French multinational video game publisher, Ubisoft, which has highly-acclaimed game franchises such as Far Cry to its credit, has launched another game in the series. The world is experiencing a churn, and interestingly, Far Cry 5 plays into the heart of this churn.
It is the first numbered entry since Far Cry 4 released in November 2014.
Unlike the previous games in the series, which took players on a journey of exotic locales in South America or the dizzying heights of Himalayas, Far Cry 5 will bring its gun-slinging mayhem to the fictional Hope county in modern day Montana – a western state in the United States – which faces the threat of being overrun by a White militant cult.
And that's where the controversy begins.
What's the fuss about?
Far Cry 5, from its initial release trailer and artwork, promises to be one the most controversial games in modern times. It's literally a far cry from the safe confines of previous plots: from White protagonists killing indigenous people of colour to taking on White militia in the computer-generated Hope County, Montana, the show is already being dubbed as a "White genocide simulator".
In the Donald Trump-fuelled age of fear and hate, the game's narrative is highly political, with the potential to send out a strong statement, and as the chatter on Twitter will tell you, it also has the ability to enhance the growing divide between people:
Kind of cruel for Far Cry 5 to be about Christian Extremists, how come there's never been a game about evil Muslim people? Never been one.— Callum Kirkpatrick (@callumkaypee) May 26, 2017
https://t.co/5KakRk9dhDYou'll never see a Muslim terrorist in a game again and they blow people up in real life. The only bad guy... whitey— Sledge Hammer (@SledgeHammer03) May 26, 2017
Really looking forward to killing me some white boys in Far Cry 5!— Andy Chalk (@AndyChalk) May 26, 2017
i can’t wait to kill white men in far cry 5 and have this tweet embedded on heat street— brian feldman (@bafeldman) May 24, 2017
'The Last Supper' artwork
Ubisoft set the ball rolling with its a controversial artwork that shows the game's antagonists gathered around lead villain Joseph Seed, who is sitting at the centre of a table. In its take on The Last Supper, Ubisoft shows members of a White supremacist group masquerading as a religious cult, sitting for supper much in the same style as the Apostles did around Jesus in the 15th-century classic by Leonardo da Vinci.
Joseph Seed is shown as taking Jesus' place on the table, as he sits with his arms slightly raised, and an open bible placed above what looks like a rendition of the American Flag with the Iron Cross — the Nazi Military symbol — instead of the 50 stars of the spangled banner.
With guns, grenades and hammers adorning the picture, the game's first artwork completes what looks like the White supremacist's dream of The Last Supper.
The artwork also shows a bound prisoner, “SINNER” painted on his back, adding to the religious references made by the game.
This borrowing of iconography from a twisted form of Christianity and American militia in order to create a villain is Ubisoft tapping into the clear and present growing anxiety over militia groups like the Montana Freemen, and other far-Right religious cults that have started gaining prominence since Donald Trump assumed power as president of the United States.
The launch trailer
"Welcome to Hope County, Montana. When your arrival incites the cult to violently seize control of the region, you must rise up and spark the fires of resistance to liberate a besieged community"
The game's first teaser trailer takes the iconography further, giving you a glimpse into a civilised society run over by armed fanatics.
But unlike real life, it gives you the tools to achieve cathartic pleasure by slaughtering the men and women who draw their roots from cults like the Branch Davidians.
The gameplay teaser goes on to show the members of the cult running riot around Hope county, forcing new members into their flock, with only the protagonist — Hope County's new sheriff standing in their way.
The choice of the protagonist will add to the controversy, as the developers, unlike in the previous games, have left the ethnicity and colour of the protagonist in the gamer's hands.
So come February 2018, when the game finally hits the stores, expect a lot of gameplay videos of Black/Brown protagonists going on a killing spree, bringing swift justice to the game's White Christian villains.
Supporting characters such as a gun-wielding black parish leader, Pastor Jerome Jeffries reveal the bent the game will take.
With the rise of far-Right groups throughout Europe and the United States, the game's narrative serves as a brilliant critique on the contemporary issues faced by the world.
But owing to its nature of being a video game that uses weapons and bloodshed to hammer home the point, Far Cry 5 also raises some very important questions:
For starters, has Far Cry 5, with its overt use of religious iconography, and to an extent the use of colour to pit good against evil, unintentionally crossed a line?
If not, is Ubisoft's portrayal of such complex issues through a simulator that piggybacks on violence and bloodshed to wow users a responsible decision?
The launch on February 27, 2018 holds the answers.