The Farthest Cry

The Far Cry games are one of those tent-post franchises. They give us a lot to talk about, they try to do big things, and they’re almost universally highly polished, which is the quality of AAA games we expect these days.

Now, I liked Far Cry 3 – I thought it had a decently written plot and fun mechanics. It was pretty racist, but it felt like the racism of a sincere fool rather than that of anyone being genuinely, deliberately cruel. Very much ‘a product of its time,’ and while that’s pathetic to say of a videogame that came out in 2012, there’s still some effort at self-awareness there. If you want to give the Ubisoft folk credit for trying, at least.

Far Cry 4 is out, and my impression so far is much less intrigued by the game presented to me. Oh, it’s gorgeous – holy shit it’s gorgeous – but 4 seems to be trying to focus its story on its strangely foppish warlord enemy, who honestly doesn’t do anything for me. Maybe it’s because I saw Heath Ledger play a wildly unpredictable asshole and thought that was quality enough.

Nonetheless it does have me thinking about the nature of the Far Cry game franchise, and what makes a game a Far Cry game to me:

  • A feeling of freedom in experience. The player can roam. Truly linear sections are rare and when they exist they’re often bad.
  • An expansive, visually spectacular location. The player will always be able to look around and see something pretty.
  • A character feeling wildly out of place and adapting to that. The protagonist is always an outsider.
  • An upgrade system that’s deliberately truncated, so the player hits maximum power level quite early and is able to enjoy those power benefits for quite some time.
  • Always first-person camera. To maximise immersion in the space – which includes allowing the player to fall prey to stealthy opponents – the camera remains in first-person the whole time.

The alienation and isolation are important to help build the power fantasy of running around taking out pirate bases and whatnot, though. This means these games, through who they feel you can identify with, tend to create a protagonist who is basically an American dude. This is a recent thing, though – Far Cry 2 allows you player characters based on a set of choices, and I’m not sure that idea works better.

Based on this I figure you could do something really rad with a Far Cry game that was about dropping, say, a Sri Lankan into New York City.