‘Far Cry 5’ Accurately Captures the Total Collapse of American Society

It's not that Ubisoft is doing anything new, it's just that our culture has devolved to the point that it often feels like a dumb, open world first-person shooter
April 5, 2018, 2:47pm

There are moments of quiet beauty in Far Cry 5. Crossing the gorgeously rendered Montana wilderness, I stopped to watch an eagle soar across a lake. Damn, I thought. I love this game. Look how pretty it is. Then I’d immediately be attacked by a cougar and a truck full of cultists blaring Christian rock from the radio. I’d shoot all the threats, only to have the eagle I’d been admiring fly into my face and try to take my eyes. Ain’t that America?

Far Cry 5 is aggressive, confused, and weird. It’s fun most of the time, awful some of the time, and doesn't know when to stop or what message it wants to send. It is bloated with content, kind of like how I feel after I eat a Chipotle bowl. Most of that content is trying to recapture the charm of previous games. As our friends at Waypoint astutely noted in their review, Far Cry 5's writing tries to capitalize on the fact that it takes place in America for the first time in the series while Donald Trump is president, but it fails to say anything meaningful about that.

But when I stop trying to interpret what Ubisoft is trying to say and just reflect on how playing it made feel, I realize that it accurately captures the experience of living in America: A cruel and stupid place where every human interaction has the potential of exploding into a gun fight.

You want to see what this country looks like once every American is armed at all times and all that matters is one's personal gain? Play Far Cry 5.

This doesn't feel like something Ubisoft set out to do. One of the biggest problems with Far Cry 5 is that it's so much like previous games in the series. Ubisoft didn't do anything new here to capture the American experience. It's just that the American experience has devolved to the point that it often feels like a dumb, open world first-person shooter.

In Far Cry 5, players take control of a deputy sheriff fighting to stop a religious cult from taking over Hope County, Montana. Father Joseph Seed, the cult’s leader, thinks the end is nigh and his cult is best positioned to ride out the apocalypse. He’s willing to use violence, mind control, and kidnapping to keep the residents of Hope County safe.

Players then do the normal Far Cry thing: traverse a beautiful landscape while killing bad guys, meeting strange characters, and avoiding aggressive wildlife. I explored the pre-apocalyptic bunkers abandoned by survivors, set fields of drugs on fire, and punched an eagle in the face. I traversed the mountains with my very good dog—Boomer—and murdered any cultists who made him whine or cry. I had fun, but still came away feeling depressed and empty.

On the radio, news stories about the horror of American life keep coming but no one is paying attention. The teachers are mad because, rather than paying them what they’re worth, the school districts are bringing in ringers from out of state. The towns aren’t collecting enough taxes to pay for cops, so the departments are shutting down. The President has been moved to a secure bunker outside D.C. as international tensions escalate. Everything is going to hell, but fuck it—grab a gun and shoot at your crazy cultists neighbors.

It took me 30 hours to beat Far Cry 5, and it would take me many more hours if I tried to complete every task in the game (sometimes I do that). As is the case with all Far Cry games, at some point I lost track of why I was doing any of this in the first place. I got lost in the loop of capturing outposts, which give me more access to money, which I can use to buy more guns and gun modifications, which I can then use to capture more outposts. Somewhere along the way I lost the plot. It doesn't matter that there's a cult, what it believes, or what it all means. All that matters is my selfish, exponential accumulation of resources. I just want money and guns so I can have fun while the party lasts.

That's what living in America feels like right now. Everything is falling apart and all you can do is get your kicks in where you can and hope whatever comes next doesn’t suck as bad as what came before. Protests turn violent and people get hurt. People walk into schools and shoot the place up. This has been normalized to the point that politicians advocate arming teachers and companies want to sell them bulletproof safe rooms.

You want to see what this country looks like once every American is armed at all times and all that matters is one's personal gain? Play Far Cry 5.