Far Cry 4, Player Freedoms and American Ciphers

I’ve always enjoyed the Far Cry series. In the aim of disclosing bias, I once wrote a sub 500 word review praising Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon as the saviour of video games. It was a hyperbolic, brash and almost nonsensical statement. So was Blood Dragon.

More than anything, Blood Dragon showed that Ubisoft were capable of fun.

Far Cry 3 had a lot of handwringing about its hunter-killer main character and that was after Jason J DudeBro was done hamming his way through an awkwardly scripted stealth sequence/tutorial that left me cold. It was an inherently ridiculous premise backed up by a character that really should have been Grant J Army Ranger. But more on that shortly. It was a game that wanted you to take magic mushrooms, rock a magical tattoo and skin bears for a wallet. It’s inherently a little bit ridiculous.

But it just takes itself so seriously.

Far Cry 4 is really nice from a gameplay perspective because it drops you in that world, puts a machine pistol in your hand and literally turns you loose on targets. Your tutorial is being pointed at a tower a kilometre away and turned loose into a playground; you have the last word on how you want to approach this. I chose to hunt the arena, performing takedowns and using skills honed in the third installment of the game to hunt out the bad men.

Can this really be the entire tutorial?

“Don’t you want to show me anything else?” I asked the game and it responded by putting me in a wingsuit and letting me crash into an Elephant. I learnt to be terrified of a Rhino not because of a tooltip but because the first time I encountered a rhino it flipped my car and then took all of my bullets and grenades to kill. That sort of learning experience was largely missing from Far Cry 3 for me, and I feel one of the strongest aspects of this game is that it trusts you enough to let you loose with its toys.

Of course, this immediate descent into bloody slaughter opens up some narrative concerns. Ajay Ghale is the stranger, dropped headfirst into the place from America and somehow suddenly able to murder people with aplomb. He’s never taught how to gut a man with a knife, he’s never taught how to skin a wolf or fly one of the many gyrocopters hovering about the place. Ajay’s just assumed to know it. Everybody talks to you like you already live in this world, like you’re already familiar with this society of violence.

But you’re not. You’re the American cipher to help players identify. Your American accent is there as a proof that perhaps Ubisoft still don’t have the balls to go for a native.  You show up and suddenly decide to change things for the better, you’re the guy that climbs towers and liberate hostages. Wouldn’t it all just be so much more exciting if perhaps you had been a native? You were already born there.

Being from there would explain why you’re so good at murdering. You could handwave the familiarity with weapons off as tools of your upbringing. The willingness and ability to survive in this warzone would actually make sense if you had been brought up in the middle of it. As it stands, unless you grew up in a particularly rough part of the U.S there’s absolutely no way to make narrative sense of just how good at murder you are.

Just some musings, I guess.

Leave a Comment..