Stay on target The Biggest Trailers From the 2018 Game AwardsUbisoft Confirms New Assassin’s Creed, Far Cry, and The Crew, For Some… Out of all of Ubisoft’s relatively interchangeable open-world franchises, I’ve always found Far Cry to be the one with the most merit. Maybe it’s the residual Crytek influence. Maybe it’s the first-person perspective. Maybe it’s the fact that since the series isn’t pumped out annually like Assassin’s Creed (until Origins) each entry feels like a bigger leap forward. Or maybe it’s because of the franchise’s spicier take on contemporary politics, prehistoric Far Cry Primal notwithstanding.It’s that last aspect, the politics, that have so far made next month’s Far Cry 5 seem so… fascinating. After four games set in exotic yet dangerous parts of the globe, Far Cry 5 turns its attention to a more domestic threat: a fictional Montana county that’s been turned into its own third-world hellscape by a rustic death cult. In this year especially, that’s a premise piping hot with potential insight, and controversy, too. Unfortunately, my hands-on session with the game left me skeptical of its political bravery, even if it is a fun video game.But we might as well start with what works. After a brief scripted sequence that leaves you stranded in cult territory, you’re free to explore the gorgeous open-world Northwest before you. The terrain is covered in mountains, valleys, forests, and bodies of water that provide a convincing naturalistic wrapper for typical Ubisoft content chunks.AdChoices广告And even those chunks aren’t so typical this time. There’s only one tower to climb, and the game makes a joke about it. I solved a clever environmental puzzle to access a doomsday prepper weapons cache by swimming beneath an abandoned shack and emerging from the broken floor. There are hunting and fishing minigames as distractions, but when a dangerous militia is on the rise, I was more selflessly concerned with getting myself prepared for the fight.Progress is measured by a hashtag Resistance meter that tracks how much power you drain from the cult by liberating prisoners, taking over outposts, and completing story missions. A more immediately tangible sign of your growing influence is the ability to take partners into battle with you and assign them perks, kind of like assassin recruits. Whether it’s a grateful survivor, bumbling story character like franchise mainstay Hurk, a bear, or a fellow real-life human in co-op, the extra gun for hire is obviously useful while ziplining into cult camps or shooting down helicopters while flying in your own helicopter.All of the pieces are in place for the best Far Cry yet from a sandbox mayhem perspective. But that’s not the only valid perspective from which you can (and should) view this game. Far Cry 5 is literally a 2018 game about a heavily armed rural American death cult violently seizing startling amounts of power using religious rhetoric. And the fact no one, at least so far, acknowledges just how inherently political this is as baffling as it is disappointing.This is worth mentioning because the effort to depoliticize the game, and avoiding to risk alienating the (likely conservative) customers who’d feel targeted, actively hurts the experience. It makes everything hollow in a way that saps the power from such a well-researched, “realistic” depiction of cults in America.You play as a cop no matter what but can choose your gender and skin color (and whether or not to wear gloves with skeleton fingers on them). But no one ever reacts any differently to your identity. The cult is driven by a fervent belief in an upcoming apocalypse, as well as fanatical worship of Father Joseph Seed, but its equal opportunity hostility towards outsiders is pretty progressive relatively speaking. People of color even appear as unnamed cult members to shoot down. And for a 2018 religious Montana armed death cult, welcoming Black members seems even more fantastical than regenerating health or MacGyver-leveling crafting prowess.It doesn’t help that the scary, deadly serious, The Hills Have Eyes tone frequently clashes with the game’s goofier, yet also incoherently politically charged, elements. One quest-giver complains about “Obama-loving libtards” while his well-meaning son apologizes for assuming your gender. The same son, tagging along as an optional gun for hire, then talks about feeling a breeze between his taint while a story character recounts in horrific detail how one cultist fed starving kidnapped children their own parent’s severed toes.Far Cry 5’s political failings are emblematic of modern AAA gaming’s general desperate desire to be stretched thin into all things at once to all people. An open-world shooter with a serious story about hot-button political issues but also tons of silly good fun with side content and co-op and oh please don’t sell this game back. There’s already a season pass planned with expansions about fighting zombies, Martians, and the Viet Cong.One surreal section challenges you to obediently, efficiently slaughter as many enemies as possible while in drugged-out bliss for what feels like Spec Ops: The Line-esque critical self-commentary of the military gaming industrial complex and player complicity. But again it feels hollow when coupled with the game’s reflexive fetishism of guns themselves as well as the “good” Montana militias that aid you against the “bad” cult that frankly both spring from the exact same unacknowledged and destructive toxic patriarchal American gun culture. Whoops.I tried to express these concerns during an interview with the developers. But the responses I heard, while made in good faith, just furthered my disappointment. No specific reference point was ever mentioned, not even specific groups researched by the cult consultant. My student film has more direct references to Jim Jones. The team talked about vague feelings of “bad stuff happening soon” they felt about three years ago, but those bad feelings never got a name, even though I can think of a few bloated orange ones.Instead of any kind of specific commentary, the game was described as a “choose your own adventure” that could’ve been made at any point in time. Childhood Cold War fears were cited as an influence for this game, again a game that’s about a religious rural Montana death cult. Imagine if something like Wolfenstein II approached its political narrative of Nazi-controlled America with this same level of, and I’m sorry to say this, cowardice. It honestly makes the previous, thematically similar Far Cry games seems more suspect in retrospect, or maybe that’s just my American privilege finally catching up with me. Intentional or not, Far Cry 5 is absolutely a game about the danger of unchecked American right wing extremism, the same poisonous conservatism currently in charge of the country while worming deeper into gamer culture as well, and the developers need to own it.I don’t want to sound too mean, because even walking this close to saying something politically relevant in a AAA game is risky and laudable. The creators behind Far Cry 5 are certainly talented and were kind enough to politely answer my somewhat antagonistic questions. And even though the game goes out of its way to avoid slighting any specific real-world groups or take any “side,” right wing losers still got upset about “white genocide” or whatever, so kudos to the game for causing that.But even if I’m being charitable, the best I can say about the opening hours of Far Cry 5 I experienced is that it feels like an exploitative Law and Order “ripped from the headlines” type narrative that wants to take the provocative, timely, fascinating parts of a lurid fringe issue like rural religious cults in America without doing the extra hard and dangerous important work of actually saying anything of substance. In a pure schlock fantasy like the Southern Bayou nightmare of Resident Evil 7 that can be an entertaining trashy tactic. But it feels irresponsible in something as almost real as Far Cry 5.Far Cry 5 launches on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC on March 27. At least it’ll probably be a fun video game.Let us know what you like about Geek by taking our survey.