Since “Far Cry 5” launched last week, I’ve read tons of professional reviews complaining the game isn’t political enough. Several reviews spent more talking about how “Far Cry 5” lacks political commentary than they did about, you know, that actual gameplay—the thing that should matter above all else when judging a game’s quality.
“Where the game does try to take you through the mechanics by which people become fanatics, it does so at the level of cheap sensation, via devices such as mass hypnosis or mind-altering drugs that can be easily translated into the brutal lingo of an action game,” wrote Eurogamer. “There’s little sustained investigation of wider social factors, like the overlap between militant Christian extremism and white supremacy or sexism—indeed, the game generally ducks such questions.”
“Yet when facing more obviously troubling truths, like the racism and xenophobia that swept Trump into office, ‘Far Cry 5’ hedges its bets,” reads Waypoint’s review. “Mission after mission, NPC after NPC, there is a sense throughout the game that Ubisoft wants to make sure you’re laughing along with them regardless of why you’re laughing.”
Polygon went so far as to knock the game’s score, giving it only a 6.5 out of 10 because the game doesn’t touch on racism, the Second Amendment and other relevant social issues the way the author, Ben Kuchera, wanted.
The day after his review came out, Kuchera doubled down with a piece titled, “‘Far Cry 5 doesn’t want to offend anyone, so it will end up annoying everyone.” He says the game should have taken a political stance, no matter which direction, instead of being a game that tries to please everyone.
That’s rich coming from a publication that constantly complains about how offensive video games are and would rip “Far Cry 5” apart if it at all leaned in a conservative direction, but that’s a different story.
It’s a shame, really, and completely unfair to the game’s creators. Why should a game be judged for themes it lacks or those it never claimed to have in the first place? “Far Cry 5” is garnering controversy for its lack of controversial content, strangely enough.
Before I dive too far into this nonsense, let me back up and explain the game I’m talking about.
“Far Cry” is a series that typically places players in exotic locations and lets them wreak havoc. The standard premise is you’re a newcomer in a foreign land wrapped in turmoil, and you lead the charge with a cast of friendly characters to fight whatever evil lies there.
In a series first, “Far Cry 5” takes place stateside in good ol’ Montana, where residents are patriotic and love liberty and guns. A cult known as Project at Eden’s Gate has taken over fictional Hope County, and with a ragtag team of red-blooded Americans at your back, it’s your job playing as a sheriff’s deputy to quell the cult’s rise to power.
To some of these reviewers, it apparently seemed “Far Cry 5” would have a lot to say about real-world issues such as gun control, racism, sexism and even President Donald Trump. Well, it didn’t. As ever, it’s just a fun shooting game in an interesting open world.
But what reviewers don’t seem to understand is it’s OK that “Far Cry 5” doesn’t pander to any political aisle and avoids shoving divisive social commentary down players’ throats.
True to form, “Far Cry 5” is as goofy as ever. In one early mission, I killed mating bulls while Marvin Gaye’s “Sexual Healing” played in the background. One of your possible cooperative partners is a diabetic bear named Cheeseburger.
This is a game that runs the gamut from creepy cult imagery to just being a silly gaming experience, and that tonal inconsistency is really nothing new for the series.
But instead of judging “Far Cry 5” for what it is, reviewers lambasted it for what it isn’t or for what they’d hoped it would be. I honestly believe a few of these publications silently wished “Far Cry 5” would be a white supremacist murder simulator and were heartbroken to find it’s not.
Actually, I find it pretty ironic games journalists are lamenting the fact the cult isn’t exclusively white. The industry has been pushing for diversity and greater representation in games for years, but when “Far Cry 5” delivered, game journalists were still dissatisfied. How do you win with these people?
Reviewers claim they’re upset because “Far Cry 5” didn’t take a stance on social issues and instead played everything up for laughs. But the truth is clear to me: Game journalists are mad because “Far Cry 5” doesn’t reflect their specific political views despite it having no obligation to do so.
I don’t really know where their expectations came from. We’ve known for a year now that “Far Cry 5” wasn’t going to be a response to Trump’s election. The game was in development long before Trump became president, and the game’s lead developers brushed off speculation “Far Cry 5” would be overly political.
One of the first marketing images for the game mimicked “The Last Supper” by showing several cult members sitting at a table. One of those cult members is black. If that wasn’t a message that Project at Eden’s Gate isn’t a white supremacist group but a religious extremist one, I don’t know what is.
“Far Cry 5” played it safe by not getting preachy in a world where politics have already consumed everything. The game is a fantasy experience that allows you to escape the madness of the real world a bit and indulge in the madness of an outlandish video game, and that’s perfectly valid.
Had the game taken a political stance the exclusively left-leaning games press disagreed with, the backlash against “Far Cry 5” would be far more severe, and that really says a lot about the state of this industry.
As for me, I’ll be enjoying “Far Cry 5” for what it is and not wishing the game was something it never intended to be.