Far Cry from a Just Cause

So recently I’ve been playing Just Cause 3. Just Cause 3 concerns Rico Rodriguez who can best be described as a dictator destroyer employed by the CIA-esque Agency. The third entry in the series has Rico returning to his archipelago home, Medici. Playing this game reminded me of another series that takes place across an archipelago, Far Cry. Thinking about it, I was interested to look at each series as the core conceit of both games is that you are dropped into an area controlled by a central villain and you must overthrow them. Through this, you find yourself shooting down hordes of enemies. During Far Cry 3, I found myself worried that the main antagonism centred on a white guy being dumped into a foreign nation and shooting all the brown people. The premise sounded like a bad film like No Escape or American Sniper. So, how true is that fear about the two game franchises?

The first Far Cry game is the earliest game in either series. It does have you dropped onto an archipelago. Being the first game you’d expect it to come off as the worst in terms of who the bad guys are. However, it seems like the conflict mostly plays out between white mercenaries and our hero, white dude wearing a Hawaiian shirt. Actually, our hero is named Jack because every video game protagonist is named Jack. This game also sees the introduction of genetically mutated monsters who also enter the fray. As a result, the foreign archipelago functions less as a foreign nation and more of a secluded place to do immoral things.

The first Just Cause game has our protagonist, Rico, dropped onto a fictional Caribbean island. The main enemy of the game is a fellow by the name of Salvador Mendoza. This set-up seems weird to me. It concerns two figures with Latino-sounding names fighting in the Caribbean. Looking at the set-up, it seems that the game fares no worse than other games that were its contemporaries.

Two years after Just Cause, we received the second entry in the Far Cry series. Far Cry 2 has you play as a mercenary tracking an arms dealer known as the Jackal. These mercenaries come in all shapes and sizes but only one gender. Regardless, you are definitely an outsider who is being tasked by opposing sides of a civil war set in an unspecified African nation. Much of the game involves you driving old cars that are prone to breaking, shooting with old guns that are prone to breaking, and fighting your own malaria. It doesn’t exactly paint a cheery picture of Africa. Then again, stories need conflict and Far Cry would not be the series it is if you were mostly concerned with lounging on an African beach sipping cocktails. As you fight both factions of the civil war and you can play as a white mercenary, this game could fall into that area I was worried about.

Returning to the Just Cause series, the second entry in the series concerns the south-east Asian nation of Panau with its dictator Panay. This is the entry in the series that I was most worried about. My perception was that it fell hardest into the concept of a foreigner being parachuted in and murdering waves of the local people. However, looking further into the story there is an interesting twist towards the end. Spoilers for an eight-year-old game. It turns out the three factions you’ve been running errands for are all backed by major powers who want the nation’s oil. While this seems like an interesting political commentary, the solution to this problem is that our hero bombs the oilfields. This move deprives the nation of one of its natural resources and then a US-friendly figurehead is appointed as the Head of State. This ending leaves me feeling kind of murky if I’m honest.

Far Cry 3 plays with this idea in interesting ways. You play Jason Brody, a rich party boy who got caught amongst a group of pirates while travelling on an archipelago. These pirates kill Jason’s brother which results in him seeking revenge. Far Cry 3 certainly falls into the trap that I was worried about. Critique of the game at the time certainly noted the ‘white saviour’ elements and even the developers noted that it fell into this uncomfortable territory.

The interesting part in comparing these series is when we get to Far Cry 4 and Just Cause 3. Both these series have fallen into murky water regarding dropping in our hero as a coloniser and having him conquer this corner of the world. Far Cry 4 and Just Cause 3 both have your character returning to their home and liberating it from the dictator. Far Cry has you directly related to the main antagonist. Just Cause connects Rico to Medici through his friend, Mario. This certainly seems like a solid fix to avoid the problems of previous games’ stories. However, there’s a problem. Both of these games have sequels.

Far Cry 5 has the setting jump to rural America, which is interesting given its release earlier this year. Just Cause 4 will release at the end of this year with Rico travelling yet again, with a seemingly more personal journey this time around. Far Cry seems to have moved past this idea of the ‘white saviour’ by thinking about the setting and the protagonist’s connection to the place. Just Cause seems to have introduced a recurring villain faction in the form of the Black Hand as a faction independent of nations. Comparing the series is interesting as they seem to have followed a similar trajectory across the years. Weird first instalments, one or two instalments that delve into murky territory, following instalments that address criticisms of previous games by making the protagonist belong to the region, following instalments that shift the series focus in an interesting way.

As a fan of these series, it’s interesting to think about the future of each series. I would love both series to travel to interesting locales. I love all the series we have that change their setting with each entry providing an interesting collection of locations. Far Cry, Just Cause, Assassin’s Creed, Forza Horizon. Big franchises that trot the globe. Hopefully, we are beyond the uncomfortable entries in the series.

 

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