have seen the initial announcement of Far Cry 5 and decided "Oh this is absolutely going to scratch my need to re-affirm how I feel about “Trump’s America”. But, to me, it was never going to be that. It was going to be ‘have your cake and eat it too’ at best. I never expected Ubisoft to go “Yah, lets take a strong political stance against a 1/3rd of the american audience.”

Nor, and this might be divisive, do I think they should have too. Two main reasons on this. First, I don’t think there is a moral imperative that Ubisoft strike an extremely progressive tone/message with their games, or else be criticized for not going far enough. I think the luke-warm level they likely are going to give us is perfectly fine from a developer like them. Not that game developers can’t take strong political stances, just that “I believe in this” does not mean “all game developers should strongly push the messages I believe to be right”

Second and maybe most importantly…I’m not even sure I want an Ubisoft trying to stick its head into the political arena. In the same vein of being quasi uncomfortable with the sudden Corporate praise (I am proud to fly delta!) that’s come up recently. Do I really want to start expecting the big gaming companies to be the ones who get to deliver the defining message about my political views to the public writ-large?

In my head, its way better to let Far Cry 5 be a game first, a political message platform a distant 2nd and be done with it. The series can say some things without having to say all of them, and frankly I think there are better venues…even just keeping to the gaming sphere specifically, for people to explore and make political statements then what is meant to be a major publishers big release for 2018…