My experience with the Far Cry series has always been a bit spotty, with nothing to blame but my tendency to get easily distracted. When I fist purchased my PS3 in the spring of 2009, I bought all kinds of games in order to catch myself up. I had just finished college, and had been intentionally starving myself of the gaming experience in favor of focusing only on my studies with absolutely no other distractions. I know myself well, ya see, and I knew that if I allowed my brain to wander into game land, I would be fucked in terms of getting that important homework done on time. During the buying spree I found myself in once I graduated, I stumbled upon Far Cry 2 which I had read great things about. I tucked the game aside with the plan to dive into the experience once I was done playing the other games I was more interested in, like Elder Scrolls: Oblivion, and Metal Gear 4. FC 2 always beckoned me, though, and I couldn’t wait to dive into its world.
Fast forward to 2012, and several Dead Spaces later. My video games were accumulating, and several titles I had meant to get to were still collecting dust in their still-sealed states, among them, FC 2. I still looked longingly at it, but began thinking to myself “Hmm, the game is now 4 years old, and the graphics are going to look rough. I’ve probably missed out on any charm it once had, and I’ve only got myself to blame. Ahh, fuck it, I’ll get to it eventually. Maybe.” It made more sense to me to start playing FC 3 since that was the newest latest, and I had just been given the game for free to test out and review for the Amazon Vine program. “I’ll make time”, I lied.
Skip ahead yet again to early 2016, with both FC 2 and FC 3, sealed and snuggled deep inside a box behind my TV, untouched and nearly forgotten about. Amazon Vine once again offered me the latest Unisoft release, Far Cry Primal. Wondering if it would just become another one of my untraversed gaming terrains, I reminded myself that if I order FCP, I will HAVE to play it as the Vine program requires reviewers to submit their opinion of the game rather than making it optional. This is exactly the kind of forced motivation I needed to get shit done. Besides that, I was still beckoned at this point, forcefully tapped on the shoulder to hurry up and play this series that I had been blowing off for literally 7 years up to this point. I received the game after a few days, and made the first step in actually removing the seal from a FC game disc – a momentous feat upon itself. I wondered if FCP would be much different than all of the numbered FC’s – after all, FCP had invented its own tribal, prehistoric language and apparently (by what I had read) created a world that existed outside the bad guy/villain framework of the rest of the games in the series. I fired up the PS4, and the intro began, thus beginning my adventures into the FC world.
Once I began playing FCP, I couldn’t put the controller down. I mean, I was really impressed. What I loved about the game is how the developers inherently knew what gamers want to experience. The game was great about giving you reality where you want to experience reality, then giving you an over-the-top, bombastic experience at precisely the right time. Designing games this big isn’t easy, and when you can balance all of the elements in a way that makes gamers want to keep coming back for more, you’re doing something pretty special. FCP didn’t do anything groundbreaking – it was more or less a sandbox game with all of the typical open-world tropes – but the little touches and peripheral details are what developers have to do to make the game stand out as unique. For example, I was extremely impressed with the language created in this game, and how the characters all communicated with each other. Not a lick of any discernible language is spoken in this game, and that’s a risk in itself. The risk paid off. It made the story easy to get lost in, and I couldn’t help but feel I hadn’t had this type of gaming frame before. By the time I ended the main storyline, I kept playing, hungry for more. Unfortunately, Ubisoft never released any DLC for this game, so I placed it on its shelf and went about to other games in my library.
So FC 2 and 3 still sat on my shelf during this time, and I knew FC 4 existed, though I was determined to not think about it as I didn’t want THREE unplayed FC games taking space in my library. Enter FC 5. The game gets announced, and for once, I am determined to order the game, and not only have the game on day one, but actually play the fucking thing, too. I order the Gold Edition as I see that FC 3 will be getting a remaster, and the buyer will have access to all of the DLC as well. I’m going all-in this time, goddammit. Release day comes, and I download the goods. I have read nothing at all about the game’s story, and have no frame of reference about the plot or characters. I am ready as I’ll ever be…let’s do this shit.
The first element that strikes me is the landscape, and its similarities to FCP. The terrain is gorgeous and well-detailed, flush with animal life and vegetation. I’ve never been to Montana (where the game is set), but I would imagine it looks and sounds just like it’s portrayed in this game, with eagles squawking loudly and rivers flowing freely. Based on the surroundings alone, this is a game that’s easy to get lost in.
The story is an interesting one, and I would guess that Americans in particular will be able to feel something sharp about its meaning and import. The idea of a brainwashed cult is appealing, and the four bosses you must best in this game are all well-fleshed out. Essentially, the plot of the main storyline revolves around some religious kooks who mindlessly follow the Father (Joseph Seed) while getting hopped up on a drug called Bliss in order to be more sheeplike in their mindless worship of a deity who gives them answers to questions they would rather not think about. Sound familiar? In the context of a pure video gaming framework, this can be as boring as you want it to be, but for those who choose to apply this type of tale to our current surroundings, the plot of the story has the ability to take on a hell of a lot of meaning.
Once this groundwork has been established, the meat of the game is your standard fetch-quest type business. An NPC will ask you to get something for them, you’ll go and get it, and they’ll like you a whole lot – nothing new there. An aspect of the game I really enjoyed that usually irks the shit out of me is the ability to acquire “guns for hire”. Basically, you can recruit nine different characters to fight alongside you, and you can direct them to attack specific enemies. The nine characters are all different in their abilities, and they even offers dozen of verbal asides to keep you entertained as you traipse through the underbrush. My favorites were Jess Black (“nice pussy!”), and Peaches, the unstoppable cougar with frightening stealth skills. What’s fun about multiple guns for hire is that they react to each other and comment to particular skill sets, giving the game a more immersive feel.
The variety of guns is solid as hell. You get all the typical selections, from sniper rifles and shotguns, to strange alien death vacuums. The ammo is plentiful, and it’s easy to fill up as there dozens of NPCs who wander the landscape ready to trade with you. The fast travel feature is great as well, giving you the option to go to any part of the map that you have already cleared out or liberated.
The fighting in FC 5 is an absolute blast. It’s intuitive and flawless, and I haven’t experienced a single technical hiccup or delay anywhere. The AI is average – in fact, most times the enemy will see you way before you see them. The human enemies you face are more or less just braindead thugs yelling out shit like “I’m gonna kill you!”, but occasionally they’ll say something funny or unique. The body animations as you shoot people is really cool giving the game more depth and realism. For instance, if you shoot someone in the back whilst they’re running away, their back will arc and their arms will flail upward, making you feel satisfied that the scumbag making your life difficult won’t be getting back up.
The voice acting is solid, and is sparse enough to not pull you out of the experience. My favorite characterizations are Jess Black (as I mentioned before), Jacob Seed, and Joseph Seed. There’s some real depth to these characters, giving a lot of life through their real-life voice actors.
The menu is well-laid out and intuitive – not once did I feel lumbered with trying to navigate an overly-complicated system.
Of course, the game isn’t perfect, and there are a few things that could stand to get cleaned up. One thing that frustrated me about the game is how chaotic the battles can get. I enjoy organized chaos, don’t get me wrong, but FC 5 could stand to separate different functions by laying out the design a little differently. Something that frustrated me is when 10 enemies would be coming at me at once, I’d have both of my guns for hire in place, and then my teammates wouldn’t do anything. They’d sometimes seem to just freeze in place without fighting back, and this would be in totally open areas with no obstructions to their targets. Also, when you kill an enemy, you can loot them, but you can also swap your weapons out with theirs. Fair enough, but it can be cumbersome to try and position yourself in the right spot as to only loot and not swap. When you’re in the heat of the battle, and you just want to loot and not swap, it can be rather annoying trying to do one action but getting another. I can see a lot of players enjoying this type of unpredictability, but it rather bothered me.
Another piece of the game that frustrated me was the inconsistency of the map tracking system. There’s a side quest in the game where you have to go and destroy all of the shrines in Faith’s region, and if you get the proper map, you can see where they all are. I was going through this mission, and about halfway through it, the map stopped showing me where they were. Was there a reason for this? I dunno. I’m not sure if this was a glitch, but it was a head-scratcher for the tracking system to stop working mid-way though the lengthy quest.
I did tend to feel myself getting pulled out of the experience somewhat by the meatheaded-ness (I declare this a word) of some of the quests. There’s a quest where you literally have to run around collecting bull testicles. I’m as immature as the next white male, but seriously? There’s another quest where an inbred redneck requests that you kill four antlered animals and bring the roadkill back for him to BBQ. No thanks. There’s also a lot of boneheaded swearing in the game that seems superfluous rather than colorful. I love to swear, but when every other word is “fuck”, it just gets boring rather than amusing or interesting. “Fuck” in and of itself isn’t offensive or hardcore, it’s just juvenile and dopey if it’s not used creatively. Then again, when one of the characters declared his son was “dumber than a box of shit”, I literally laughed out loud, so chances are I don’t know what I’m talking about. I guess what I’m saying is give the swearing some context, motherfuckers.
There are also some problems with Ubisoft’s updates. I downloaded the 1.06 update, and as soon as I did, my Gold Edition DLC vanished. I had a few weapons that were DLC exclusive, that I paid real money for, and they ended up just disappearing with the update. Not cool, especially when you’re just about to take on Joseph Seed at the end of the main storyline.
Despite these relatively minor drawbacks, the game as a whole is a blast to play. What I love most about FC 5 at the end of the day is how fun it is. That sounds simple, but redefining a fun video game in this day and age takes skill and thought. “Fun” can be a balancing act, and a lot of developers get lost with what’s too real. To give you an example, one very simple aspect of FC 5 I love the most is that you can sprint across the landscape without losing stamina. One thing that has always bugged me about video games is a stamina meter, always tracking your level of energy. It’s a fucking video game, it doesn’t have to be THAT real! Yes, give me realism with the trees and cars and sky and water and facial animations – that’s what we want. But a stamina meter? This is what the developers of FC 5 understand the most, and that’s what makes this game so damn playable.
But what of the ending? When the credits rolled, I couldn’t help but think that a lot of players will have a real problem with the way it concludes, and I’m sure the game developers knew this. Personally, I was extremely impressed with the way the game leaves us. It was absolutely not what I was expecting, and actually made me think about its message long after I turned off my console. How often does that happen in video games? I think Americans in particular will have a problem with the ending given that there is very little, if any, resolution. What will bother a lot of Americans, I’m guessing, is the way the game taunts the flag-waving, gun-toting, bible-thumping culture that is more prevalent than ever in the US. The end of the game essentially tells us that no matter how much we resist, no matter the level of our intellectualism, and no matter the strength of our character as individuals, we will always be outnumbered by the braindead sheep, dooming ourselves for failure. Now that’s a message worth chewing on. As an atheist, this is the spin I give the game, and I’m sure a religious person will spin it another way. The way I see it, the FC 5 writing team make a ballsy move in regard to the ending, and I applaud them for the decisions they make. In all great art, it comes down to choice and interpretation, and if all people approve of the artistic gesture, then the message has failed. Some people will hate this ending, and that’s nothing but a good thing. Joseph Seed also bears more than just a passing resemblance to David Koresh as well, and I encourage anyone who’s never heard this name to Google him right now. When you put games in the right framework, those emotional connections follow, ya see.
So what has FC 5 and FCP done for me in terms of finally lighting a fire under my ass and inspiring me to play my FC 2 disc that I’ve had for nine years? Well, I just purchased FC 4, and I’m about to download the classic edition of FC 3, included with my Gold Edition Season Pass. I have removed FC 2 from its box, and placed it on my TV stand where I can no longer ignore it. This will be the summer of Far Cry for me, and I can no longer put off its brilliance. I guess nine is my lucky number.