Look, Far Cry 5 is the HBO of videogames. Well, at least its intro is as close to whatever that opening statement could ever mean. But make no mistake, this is a brutal and scary entry in the long-running series that does more than just change up its antagonist and jokingly take away radio towers (there is one tower, but it serves as a beacon of the future, while remembering the past -- played Far Cry before, and you’ll get it).
But none of that “brutal and scary” delivery is at the cost of fun. Because as full-on, tonally, as Far Cry 5 can be (and it can
be), it still pokes fun at itself and still lets the player direct both the pacing and the action on offer. In fact, at a recent hands-on event held in Paris, I had hands-on with basically the first few hours of the game, with no real gameplay restriction. I wasn’t told to only play this
mission, or engage with that
character -- if I wanted to just catch fish the entire
time during said session, Ubisoft didn’t have a problem with that.
Cue confidence. This Far Cry is the most mature instalment yet, and that’s not a literal statement on the game’s heavy narrative content. Taking away towers alone is a sign of the maturity here -- it’s a maturity leveraged around learning, listening and, most importantly, experimenting. From the game’s intense opening sequence you’re a liberated player; confines be damned. And you’re ever-so-slowly ushered through this Big Sky playland without ever feeling like your hand is being held. There’s smoke and mirrors in this sense, of course. For starters, you’re a “rookie” US Marshal. Your nickname is “rook” for the first few minutes of the game, thus contextually throwing you into a deepend you weren’t expecting. Only you (kind of) were.
That’s the classic fish out of water base that Far Cry always follows, right? Except this time, who you are is up to you. Male or female? Your choice. How you look? Your choice. In fact this is a completely unvoiced Far Cry from a protagonist sense, leaving aside the narrative ball and chains of the Jasons, Ajays and Takkars. This is your
story, and how you unfold it is entirely up to you.
Again, there’s smoke and mirrors around this though. And while it’s less pronounced, it’s still a design necessity. However, that “maturity” I’ve harped on about comes into play very early. I “liberated” a civilian from the baddies (whom I’ll get to in a minute), who I could then hire to my side. Together, we kind of went on a Justified Raylan Givens-style brand of sweet, sweet justice and all sorts of crazy shit just started happening around us. There’s structure here, but how you engage that structure is entirely up to you, and with the advent and “maturity” in design growth behind NPC hires, co-op and even a bear (which I’ll also get to in a minute), Far Cry 5 is a “liberated” open-world haven for systems, and systems stacking.
What the above means is, Ubisoft has realised -- in a sense -- less is more. And by less, I mean less hand-holding. There are familiar pillars here, but they’re good
pillars. Vaas is still a much-loved villain in the series proper. And he exists here in Far Cry 5 through Joseph Seed -- the narrative delivery of the game isn’t any less impactful based on a bigger emphasis on player-freedom, it’s just abundantly clear Ubisoft has worked out that the big-bad is the reason we play the game at all. How we go after them; what tools, weapons, ideas and resources at our disposal we play with, to get the job done, is the meat of the experience. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
While Vaas was a straight-up crazy kind of cat, Joseph Seed is on another plane. He’s the Boyd Crowder of this here lil’ ditty, to continue the Justified references, but there’s no real good
in him. He’s an integral part of that intro to the game, too. It’s powerful and he emerges a powerful man. A true big-bad. And while it’s quick, the game has set-piece reminders for you all over the place as to the level of his influence. This is a free part of the country, after all. It’s sort of written into the Declaration of Independence in real-life and this Canadian-developed bit of storytelling never lets you forget that -- an art imitates life kind of thing.
And how you’re here and just how crazy this whole situation is… well, it has a vein of truth to it all, is all I’m saying.
Essentially, if you’ve watched the news lately, well, your suspension of disbelief where Far Cry 5 goes won’t need to stretch too far. But
there’s a design “maturity” around that too. I mentioned a bear earlier -- his name is Cheeseburger. And here’s a bear that got diabetes because of his celebrity status around these parts, only now if you feed him a freshly-caught salmon (ala the game’s fishing metagame) he’ll become your companion. Because America -- believable. Because videogame -- naturally fun. Cheeseburger is almost a cooperative metaphor for the silly-yet-WTF not Fake News! nature of the game. And it’s glorious.
Down to brass tacks though, Far Cry 5 has incredible gunplay and looks amazing. The way in which its systems play out based on player and NPC influence is a thing of chaotic beauty and the freefrom approach to this, with the removal of normally regimented gameplay sections, only amplifies that “maturity” I’ve been dropping throughout. It might all even be a perfect storm of world events collating against new design goals, but whichever the case, Far Cry 5 is woke as fuck. For gameplay, game-design, artistry and voice, it satires itself, embraces the crazy, and delivers on a promise and premise of fear, chaos, (player) control and fun.
There’s more to tell, too. But we’re sworn to a bit of secrecy right now. However, we can commit fully to expressing that this is a liberating gameplay experience. And I’ve been deliberately highlighting that word throughout, because this is all liberation meta. From your initial escape to your first civilian save; catching a fish for a bear named Cheeseburger and even working towards the game’s clear Joseph Seed deseeding
, liberation is the name of the game (you're included in this setup, too). It’s just even more compelling now because Ubisoft Montreal has also liberated themselves from a stricter design model to one that rewards the player and the game’s subsequent behaviour model -- and it's all set within a dangerously fun and scary game-world, full of believability.
Big Sky Country. It’s where you’ll want to be in (digital) 2018.
Posted 03:58pm 03/3/18
Posted 04:19pm 11/3/18
I love the world they are setting it in, hopefully it'll be as enjoyable to play as Primal.