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The First Person Shooter (FPS) genre is awash with a truckload of cookie cutter, unimaginative bland copies of one another. They all merge into one blur of HDR, over the top guns and forgettable enemies. Repetitive sequels pushed out purely for monetary reasons (Call of Duty; prime example) end up merging into one game and I know I'm hard-pressed to distinguish between them all. Far Cry suffers this fate as well. Quite honestly, the third and fourth instalments are so similar, they may as well have released FarCry 4 as DLC (another topic that grates me, but we'll save that for another day). I genuinely struggle to separate the two and what's worse, I can't even think of a scenario where I would replay them, which is a downright shame and I find it's a common flaw with games released today, compared with the glory days of the past. Many of these games I discussed, in brief, the other week as I put my nostalgia glasses firmly on, but I think the gaming industry, particularly first-person shooters, could do with a bit of retrospective thinking in order to advance toward the future.
Why did I select Far Cry in particular? Mainly because when the first game was released, it was revolutionary and it immediately set itself up as one for the ages. The open world adventure merged with a realistic and rugged approach had it soaring above its contemporaries. Yet the past two iterations have been masquerading as “open-ended” but in reality, they're not. The boundaries are very much in place and it's the main story that you need to follow as the side missions and quests are usually tedious and non consequential after the first two or three times you do them, but they have the deception of bloating the game so that it feels longer, despite not offering a unique challenge to progress your character.
Speaking of character, your avatar that you control is simply an all-powerful wrecking machine of death. I played Far Cry 4 fairly recently and I can't remember the main character's name, he's just a faceless uninteresting thing you control and burn through the game with. I never felt challenged once by the enemies that I faced and yes, I was on the hardest difficulty, it's just very easy to overcome the odds when you can get every weapon possible pretty much right away, there's no real build up to unlocking the next gun, it just “happens” and you shrug, reload your grenade launcher you got 30 minutes into the game and keep moving on. When enemies drop guns, you should pick them up and think they're a useful addition and a possible replacement for your current weapon, not scoff and disregard it as a mere toy that can't harm you.
Let's say you do die, however, normally in games it's a punishment and you would expect at the least to go and fetch your weapons again, right? Nope. You just respawn sort of close to where you died, with all your gear and go again. There are absolutely zero consequences for death, so you may as well just charge headfirst into everything and see how far you get. It's this lack of stakes that really harm the game for me, as it immediately takes out my investment in the character, you don't need to pause for thought before embarking on your mission of taking over camp number fifty-three, you just do it without so much of a second thought, it's an automatic process.
The relentless drive forward on autopilot is echoed in other game mechanics too; namely crafting. Skin that pig, craft that bag, congratulations you can hold even more overpowered weapons. Pick that flower, craft that syringe, congratulations you can now see further or whatever. It's just so paint-by-numbers and it feels like a box-ticking exercise. The animals are never hard to hunt or find, you just pop open the map, fast travel to their location and start firing off arrows quicker than Legolas and grab your loot. What an ordeal. Back then to the syringes, honestly, I get the idea and it's great but I don't think I've ever seen a more unnecessary addition to a game, ever (apart from maybe Crash Bandicoot's super body slam). You absolutely do not need to craft a single syringe, at all, ever. It just adds to the whole sense of laziness that the game carries, it's a great idea but see it through the whole way. Why not make it imperative to create a hunting syringe in order to be able to actually take down some of the harder animals or enemies? Little details like that make the additions worthwhile and the grinding more bearable.
So these are my main gripes, covered so what can Far Cry 5 do to revive my interest and prove me wrong?
Number 1 - Player Decisions/Choice
If you look at say, Deus Ex, for example, player choice is rife throughout the entire game. Things you say may get a character killed, weapons you use can turn your colleagues against you and so on. It's this wealth of possibility that keeps gamers intrigued and having multiple ways to approach a task is what drives replayability, as long as it's interesting and worthwhile. This is where Far Cry has suffered because although there are different ways to play the game (stealth vs. head first battering ram) there are few opportunities to exhibit the need for stealth as a big reward, save for a few side quests, hence driving down the need to replay the game the entire way through. Extended options breed more intelligent gameplay and thus more invested gamers.
Number 2 - True Exploration
You know the map you get and you “unlock” areas by climbing a tedious radio tower and smashing your face on a button to trigger a sequence that celebrates your achievement, which was completely devoid of skill, you just have to do it? Yeah, get those gone. Give me a map that's barren and only able to be populated once you've actually been to the areas. Hide the secrets as well; knowing where all the masks and posters are is pointless, I as the player should be stumbling upon them through sheer luck or from countless hours of invested exploration to track down the mysterious ancient artifact. Think of hidden packages in the Grand Theft Auto series, remember how cool it was when you found one? How hard it was to get them all? That's because you didn't have a big blue icon telling you where they all were. Again, it's the dumbing down of games that is continuing throughout multiple titles that make the entire industry suffer. Treat gamers with a little more respect and they'll love you that much more for it.
Number 3 - Restrict Guns and Meaningful Extras
To me, there's nothing worse than having the ability to be spoilt for choice for overpowered guns. Seriously, Far Cry excels at this; it vomits virtually all its payload of weaponry at you within the first hour of gameplay, you don't have to work particularly hard for it either. In all of the best FPS games, you need to make significant progress to get the better guns, it just works that way. Or, you get the guns but you need to level up your abilities to use them proficiently. Far Cry does neither. So in order to fix this, either restrict the availability of better weapons or make skills and ability leveling a true dynamic of the game.
I really hope the next title in the Far Cry series lives up to my expectations because there is a really great game lurking amongst these titles, it just needs to be coaxed out. The principles are in place, it looks amazing, the storyline is generally good, there just needs to be tweaks, some minor, some major, and we will once again see an outstanding FPS game. I hope.