Far Cry 5’s Is a Story of Self-Reliance and Paranoia [Hands-On Preview]

The Far Cry series is one more of the more endearing and visually evocative open world games in recent years. With its focus on exploring remote and exotic areas in chaos, there's always been a feeling of 'distance' between the spaces you're driving, shooting, and fighting through, and the places players are normally accustomed to visiting. Over the last few weeks, we've been hearing rumblings of a new Far Cry game set in America. While many were ready to assume this would be another journey to the past like Far Cry Primal, the developers at Ubisoft Montreal had something a bit different in mind.

During their Pre-E3 showing last week, Dan Hay, Creative Director of Far Cry 5, gave a quick presentation about their next entry in the Far Cry franchise, and where they plan to take players next. In Far Cry 5, players will head to one of the most interesting, and strangely unnerving places the series has ever gone to, and that's present day Montana.

Set in the fictional Hope County, players take on the role of a Sheriff's Deputy in an isolated and remote area of the state. After discovering that the entire county is deep in the clutches of Father Joseph, an infamous cult and militia leader that has amassed a large arsenal of weapons, and an army made up of private civilians and even members of law enforcement and local government that follow his twisted 'teachings' to the letter. Preparing for an event known as "The Collapse", The Father, his twisted family, and his congregation have violently taken over their own piece of Montana, and they aren't too fond of outsiders. With much of the county under his influence, and with no help coming to the remote and rural area, the main character must team up with the few locals who seek to defy the Father and his 'family', and must amass an army of their own to retake Hope County before the Father's influence can spread.

Like many, I was also a bit confused about the choice of Montana for the next Far Cry title. While I initially assumed it was going to be a western set game, the modern day premise they ended up presented surprised me in more ways than I would've thought. Creative Director Dan Hay spoke about the setting and inspiration during their presentation, and the developers wanted to emulate the same sense of fear, uncertainty, and dread that was prevalent in the twilight period of the Cold War during the 1980's. The feeling that a looming event of great calamity was just around the corner. Despite the modern day setting, Far Cry 5 still has many elements of a western, specifically the lawlessness and isolation of the setting, but also on the frontier atmosphere, which the creatives behind the game credit to the state of Montana.

"There was something a bit romantic about the state of Montana that's kind of cool, and we just settled on the state," said Creative Director Dan Hay. "We visited the state, and after the first day we were settled on it, and we said 'this is Far Cry'. We were doing research and we were hearing stories of people in Montana, and that was a unique 'spirit' in Montana, that many people in this state didn't trust the government, they felt like they could go their own way, and their was a spirit of self-reliance. [...] It's a frontier, it's very much a frontier out there."

In familiar Far Cry fashion, players are dropped off in a vast open space and must acquire new weapons, team up with a variety of allies with their own agendas, and retake areas of the world from the bad guys. In Far Cry 5, the space is much larger than previous titles, which requires the need for more options to move around. In addition to 18-wheeler trucks (a clear staple of American travel culture), players will be able to pilot planes for the first time in the series. Moreover, some of the planes will be decked out with weapons, allowing you to fight against other planes and drop a volley of bombs on enemies below. And because this is now set in America, players will have access to a ridiculous amount of weapons.

From the footage I've seen, there seems to be a healthy mix of features between Far Cry 4 and Primal, the two most recent Far Cry titles. Like Far Cry 4, there's a strong focus on verticality and mobility, and in Primal, there's a focus on resource gathering, close-range combat, and also the returning ability to recruit pets to help fight alongside you. These features are present in Far Cry 5, one short segment of the presentation saw the player command his pet dog to steal an enemy's weapon. In addition to more vehicles than any other past Far Cry title, Far Cry 5 also brings in a variety of unique melee weapons for players to acquire, such as pitchforks and sledgehammers for close range combat. While the amount of weapons and tools of destruction in the game are very much for the benefit of the player, the developers also included them as a result of the research they conducted on various militias currently operating in the U.S.

During the months of research on Far Cry 5, the developers were influenced by the sense of fear and unrest from many communities scattered around the country, and during their scouting trips, they came across people involved in their own private militias who were preparing their friends and family for a major economic and structural collapse in the U.S. Last year's occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon by a local militia, which made national news, was eye-opening for the developers. One of the clear focuses of Far Cry 5 that the developers wanted to present was to create an unnerving atmosphere. On creating a contrast between the action and beauty in the setting, but also showing the large groups of people with extreme behavior taking control.

"Far Cry is two things; A beautiful, generous world, that offers something that's crazy and something that's off, and something tension filled", said Dan Hay. "And so, we just tried to look at the space, the people, and the place, kinda grow from there. We definitely feel that we've something beautiful, and the tension. And we feel good about what we made."

Given the subject matter, and also for our current time in history, many will likely see this game as rather timely and socially relevant. Given our county's history, America has had quite a troubling history in regards to its treatment of outsiders, and many communities that feel disenfranchised and anger towards other communities often resort to staying amongst those that share their beliefs and hold tight to their guns, which are seen as sacred in many areas of the country. While the in-game 'Cult' is what explains much of the rationale behind a large swath of people taking up arms in a remote area of Montana, it's hard to ignore the fact there are similar militias in the real world that are preparing for such an event to come. Which makes this game feel like it hits close to home.

Of course, while the recent events in American politics and the creation of this game were totally separate, the similarities of what's going on in the world and how nationalistic attitudes has come to the surface in the wake of the 2016 presidential elections is something that's not lost on the developers. Speaking with Dan Hay, he spoke about how these real world events put the events of the game into perspective.

"We could not have imagined how things were gonna go [since the end of 2016], and built the story, and structure of the game long before any of that happened", stated Dan Hay rather bluntly about recent events turning Far Cry 5 into something rather timely. "We first had the idea of this game three years ago, two and a half to three years ago, and we knew where we were going and what we wanted to do, and if there was any kind of alignment [with reality], we were so focused on shipping the game and making the game, that sometimes when you do look up and listen to the news and see what's going on in the world, you do get that same sense of 'woof'. When we created the character of The Father, we built him specifically to focus on the feeling that 'Something's coming' and that feeling of 'feeling it coming'. It is really interesting waking up every morning and having that same feeling, considering what's been going on now."

Far Cry 5 is of course about the action and fun, and as an admirer of the previous games, this game looks to up the ante by several notches. The presentation was brief, and we only got see a small sliver of we can expect to have in the core story, but I am really impressed with what they've got in store. However, what I'm really interested in is whether or not or not this title has something more to say about the setting itself as a larger piece of the narrative, or if it'll just be decoration to make things look more interesting than it actually is.

The series has always been about action oriented fish out of water stories in exotic places in turmoil around the world, and now we have the first game in the series that brings it to our country. And it can't be denied that a Far Cry game in North America, in our current time, now feels strangely appropriate.