With a teaser trailer and images released recently, it is confirmed that Ubisofts’ latest edition of the wilderness kill-a-thon franchise Far Cry will be taking place in near-present day rural Montana. While this setting, and what seems to be the theocratic separatist antagonists that will compromise the ‘angry locals’ cannon fodder synonymous with the franchise, I am predicting the game will attract backlash as it will inevitably deal with what American cultural attitudes often struggle with; introspective criticism.
Full disclosure, I have an outsiders perspective on American culture, so my opinion is mostly informed by external projections of US identity and ideology in media or politics. However, even a casual observer can notice the continued prevalence of American exceptionalism as a key aspect of discussion regarding the social climate of the United States. This perception of superiority and belief in the abstract ‘betterness’ of American political culture is what informs a somewhat widespread idea that Americans are convinced their nation is special compared to the countries of the world. It is often coupled with an unwillingness to acknowledge or contort historical events to avoid the acknowledgment of atrocities or conflicts instigated to benefit the US at the expense of other nations or groups. Debates that are currently raging over the causes of the American Civil War, the legacy of slavery, and racial segregation can all be interpreted as an unwillingness by many Americans to confront national events that contradict the so-called ‘classic’ U.S. values of liberty, egalitarianism, and individualism. What is often the cause of friction is the refusal to acknowledge that it is not only the struggle to extend and promote these founding values that forms parts of US history, but also how these values can be twisted to promote more insidious and exclusionary practices.
Which brings us to Hope County, Montana, the fictional setting for Far Cry 5. From the limited material released it seems that the main antagonist group is most likely theocratic and separatist. They likely run their own area outside of the reach of government law enforcement or potentially with their collusion at the local level. While this idea of despotic regimes is not new among the Far Cry franchise, it will be the first time the structure has been placed directly into the beating heart of the continental United States. This time, an American audience will not be indulging in the typical ‘liberate the foreign land from tyranny’ story arc. Rather, they will be confronting the embodiment of some of the issues that exist within the more extreme parts of U.S. society. I am predicting this will attract criticism from many as it will expose them to distasteful aspects of their own culture rather than an external or foreign environment that they may have no prior knowledge of or attachment to. It is with this in mind that it perhaps makes sense that so few games take place within the U.S. or feature criticism of its population or politics. It risks alienating too big of an audience despite any potential cultural payoff. At the time of writing, I struggle to think of a game that takes place within the U.S. that directly uses elements of its founding principles as inspiration for motivations of the primary enemy class, with perhaps the exception of Bioshock: Infinite.
All of this is perhaps what makes Ubisofts’ choice of setting for Far Cry 5 so surprising, it will ultimately use core American values as motivation for what will be considered the enemy of the piece. However, if done well it could provide much needed reflection on U.S. culture that often goes unaddressed in the gaming market. Like it or not, religious extremism, separatism, and hostility to government are all characteristics of groups and ideologies that exist in the modern United States. Often times products of these core founding values are not immune to sinister or violent interpretation. To acknowledge that these exist may not make economic sense to sell a product, but it provides valuable reflection on a topic that many would like to keep suppressed.
More information of Far Cry 5 can be found here