What does it mean to be American? There are a lot of answers to this question, and since our country’s inception in 1776, we have attempted to deconstruct this idea through literature, film, television, and art. Yet, curiously enough video games have typically shied away from answering this, as many titles choose to set their stories in either other countries of fictional universes.
Now there is nothing wrong with this, of course, since video games are a form of escapism and dwelling on the concepts of national pride, identity, and the issues that come with it can sometimes hit way too close to home. But sometimes it’s important to kick that particular door open and shine some much-needed light on it. Enter Far Cry 5.
Recently gaming industry has been making a push to challenge these ideas, and the latest up to bat appears to be Ubisoft’s Far Cry series. Revealed officially on May 16, a new image dropped today that showcases what we can only assume are the villains of this newest entry. Set in Hope County, Montana, this teaser art portrays a twisted version of Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper that oozes with personality and religious iconography. This, naturally, caused some concern to the direction the franchise was headed given the West’s current political climate. However, this move to the United States is not only an intriguing direction but one that fits almost perfectly with what the past few Far Cry games have focused on.
While the gameplay mechanics of the Far Cry franchise focus around chaotic action, satisfying stealth combat, and climbing an almost absurd amount of conveniently placed towers, at its very core, this is a game about extremes. One theme that almost always pops up when playing a game in this series is “What would happen if something or someone was pushed to their absolute limits?”
Far Cry 2 revolved around a bloody civil war that showcased how far people in power can go if their belief in their cause. Far Cry 3 focused on an obnoxious college student who in an effort to save his friends from slave traders became a mass murderer. The fourth entry showed the ugly side of rebellion and what moral and ethical limits should be pushed in order to obtain victory. Looking beyond the face value of what a single image, idea, or concept offers has always been the entire point of this series.
The Far Cry series has almost always relied on using colorful backdrops and normally overly charming antagonists to make its point. Characters like Pagan Min and Vaas are given larger than life personalities because this not only provides a memorable experience but helps reinforce the concepts of extremism that are layered into the foundation of each title.
Looking at what we can only assume is Far Cry 5’s patriarchal leader, it’s hard not to see the clear inspirations for his design. The man feels like a twisted mix of Jim Jones and Charles Manson, who were two individuals that used religion as a way to persuade people to commit horrible crimes. They were extremes, people whose view of the world was so askew it caused them to warp the very ideals and morals many follow in this country.
Making Far Cry 5’s villain a cult leader fits perfectly and helps push the religious sadism we can only expect to arrive in the story. These are more than insane rednecks, but people who distorted what the American Dream means under a sense of righteousness. We’ve seen this before in titles such as Bioshock Infinite and to a more cartoony degree Outlast 2, as both of these games have questioned the ideas of religion and what it can cause people to do.
While there is little doubt that the foundation for Far Cry 5’s apparent religion appears to be Christianity, it (like the rest of the characters shown) is a more severe version of it. In the image, there are no real signs that we associate with Christianity, as the crosses on the stars, banner, and flag has a more accurate resemblance to the Iron Cross or Scientology’s version of a cross. The religious “homages” are incredibly obvious, but again Far Cry 5 aims to tell more than what’s at face value.
We should also consider that in pretty much every Far Cry game the protagonist isn’t exactly a good person by the end of credits. No matter which option you choose, the player character has always ended up either being consumed by these extremes or, at the very least, made some seriously gray choices. It’s quite possible that whatever conflict you find yourself in with these people, the protagonist will emerge forever scarred by his or her own actions. It’s also important to remember that the “hero” has always been a foreigner, which begs the question if that will be the case here. If so it would allow for a unique examination of what these American ideals mean from a perspective of someone outside of the United States.
In fact, the entire concept of Far Cry 5 being in America offers a ton of opportunities for exploration into themes such as gun culture, divisive politics, racism, and domestic terrorism. It’s rare that video games ever touch upon these ideas, but Far Cry’s framework is perfect for this kind of exploration. Whenever a game or any type of medium depicts homegrown countrymen as the “bad guys” it can be a bitter pill to swallow. This is typically because in the west we do not cast ourselves as the villains in most stories, which can, to a degree, limit the kind of introspective reflection a user-driven medium allows. Far Cry is very much a game about subversion and reflection, so it’d be hard to believe that this title isn’t going to have big, sweeping political message in some manner.
This isn’t a bad thing, however, as a breakdown of what we can assume is an outsiders view of a radicalized domestic terrorist group could open the door to a lot of interesting discussions. Even though it’s too soon to tell exactly what direction Far Cry 5 is going to go, there are a lot of ideas for this game to explore. If it follows the general layout of the previous entries, we can only assume that this is going to be one hell of a chaotic ride.
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