There are a lot of news story threads about aspects of Far Cry 5, but none of them seem appropriate for discussing general thoughts while playing the game. The only one that seemed write hasn’t been written in since May of 2017 so I’m starting one.
I’m very much enjoying this game, not just the gameplay, but also the narrative.
The characters and cutscenes are obtuse parodies, but I like that. “Satire” is a word we tend to only bestow upon shit we get in exclusion of those less literate than we, or we use the title ironically to point out the failed ambitions of narcissistic art-students. But in my ten hours or so of Far Cry 5, I feel that “satire” is the proper description for the story-telling/mechanics of this game.
Consider for a moment computer-games as incapable theatre. The player is the main role and the play is designed as if the actor of the main role doesn’t know their lines. When this is the expectation of the medium is applied to Far Cry 5, what is it?
Here is one thing that strikes me as I play FC5; every garage I’ve been in is different from each other. I live in a somewhat rural area, I’ll use an example to give you an idea: I drive 15 miles to work and it takes me 15 minutes. I drive through a National Park to get there. I have Walmarts on the east and west sides of me (30 miles apart) and 4 grocery stores within that same range. But there is mostly mountains and trees in between all that.
I’ll tell you about muffler-repair: I use a local automotive-mechanic and in exchange I use him exclusively. When I need muffler-repair, he sends me to this guy half way between me and West Virginia (because he “does good work and doesn’t cost a lot”). Muffler-dude replaces my mufflers nearly at-cost, only accepts cash, isn’t always there, has random people he’s helped out over the years watch the shop while he goes to get cold sodas from a vending machine a mile away, and is a typical dog-whistling racist that is common in this area of the country. The first time I went to his shop it was off the highway and the customer lobby was a couch upholstered in tweed with a crochet-afghan covering it. Two wood-paneled stereo-speakers about 5-feet high were on both sides blasting classic-rock from a local station, “The BEAR”. His employees seem like people that just happen to hang-out there, it is surreal and it feels authentic where you don’t expect any authenticity. Over time, I’ve seen two of his garages, personalized in very subtle ways and always limited by the material-space itself.
My dad lives three hours south of me in what could be considered a suburb, but he is surrounded by small amounts of agricultural acreage on all sides. He has a garage in his wooded backyard. When I talk to him, he brags about how he puts on a pot of beans and fiddles with his hobby car in his garage hoping neighbors and cousins might show up to shoot-the-shit. Every conversation with my dad returns to his love of JESUS. He decorates his garage with tin signs of nostalgia and knick-knacks that are embedded with stories created between him and the people that visit his garage.
Far Cry 5 is communicating this sensibility to me without accomplishing it; I can fill in the gaps easily with my own experiences. Every garage I’ve seen is prideful and distinct even as the game continues to use the same art-assets. It doesn’t matter that the game makes fun of this garage-pride because it is enough to include it.
I’m writing this having just done a silly quest for some caricature with a mullet and side-burns to get his truck back from the cult; it’s not nonsensical to me. The reason the dude wants his truck back isn’t because he can’t afford another one, he wants it back because he is the one who customized it and upgraded every innard of it as they have failed him over the years. I know these people.
We then use his trophy vehicle to ram through some sort of storage caches in an enemy base while the parody I’m riding with tells them all to eatshit or whatever. He’s basically the personification of a sticker of Calvin pissing on something put on the back of an F250. He is not an accurate representation of my neighbors, but he resembles them enough to be a worthwhile symbol of common sensibilities. Without saying so, I know that this character thinks “We” should bomb Iran and that laborers from “Mexico” don’t pay income-tax. But that isn’t the issue at hand, we are just getting his truck back so I can progress in the story of Far Cry 5. It is similar to how I just want a new muffler put on my car.
We kill the last enemy in the base and a chapter-title appears on the screen to acknowledge the end of this act. Inexplicably, sparklers erupt from a bronze plaque on a pedestal nearby. I go to read it and I’m teleported into a stunt-car 40 years prior to drive in an awkward stunt-course that I fumble through thinking that the driver I’m in the role of would have rehearsed this course for weeks, but I’m just trying to go through the sparklers. I finish after failing once and having an automatic restart at that save-checkpoint when I activated the plaque.
After this, a cultist truck with two hostages in the back rolls up into the dirt dead-end and skids to turn back around for no apparent narrative reason, but we know the reason. The reason is because this is a Far Cry 5 computer-game and the developers have put enemy-pathing in that will keep the action going since “F.U.N.” is the main design-principle. I run up to the van by foot and hold down ‘x’ while near it long enough for the “interact” event to occur and the hostages tumble out as the driver continues on his algorithmic routine. As they voice cookie-cut panic-lines and animate their hands over their heads while crouching, I hear radio-chatter of an enemy plane coming in for a strafe. I concern myself with whether or not these two hatchlings will make it under the pines in time or will I have to revive them.
This game is silly while managing to be referential. I feel like Far Cry 5’s capability to address this culture I’m aware of is dependent on its willingness to present it with irreverence. How else can you represent something both beloved and problematic in an player-action game without glorifying its sins? This is satire because the subject is both despised and loved. Its also satire because games suck at representing culture already and the strokes need to be climbable and relevant to combat-systems in this one. And I’m happy they appropriated this bullshit because the setting it uses is dying or I’m leaving it at some point and I want to have a computer-game to remember it by.