How Far Cry 5 is un­leash­ing an­ar­chy on the U.S of A.

Cre­ative direc­tor dan Hay re­veals How Ubisoft Mon­treal is at­tempt­ing to rein­vent the open-world sand­box

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“PEO­PLE HAVE THIS IDEA THAT YOU CAN’T EAT DESSERT FIRST. AND WHY? I LOVE DESSERT” DAN hay, CRE­ATIVE DIREC­TOR

It has been get­ting in­creas­ingly dif­fi­cult to find en­thu­si­asm for

Far Cry. The se­ries de­fined it­self in the early Noughties through stages of ram­pant rein­ven­tion. Some view this pe­riod as Far Cry sim­ply try­ing to find its voice, oth­ers be­lieve it to be a man­i­fes­ta­tion of Ubisoft Mon­treal’s huge am­bi­tion in the open world sand­box space – that Far Cry rep­re­sented a cre­ative out­let in which the de­vel­op­ment teams could play, the risk low but the po­ten­tial re­ward high.

But in 2012, with the re­lease of Far Cry 3, rein­ven­tion gave way to it­er­a­tion. The lo­ca­tions may change be­tween in­stal­ments, but the core loop re­mains the same; en­joy­able as it is, we are hungry for more. Ea­ger to see a Far Cry game that truly be­longs in the cur­rent cli­mate, one that is eagerly tak­ing ad­van­tage of mod­ern tech­nol­ogy, push­ing con­fi­dently into un­charted ter­ri­to­ries with a new­found sense of en­ergy and free­dom.

That isn’t Far Cry 5. Not on the sur­face of it, at any rate. Ubisoft Mon­treal is bring­ing the ac­tion state­side for the very first time; tropical par­adises re­placed by ru­ral Mon­tana, with the se­ries’ trademark tyrants dis­placed in favour of charis­matic cultists. If this were the best the stu­dio had to of­fer we’d be in­trigued, but not nec­es­sar­ily ec­static. Not con­tent with sit­ting here and wal­low­ing in a well of our own dis­con­tent, we took our con­cerns di­rectly to cre­ative direc­tor Dan Hay; ques­tion­ing whether there is more than meets the eye to Far Cry 5 and, should that be the case, whether it is even pos­si­ble to ac­cu­rately con­vey that to an au­di­ence that has a ten­dency to en­gage with lit­tle more than 280 char­ac­ters. “I’m sure there is,” he says, a smile creep­ing across his face, “But it’s just go­ing to be a bull­shit mar­ket­ing an­swer. That’s not what I’m go­ing to do.”

we’re talk­ing

“What I’m go­ing to tell you is this… the nice thing about this age is that some peo­ple are en­gag­ing with a quick syn­op­sis of things, but life is much more com­pli­cated than that. What I’ve learned over time is to try your best, try not to speak in ab­so­lutes all of the time, and to try and of­fer an ex­pe­ri­ence that, once you scratch the sur­face, you can see in a lit­tle deeper. I think what’s go­ing to be in­ter­est­ing to peo­ple pick­ing up Far Cry 5 is that they may look at it and think that it’s this one thing, and then they are go­ing to play it and go, ‘Oh okay, it’s also this other thing.’”

That’s what we were hop­ing to hear. It’s dif­fi­cult to get a read of Far Cry at pre­view stage; much like Ghost Re­con Wild­lands, so much of the fun to be found in it is purely anec­do­tal. That is to say, that the con­ver­gence of the var­i­ous sys­tems work­ing be­hind the poly­gons cre­ates these mo­ments of in­tense in­san­ity that are fairly unique to you and your spe­cific ex­pe­ri­ence. Hope County, Mon­tana may be a set­ting that ev­ery player will ex­plore, but what you en­counter within its var­i­ous biomes – around its core cast of char­ac­ters and story – will largely dif­fer from player to player. We know that the gun­play is ex­quis­ite and em­pow­er­ing, and that the weapon feed­back and con­trols are tight as all hell, but what we don’t know is what hap­pens in be­tween those mo­ments that you’re feed­ing clip af­ter clip into an as­sault ri­fle.

Hay, as it should hap­pen, has an anec­do­tal way of de­scrib­ing this process. You see, build­ing games isn’t easy, par­tic­u­larly those of the open world sand­box va­ri­ety. But af­ter Far Cry 3, 4 and Pri­mal, Ubisoft Mon­treal is ea­ger to open up the ex­pe­ri­ence more than it has ever done in the past – re­mov­ing many of the bound­aries and bar­ri­ers to free-form play, push­ing for a world and story that is re­ac­tive to your pres­ence. “The trick when you’re build­ing a game that has this many pieces to en­sure that it is not a buf­fet, to make sure that it does not all have one taste,” he con­sid­ers, our eye­brows rais­ing a lit­tle higher by the sec­ond. While we did con­duct this in­ter­view shortly af­ter lunch, we thought it best to wait this out and see where Hay took us. It was worth it. “That it’s cu­rated, and that it at least makes the ef­fort – that it feels like a meal that comes in full cour­ses, re­gard­less of the or­der that you choose to or­der them in. And that’s dif­fi­cult to do, be­cause I think that peo­ple have this pre­scribed idea that you can’t eat dessert first. And why? I love dessert, and there might not be room for it at the end.”

If we’re go­ing to con­tinue rolling with this eat­ing anal­ogy, Hay is es­sen­tially ea­ger to let peo­ple grab a hold of the multi-course of­fer­ing of con­tent that it has cooked up over the last three years and di­gest it in any way, and in any or­der, that they like. Does that sound glut­tonous? Well, we have (ad­mit­tedly) got­ten pretty damned greedy over the years. As open worlds con­tinue to grow in size and com­plex­ity, so too has our ap­petite for more con­tent, more var­ied ex­pe­ri­ences, and more mo­ments that are both sharable and mem­o­rable.

It is, of course, dif­fi­cult to give play­ers a true sense of free­dom with­out shov­ing a con­troller di­rectly into their hands and steal­ing a few hours of their time. Given that the se­ries has been ac­tive since 2004, many de­vel­op­ers have tried to por­tray an open struc­ture to play­ers while still main­tain­ing a de­gree of mys­tery over its story and di­rec­tion. What is it that makes this Ubisoft Mon­treal team any dif­fer­ent?

“I think it’s our will­ing­ness to do the un­ex­pected, a will­ing­ness to try and chal­lenge our­selves,” coun­ters Hay. “It would have been re­ally, re­ally easy to make a lin­ear game, one that knew where the player was go­ing to be [at all times] and be able to write a story with char­ac­ters that we could tell would show up mo­ment-to­mo­ment. That would have been very easy… this has not been very easy,” he con­tin­ues, erupt­ing into laugh­ter. It’s the kind of laugh­ter that masks a very real ex­haus­tion, so we ask, has it been worth it? “We made a choice to set the bar re­ally very high; we made it chal­leng­ing for our­selves.”

“I think peo­ple will ap­pre­ci­ate it, but the thing as de­vel­op­ers is we have to re­alise that some peo­ple will never no­tice it all,” says Hay, giv­ing us some de­gree of in­sight into one of the most dif­fi­cult chal­lenges that de­vel­op­ers of these sand­box games are so of­ten pre­sented with. A game like Far Cry 5 takes years to cre­ate, and costs mil­lions to pro­duce, with lit­er­ally hundreds of staff across the globe all of­fer­ing their ex­per­tise, knowl­edge and tal­ent to the al­tar of triple-a game pro­duc­tion. It takes all of these re­sources to make a game such as Far Cry as vi­brant, bustling and crammed with con­tent as hu­manly pos­si­ble. De­vel­op­ers want play­ers to in­ter­act and en­gage with their work, as much of it as pos­si­ble; pulling down the bar­ri­ers to play and of­fer­ing a truly free-form ex­pe­ri­ence is then, in essence, ter­ri­fy­ing – there’s a rea­son el­e­ments such as Tow­ers and way­point-heavy min­imaps have be­come such a main­stay of the genre; they subtly guide the player be­tween the con­tent and in­tri­cacy crafted points of in­ter­est. Far Cry 5, we’re told, will fea­ture nei­ther.

“One of the things about build­ing a game is that it’s about the road you’ve trav­elled [in de­vel­op­ment], and there are roads that you can’t travel; you may never know what you missed. So we built this su­per-earnest story with all of these op­por­tu­ni­ties, with these char­ac­ters, and we go, ’This is it! Go over here and you’re go­ing to meet all of these char­ac­ters’ and the player is just like, ‘No, I’m not! I’m go­ing this way!’

And we say, ‘Well, what about all of this great con­tent?’ And they say, ‘Well, yeah, but I’m over here do­ing all of this great con­tent.’ We just have to say okay,” he says, throw­ing his hands into the air. “We’ve just got to take it.”

Hay be­lieves that this re­flects some of the wider be­liefs within Ubisoft. Wild­lands is a per­fect ex­am­ple, although As­sas­sin’s Creed Ori­gins stunned play­ers late last year by loos­en­ing the reins a lit­tle in its in­ter­pre­ta­tion of Egypt. While he wasn’t will­ing to spec­u­late on how this ap­proach to de­sign would feed into the next cy­cle of Ubisoft se­quels, he was able to com­ment specif­i­cally on how it has in­formed his Far Cry team: “It’s a big team, and it very much has its own cul­ture and its own mind­set. If I think about the larger feel­ing on Far Cry, it’s just to be able to grow the anecdote fac­tory. To be able to put it into a sit­u­a­tion where play­ers can do what­ever they want to do, when­ever they want to do it.”

“The game that we are build­ing is re­ally unique and re­ally gen­er­ous. I think the mind­set is to en­cour­age Far Cry play­ers and al­low them to kind of ex­pe­ri­ence it – and not nec­es­sar­ily the way that we in­tended. I just want to give them the con­troller; they will tell us the way they want to play.”

This isn’t all to say that the game will be aim­less, only that the aim will be ever shift­ing. Un­like pre­vi­ous Far Cry games, in which your char­ac­ter is pre-de­fined, you’ll be able to cre­ate your own this time out – a blank can­vas, a sher­iff in over his head at­tempt­ing to take

Hope County back from a god-fear­ing cult that be­lieves the end is nigh.

You can choose to en­gage in the main story, par­tic­i­pat­ing in a lit­tle con­sti­tu­tion­ally ap­proved an­ar­chy, or you can head out on the road less trav­elled. The char­ac­ters that you’ll en­counter live au­tonomously in pock­ets of Mon­tana, un­aware of what is hap­pen­ing else­where in the gor­geous – and sur­pris­ingly var­ied – biomes of Hope County. Side quests will be hid­den away, just wait­ing to be found and com­pleted; an­i­mals roam the forests freely, beg­ging to be hunted; right-wing cultists op­er­ate on most of the ma­jor roads and through­ways, just wait­ing to push back the law as it pre­pares for the rap­ture with a bap­tism of fire and bul­let shells. The choice is in your hands, and Ubisoft Mon­treal isn’t in­ter­ested in hold­ing your sweaty mitts all the way through it. “The way I chose to look at it is this… the game has a body, the spine is the story and the char­ac­ters, but out­side of that you can go where you want, do what you want, and ex­pe­ri­ence what you want to," con­tin­ues Hay. “I think that, in terms of a pre­scrip­tion of what you are sup­posed to do, there is none of that; there is no fun­nel. We put to­gether op­por­tu­ni­ties for you to go out into the world, to meet char­ac­ters, to find out dif­fer­ent mi­cros­to­ries, but there is no ‘You’ve got to do this, not this…’ the game is much more re­ac­tive.”

“That’s what’s re­ally, re­ally in­ter­est­ing about dis­cov­ery within the con­fines of this game,” con­sid­ers Hay, ea­ger for play­ers to ex­pe­ri­ence Far Cry 5 on 27 Fe­bru­ary and dive deeply into the prod­uct of so much pas­sion and at­ten­tion. “We’re hint­ing at things like that and we’re bring­ing them into this space. I think it’s go­ing to be re­ally pow­er­ful.”

“IF I THINK ABOUT THE LARGER FEEL­ING ON FAR CRY, IT’S JUST TO BE ABLE TO GROW THE ANECDOTE FAC­TORY” DAN hay, CRE­ATIVE DIREC­TOR

be­low: Far Cry 5 sets you lose in amer­ica for the very first time, us­ing ev­ery­thing at your dis­posal to up­root a cult that has taken over Hope County, Mon­tana.

Above: you’ll be able to team up with a va­ri­ety of the lo­cals of the world, us­ing their ex­per­tise to give you new op­tions and op­por­tu­ni­ties in com­bat. right: Hunt­ing is still a big part of the game, and the switch to ru­ral amer­ica hasn’t cut into any of the an­i­mal based chaos you’ll get your­self into.

right: fly­ing has been no­tice­ably fine-tuned, mak­ing it eas­ier to pi­lot ve­hi­cles than be­fore. in fact, the epic dog­fights we’ve en­gaged in are some of the best con­tent we’ve seen thus far.

Ubisoft Mon­treal has put a lot of re­sources into the graph­i­cal and au­dio pre­sen­ta­tion of Far Cry 5, it’s a pow­er­house.

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