By now, you've probably seen the provocative promotional art for Far Cry 5 that made the rounds on Wednesday afternoon. While the game's Montana setting was known prior to that image's release, there were still plenty of questions about the game's time period and villains. Some rumors even suggested the game would be set in the Old West, for example.
I recently got to check out Far Cry 5 at an Ubisoft event and can confirm that it's taking on an even more fascinating (and culturally relevant) subject: Christian fundamentalist extremism.
An unusually bold setting and villain
Far Cry 5 takes players to the fictional Hope County, Montana. It looks like what you might think Montana looks like if you've never been there, with scattered towns and farms surrounded by unbelievable natural beauty. Verdant fields, pleasant streams and white-tipped mountains frame the explosive action of Far Cry 5.
The location itself isn't what makes Far Cry 5 so unusual. Plenty of games (including Ubisoft's own Watch Dogs series) put players in modern-day renditions of American locales. It's the choice of villain that gives Far Cry 5 an enticing flavor.
Hope County has been besieged by a right-wing Christian militia that, in the words of executive producer Dan Hay, has "metastasized" across the region "like cancer." Hay directly referenced the January 2016 takeover of a federal building by Ammon Bundy as an example of how these groups operate. However, one only needs to do a quick Google search to find a more localized example, the Montana Freemen.
As Chris Plante wrote at the Verge, this setting is bold, as it upends the traditional Far Cry structure of "continually sending players to 'exotic' nations, and encouraging them to murder the local people of color." This time, you'll take on enemies and explore places that may or may not feel very familiar to American players.
Meet the people of Hope County
Far Cry games are known for their gorgeous settings and open-world mayhem, but eccentric characters have often been just as memorable throughout the series. Vaas from Far Cry 3 is an example of that.
The leader of the cult in Far Cry 5 is The Father. According to Hay, The Father sees himself as a "modern-day Noah" who feels that a societal collapse is coming and the government won't save the people. However, he isn't above using force to indoctrinate others to his cause. As Hay put it, "souls don't harvest themselves."
"We've built people who have gone to Montana because they don't trust the government, they want to be left alone," Hay said. "The place has a feeling of civil disobedience, a feeling that they can do it themselves, that God will provide."
As a Hope County junior deputy, you'll spearhead a resistance movement to excise the tumor from Hope County. Like previous Far Cry games, you'll meet allies with various reasons for joining the fight against The Father. These characters will offer material benefits as you help them accomplish their goals throughout the story.
Pastor Jerome, for example, believes in God and guns. The Father led his people astray and Jerome isn't afraid to use force to lead them back to the light. Mary May, on the other hand, is a bartender whose family was broken up by the cult. Finally, Nick Rye is a crop duster who will affix weapons to his plane and help you out when you need it.
Of course, these are just the characters Ubisoft showed us. The Father's family helps run the operation, but we don't know much about them yet.
Despite everything, it's still Far Cry
At the end of the presentation, Ubisoft showed us a little bit of gameplay footage. Much to the surprise of no one, it looks a lot like Far Cry 3 and Far Cry 4 — just with a more American flavor.
You'll still get around the open world with a variety of vehicles, though they're more in line with what you'd expect to see in rural Montana. When it's time to get down to business, it looks like you'll have a ton of options. I'm assuming stealth is one of them — as it always has been — but when things get out of control, we saw a handful of different tools at the player's disposal.
You can call in an air raid favor from the aforementioned crop dusting friend or pilot planes yourself. According to Ubisoft's press release, you can even unleash bears and cougars on enemies. Hopefully, you can ram a car into unsuspecting dudes before blowing up everyone who's left like in previous Far Cry games.
That is all to say that, despite its topical, ripped-from-the-headlines premise, it's still Far Cry at its core.
Far Cry 5 is coming to PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC on February 27, 2018. Expect to see plenty more of it at E3 in June.
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