Some twists for this one: You can play as a man or woman in this one (and pick your skin color). Can use a dog in combat. And can fly planes
Far Cry 5 is primarily from the Ubisoft Montreal team behind Far Cry 3 and Far Cry 4, according to producer Dan Hay, who worked on those and is now executive producer and creative director of this one. Those games’ creative director, Alex Hutchinson, is no longer at Ubisoft. Other studios working on Far Cry 5: Ubisoft Toronto, Kiev, Shanghai and Newcastle-based Reflections.
It does not appear to be a drastic gameplay departure from earlier Far Cry games, in that it still appears to be a chaotic open-world first-person shooter. A gameplay reel they showed us was full of the usual gunfights, explosions, and flamethrowers. Ubisoft says Far Cry 5 can be played solo or “entirely” in two-player co-op. (The game will also have a map editor.)
What most clearly sets Far Cry 5 apart from its predecessors is that it isn’t about shooting up a beautiful island run by a madman in the South Pacific or a lovely region run by a madman in the Himalayas. It’s about blasting through a section of modern Montana controlled by a Bible-thumping madman who runs a heavily-armed militia. You’re up against “The Father,” Joseph Seed, who along with his family has spent the last dozen years sinking deep roots into the fictional Hope County while establishing a cult called The Project at Eden’s Gate. The cult is preparing for a big fight and/or the end of the world and are recruiting people in the town to do their bidding, whether those people like it or not. Imagine a community where some of the townspeople are actually in the militia, while others just suffer its encroaching influence and nurse their desire to rebel.
In a change for the series, you can choose to play as a man or woman and pick your skin color. You’re a junior deputy on the police force, though how you wound up in Hope County is a secret. At Far Cry 5’s press event in New York, Hay talked reporters through the opening events of the game on condition we wouldn’t report it… presumably because Ubisoft wants to save that for an E3 demo or something. Far Cry 4’s Hutchinson had said at E3 2013 that the team on that game was very close to including the option to play as a woman in that game. This sequel finally delivers that option.
You spend the game building a resistance to the milita. While Hay didn’t explain how the game’s recruitment systems work, he did spotlight three characters—a preacher, a bartender and a pilot—and presented them as examples of everyday Americans living under the thumb of the militia who the player can tap to help fight back. It’s unclear if they are simple quest-givers or allies who can be summoned to help in a fight. The gameplay reel did show some allied characters helping in the fight, but it doesn’t appear to be quite the return of the buddy system in Far Cry 2.
Mary May, one of the game’s recruitable allies, as seen in a character vignette produced by Ubisoft
The buddy recruitment thing will play into a more open-ended approach to action throughout the game. Hay: “When you play Far Cry 3 or Far Cry 4 or even Primal and you go out and see these outposts, and in those outposts there’s an opportunity to attack them from 360 degrees and the real question we asked is: ‘Why can’t we do that with the whole game? Why can’t we make it that the whole game is about you finding people in the world and being able to attack the world from 360 degrees and then bring people with you?’”
You can fly planes. And get in dogfights. You can also drive, according to the game’s press release, “iconic American muscle cars, big rigs, ATVs and boats.”
Ubisoft is going out of their way to portray the militia as religious extremists distinct from more ordinary people of faith. From the get-go, the first reveal established a contrast between the cult’s unhinged preacher/leader with the more benevolent and recruitable ally character, the gun-toting but seemingly friendly Pastor Jerome Jeffries. Here’s Hay: “In terms of religion, I think what the cult is—is when you think about things and groups that are out there in the world today, a lot of times you’re seeing somebody who has hijacked religion.”
Far Cry 5 was also pitched to press framed against some scene-setting real-world anxiety. The approach has become Ubisoft tradition for their recent games. They debuted Watch Dogs and The Division with reels about the real-world threats of cyber-security and bioterrorism, for example. Hay began his hotel demo of Far Cry 5 with a five-minute monologue about growing up in the ‘80s, living under the threat of nuclear annihilation, and feeling relief in 1989 when the Berlin Wall fell and the Cold War threat seemed to vanish. He said that he recently began to feel anxiety about the state of the world once again. He cited the stock market crash of 2008, the seizure of a federal building by a militia in Oregon last year and Brexit all as manifestations of a splintering society that is focused more on us vs. them and is increasingly skeptical of government. He pitches the game as one about society standing on a precipice.
Part of the real-life inspiration for the game: Arizona rancher LaVoy Finicum holds a gun as he guards the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge near Burns, Ore., on Jan. 5, 2016. Ammon Bundy, the leader of a small, armed group occupying the remote national wildlife preserve.
All this talk of society on a precipice may have you thinking about Trump. But they’re not saying Trump. Here’s Hay, when talking about how some of the game’s themes manifest in real life: “I began to get the sense that America was ready for a Far Cry. And in a year and a half, a lot has happened. All I can tell you is that—what started out looking good—when I get up in the morning and I read the news and I turn on the television and I hear what is happening across the globe and I hear what is happening in America and I hear some of the different things that are going on, I absolutely get that feeling. For 25 years I haven’t had that feeling like I did when it was the Soviets vs. the U.S. in a Cold War, and all I know is that, in the last year and a half I got that feeling back like we’re riding a wave and something is going to happen. Like there’s going to be a calamity and going to be a collapse.”
Really, they’re not saying “Trump.” I asked. Hay told me the game is set in the present day but, when asked if that meant Trump is president, he said: “It’s interesting. It would have been super easy for us to reference specific people but of course it’s the real world but it might have been too easy to have references and jokes about stuff like that.” Of course, the Far Cry games, in contrast with Assassin’s Creed games, tend not to use the names of real people, so this choice is true to the series.
And… you can get a dog to help you fight your enemies. Building on the most enjoyable feature from last year’s Far Cry Primal, the game will offer a “fangs for hire” system that lets you send a bear or cougar into fight for you. Or you can bring a dog. Hay told me he loves the dog. “We really wanted you to be able to carry this pet with you and be able to have it do stuff. You saw it can run up and be able to take guys down by the throat. It can take weapons from them and bring them back.” Chances of a dog upgrade system? “I can’t talk about that stuff but you can imagine where we’re going.”
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