Press Start: 'Far Cry 5' is already controversial
For the first time ever, the popular “Far Cry” series will take place a lot closer to home: good ol' Montana. It's a big change for the franchise that has traditionally featured exotic, tropical locations, and it's one fans are freaking out about.
The idea to put “Far Cry”—a series that includes big-game hunting, driving unusual vehicles and killing lots and lots of people—in rural America was enough to raise an eyebrow, but jimmies were truly rustled when game art was revealed.
Developer Ubisoft teased fans by unveiling art that shows several antagonists sitting at a table à la “The Last Supper.” A shirtless man with the word “sinner” carved into his back sits in front of the table, defeated, and what appears to be a Bible lies open on the table. The religious themes aren't subtle.
Nor are the political ones. An American flag with what resembles iron crosses in place of stars is draped across the table. The same symbol, which is associated with the Axis powers of World War II (read: Nazis), can be seen on a flag and church in the background.
And, of course, who can forget the guns strewn about the scene?
Oh, and some are quick to point how all the bad guys are white (well, except that guy on the right, but, to be fair, he wasn't included in the original cropped image that first circulated the Internet).
Naturally, fans were quick to stir up controversy.
Notorious game developer Brianna Wu tweeted, “Wow. New 'Far Cry' is a violent revenge fantasy about eliminating a Republican religious cult that's seized Montana” and included a link to a Polygon story about the game.
There's one problem with her analysis: The article doesn't mention the antagonists' political leanings at all. For all we know, the characters could be anarchists who want to destroy the government completely. Their penchant for chaos and wreaking havoc without discretion would certainly imply as much.
Another notorious critic, Feminist Frequency, tweeted, “We're curious to see if 'Far Cry 5' engages critically with the white supremacy inherent in militia movements or just uses it for set dressing.” It's entirely possible this cult of Montanians isn't racist at all; as I've mentioned, they've got a black man among their ranks, after all.
Users of popular gaming forum NeoGAF were disappointed to learn that the game's enemies weren't conservative Christians but literal cultists—an important distinction, considering cultists are insane. Some users' interest in the game waned when they realized they wouldn't be murdering the “Christian Taliban.”
Already people have pointed out how significant “Far Cry 5's” premise will be in “Trump's America.” Others have drawn similarities between the upcoming game's adversaries and militants' occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon last year.
If it isn't obvious yet, “Far Cry 5” is going to rile some people up. Surely Ubisoft knew what it was doing when it decided to set “Far Cry 5” in rural America with religious and political overtones. But we barely know anything about the game, and already people are going nuts.
Now, I'm all for controversy. Nothing is more exciting than when a game pushes the boundaries and gets people talking not just about the gameplay but its challenging themes and message.
But people are proving themselves quick to jump the gun and look for anything they can to make “Far Cry 5” an “us versus them” issue. How about we instead wait and see what's in store before we start drawing conclusions and using a video game as a catalyst to argue about which “side” is right?
Besides, the subject of “Far Cry 5” isn't anything new. “BioShock Infinite” was based entirely around a setting where a fanatic established a religion based on patriotism and worship of the founding fathers and took his followers to a city in the clouds to escape the sins below. If that isn't a recipe for outcry, I don't know what is.
Here's what I do know: “Far Cry” games are consistently great, and I doubt the fifth entry will be the exception. I can only hope the final product is as wild as fans' reactions so far.
Video game columnist Jake Magee has been with GazetteXtra since 2014. His opinion is not necessarily that of Gazette management. Let him know what you think by emailing email@example.com, leaving a comment below, or following @jakemmagee on Twitter.