A lot of ink has been spilled on the art of how video games make us feel. How they can make us feel powerful. How they can make us feel empathy. How they can make us feel things which we thought no media could ever make us feel.
Well, if anyone ever wanted to do a counter-piece on how games can make us not feel, “Far Cry 5” would be a good place to start.
Narratively, the series has always walked a thin line. Any series based around gunning down dozens of human beings always has the problem of figuring out how to justify its violence. However, there are millions of ways to do it. Make the protagonist a revolutionary striving for values larger than themselves. Make the protagonist an anti-hero. Make the villains Nazis. The most important thing is that the gory violence in the game never feels frivolous or wasteful. “Far Cry 5” constantly sets itself up to make an important point or introduce some new layer of complexity, but it always fails the dismount and defaults to having you gun down the same five bearded, tattooed Americans again and again.
The game’s premise is deeply flawed, but so is its execution and ending. You play a rookie cop who flies in with a few buddies to arrest the leaders of a cult-led community. When you get there, the heavily armed cult has taken over the entire county and its members take all of your
This is not a particularly accurate portrayal of how actual cults work, even the militant ones. The idea that a militant group of any kind could take over a U.S. county and have the resources and influence to maintain that control without anyone on the outside taking note is, obviously, absurd. Even if they could maintain such a ruse, it would be much easier for you to just leave the area and alert proper authorities rather than launching a one-man war against the cult from the inside.
While playing the game, it’s impossible not to think about the fact that everything you see is just a bad, provocative excuse for doing the same kind of running and gunning available in a hundred other games.
That’s every plot point in “Far Cry 5”: a jumbled mash of symbols and tropes that go nowhere, make no sense and mean nothing. For example, the first of the cult leader’s generals that you fight fashions himself something of a movie star, presumably as some sort of commentary on Hollywood as a cult. The general has a massive sign constructed in the style of the Hollywood sign that says “YES,” constantly visible on the horizon, referencing his philosophy to “saying yes to life.” Putting that symbol out there into the game’s world doesn’t make a coherent satirical statement, though. His flashy style never comes up in any of the conversations you have with him. The commentary on Hollywood is never textually referenced beyond a few visual elements. Like most of the game’s more eccentric elements, it feels like it was tacked on after most of the game was finished when the designers remembered that a work of art is supposed to have themes, but far after they could change any character dialogue or plot points.
The worst offender in the game, by far, is it’s ending, which is so out of place it feels like it was snatched from another game entirely. Without spoiling, the game has two endings. Both are huge downers and both invalidate all of the work you did questing and fighting throughout the story. Even if you can somehow force yourself to enjoy the awful narrative in “Far Cry 5,” all will be ripped away from you in the end.
I can’t help but feel pity for the thing. It’s a very pretty game: the sandbox is better constructed than ever and more focused on organic fun than the rigid, hours-long story missions of the previous titles. There’s a really good game just waiting to be set in this space — it just isn’t “Far Cry 5.”