Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Far Cry 5 Review

Making Far Cry Great Again.

By Patrick "The Law" Morris

Ever since Ubisoft acquired the Far Cry IP and the first game in the mainline series under the Ubisoft banner was released as Far Cry 2 in 2008 the formula has become increasingly refined. While many enjoyed the formulaic experiences the series offered, there have been many more that criticized the sameness that came with each new entry. Far Cry 5 being the latest entry in the long running series borrows a lot from the previous games, but it is also very evident that Ubisoft Montreal worked hard to buck the trends of the past in an attempt to revitalize a franchise that has rapidly grown stale. Far Cry 5 is not without its flaws but what it has to offer in the single player story, development of the open-air style game, a subtle political message, and a fan driven multiplayer experience is extremely ambitious. Did the team in Montreal do enough to give the series a much-needed shot in the arm or is Far Cry 5 simply too little too late? 
Far Cry has become known for its iconic villains starting with the Jackal in Far Cry 2 and continuing the tradition with Vaas and Pagan Min in Far Cry 3 and Far Cry 4 respectively. The Seed family is no exception to this rule of captivating villains that have become the main characters of the Far Cry games and drive a compelling narrative. What differentiates the Seed’s from previous villains is that there is a whole family of them and each one is different and can offer a different personality in the villain role allowing for more variety. John Seed (my personal least favorite) comes off as a follower that has risen to the top of the Seed family cult as a result of hard work and longevity. John’s character and region are the least memorable of the bunch which is a shame because it’s the direction the player is pushed in the beginning of the game. Faith is a tortured soul that was taken when she was just a teenage girl who didn’t know any better. Faith’s character work forces the player to regret their actions during her boss fight as it became startlingly real that she is a victim of Joseph’s as much as anyone else that the player character was fighting for. And Jacob was presented in the older brother role throughout his region and came across as smart and manipulative, Jacob evokes genuine fear throughout the entirety of his portion of the game. 
Bringing all these villains together and embodying without bias the evil and fear that extreme religiosity can create is Joseph Seed. Joseph appears throughout the game making his presence known in a more intimate way than previous Far Cry villains have. While previous Far Cry villains have had incredible dialogue that seared itself into the player’s mind Joseph instead communicates through body language. By moving in very close and forcing himself face to face with the player the developers were able to make up for a sense of tension that wasn’t built through dialogue but instead a feeling of discomfort as though the player’s personal space is being invaded. Many others have criticized the game citing Joseph Seed not being as captivating or memorable as Vaas or Pagan Min; yes, Joseph does not project insanity the same way that Vaas did or hold the raw charisma that Min did, Joseph spends so much time in the players face that his body language and feeling of presence is what makes him stand out and what makes him great. 
Story in Far Cry 5 is entirely character driven making for a story that is not particularly deep or complex but compelling none the less. The narrative is simple: Hope County is a corner of the world that exists and we the player are tasked with liberating it from the oppressive Eden’s Gate cult. Where the story lives and dies is with the villains appearing as evil enough to convince the player that they need to be stopped and order must be restored in rural Montana. And in doing this the story telling in Far Cry 5 is wildly successful, managing a massive cast of characters and making them all unique individuals that the audience will care about is no easy task and Ubisoft has done a fantastic job with creating an entirely character driven narrative.
Trends come and go in video games and from time to time new games come that introduce new concepts and change the way we perceive games altogether, last year the legend of Zelda took the open world concept to new heights with the open-air concept that allowed players to play the story in any order and any way they would like. Naturally there were going to be imitators and initially Far Cry 5 looked like it was going to offer an uncanny valley impression of the open-air environment created in Breath of the Wild. After playing Far Cry 5 I am happy to eat some crow on that one because the way Far Cry 5 tells its main story in an almost modular way is so incredibly satisfying that I would argue it is done better than Breath of the Wild. 
For a game to send the player through a relatively short tutorial section then set them loose and trust that no matter which direction the player moves in there will be compelling story material is a bold and confident move. Breath of the Wild let the player off the great plateau and then simply suggested they head to Kakariko Village to meet Impa; in a very similar fashion Far Cry 5 lets the player off of Dutch’s island and then simply suggests they head south towards Fall’s End but ultimately the player is in control and they can choose where they want to go. This style of openness is so incredibly liberating in the game and building the world and the story modularly so that any part can be done at any time still allows for the player to have a sense of progression while at the same time maintaining the freedom to pursue their own ambitions within the game. Far Cry 5 is a modular story that is crafted so well that it feels like a linear one. While initially it appeared as though the open-air story telling in Breath of the Wild would be nearly impossible to top one can easily argue that Ubisoft has given Nintendo a run for their money with Far Cry 5.
Exotic locales and treacherous adventurous territories have become a staple in the Far Cry games and while Montana may feel a bit too close to home to hold its own when compared to the other locations featured in the franchise Hope County is no slouch and comes with the added bonus of the political chaos that the United States is currently enveloped in. During the approach of Far Cry 5 radicals on both sides of the political spectrum were nearly frothing at the mouth waiting for their murder simulator that would prove their position unequivocally right and satisfy the bloodlust fueled by the 2016 Presidential election. What was released instead was a fairly centrist game that didn’t try to preach any specific political ideology. Far Cry 5 should be commended for its politics and its refusal to take a stand in either direction, not only did it allow the game to avoid the standard pitfall of ham-fisted writing that comes with all politically motivated stories but in a world full of people on both sides of the aisle that are ready to burn anyone at the stake at the drop of a hat Far Cry refused to bow to either of them and simply depicted flawed characters, some good, some evil, just trying to do their best to achieve their goals. In a world that is overflowing with political opinions Far Cry 5 is decidedly non-political which in and of itself is a thought provoking statement. 
On the surface Multiplayer and Far Cry seem as though they would go together like peanut butter and jelly but historically creating an interesting multiplayer experience is something that has been difficult for Far Cry to capture. From Far Cry 3’s generic attempt at PVP to Far Cry 4’s incredibly lackluster cooperative mode the series has had difficulty finding its footing when expanding the gameplay experience to more than one player simultaneously.  What the developers did this time around in their attempt to finally catch what has alluded them for years is both an improvement on something already attempted and something radically new. Drop in drop out co-op is a welcome addition and the fact that the entire game can be played co-op as opposed to only select missions like in Far Cry 4 is something that shouldn’t need to be praised because that is simply how it should have been previously but credit where credit is due it’s improvement. Where the Far Cry 5 multiplayer experience really steps into uncharted territory is with the Far Cry Arcade granting players access to assets from several different Ubisoft properties and allowing the community to build whatever multiplayer experience they want with it. While my own experience with the Far Cry Arcade is limited what I did play of it was bland and uninteresting. This will undoubtedly be the reason to come back to Far Cry 5 in six months to see what the most dedicated and creative Far Cry fans have come up with. 
With the rapid fire of releases since 2012’s Far Cry 3 the series has started to feel stale and repetitive, Far Cry 5 does a fantastic job of mixing things up while still being distinctly a Far Cry game and breathing new life into the series. Capitalizing on the popularity of open-air style storytelling and once again crafting a villain that simply takes all the air out of any room he is in and pairing that with a far more competent cooperative multiplayer experience Far Cry 5 is able to shine as the popcorn blockbuster it is. Far Cry 5 changes a reliable formula just enough to refresh the series and leave me thirsty for more essentially making Far Cry great again. 


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