Far Cry 5: How the Infamous Capture Parties Prevent Immersion

The Far Cry series is pretty formulaic. Each game employs the same set of standards, methods, gameplay sequences, and plot devices, from monologuing villains, to scaling watchtowers, to endless drug-induced hallucinations. Perhaps some players appreciate this surety, this guarantee of what to expect in a Far Cry game. They know what they are getting when they dish out their money.

But others? Maybe not so much.

Far Cry 5 attempts to veer away from some of the standard elements of gameplay known to the series. Gone are the watchtowers run by the antagonist and his regime, which would reveal portions of the map. Forget about hunting animals across the landscape to craft extra weapon holsters, ammo bags, and medikits. The open world is a lot more open, and story missions are often revealed by the player’s own exploration rather than a more linear storyline telling where to go next.

But some of the most notorious elements of gameplay in the series still exist. And the worst of them all? The capture parties.

No, capture parties did not exist in the previous installments of the series, but they do follow suit to some of Far Cry’s more annoying tendencies, which often take the player out of the game—you know, the very thing a video game wants not to do.

How might Ubisoft learn from its mistakes? Where does it often (but especially with FC5) go wrong?

And seriously—capture parties?

Ubisoft is Obsessed With Drugs and Outer-Body Experiences

This allegation is not limited to the Far Cry series. Connor in Assassin’s Creed III assumes the form of his spirit eagle and goes on a short spiritual quest to gain answers. Edward in AC: Black Flag stumbles through a drunken stupor, encountering deceased friends and multiplying enemies.

In Far Cry 3, the majority of boss fights (if not all) are performed under the influence. Ajay visits Shangri-La for one forced mission and four optional missions in Far Cry 4, and he faces off against the demonic Rakshasas for the boss fight against Yuma.

Now in Far Cry 5, we have Bliss, a drug that the cult leaders use to control and manipulate their followers. In Jacob’s region, Jacob will occasionally alert the player via radio that his hunters are coming, giving the player a good five to ten seconds before a forced cutscene and bizarre hallucinatory sequence take place. It does not matter if you are flying in a helicopter one thousand feet in the air above unexplored terrain, alone in the wilderness and armed to the teeth, or surrounded by ten comrades at an outpost you just conquered. Jacob’s Bliss dart will inevitable and inexplicably find you, and there is naught you can do to avoid it.

Faith Seed and the Bliss.

Worse is Faith’s region. You may simply be wandering the wilderness when suddenly a hazy cloud envelopes you and transports you to Faith’s trippy netherworld. Or you may find yourself exploring the hills when you encounter one of Faith’s nameless henchmen with a captured civilian in his charge. You may kill the enemy and attempt to free the civilian—

—aaaaand suddenly find the civilian disappearing in a cloud of hazy dust, a hallucination created by the supreme, unconquerable Bliss drug. However you make your way to Faith, what follows next is the Far Cry staple of a villain rambling on about his or her rhetoric for every action and behavior, the “Definition of Insanity” speech that plagues every Far Cry game (on a side note, what Vaas and even Pagan Min had was charisma, the lack of which in FC5 makes the monologuing unbearable, and the villains uninteresting).

So why are these drug sequences so obnoxious? Because they undermine the gameplay. The problem with the hallucinatory boss sequences in Far Cry 3, for example, is that they are performed outside of reality. Of course, this can be done successfully as we have seen in games like Batman: Arkham Asylum with the Scarecrow sequences, but when every boss confrontation takes place outside of reality, it suggests almost a laziness on the developers’ part, a cheap attempt to make something otherwise uninteresting, interesting. It is as if they believe we players would not be satisfied with a boss confrontation that involves guns, explosions, and hand-to-hand combat. Perhaps they have forgotten that the Far Cry series is still a first-person shooter with, you know, guns.

Now if the story were entirely about drugs—which, in FC5’s defense, drugs are a large part of the story—the excruciating hallucination sequences would make more sense. But Ubisoft could’ve made the game about drugs without interrupting the gameplay for repeated delusions. It practically screams in the player’s face, “This is about drugs! Don’t you get it?”

Ultimately, after the player has endured multiple forced drug sequences in a game billed as open world, he cannot be blamed for sighing, rolling his eyes, or throwing his controller. These jarring hallucinations that remove the player from game immersion were not what we were promised with Far Cry 5.

An Absolute Lack of Seamlessness

While wholeheartedly annoying, Faith’s capture sequences make a slight bit more sense than Jacob’s, at least in terms of the deception she employs to capture the player. If Faith’s entire region is based in hallucination, then a captured civilian vanishing in a cloud of dust makes more sense than the invisible hunters that stalk the player out of nowhere in Jacob’s region.

But again, the player cannot escape or even evade capture in both Jacob’s and Faith’s region, and that makes absolutely no sense. At least in John’s region, the player has the opportunity to flee and evade capture for a little while.

Capture Party Incoming!

This is more believable than a sharpshooting marksman firing a single dart thousands of feet in the air while the player flies in an enclosed helicopter. Why capture parties are relevant to the story is questionable, especially considering how the player escapes or is released after every capture. Was this the developers’ attempt to put the player close to the antagonists to allow more whispered, indiscernible monologues from the Father? Surely there had to be a better way to give the antagonists more screen time?

If Ubisoft found capture parties absolutely necessary, John’s capture parties were best handled. Giving the player the chance to escape and fight off the approaching enemies would make for a much more seamless and believable experience. It probably would’ve made the majority of players much less frustrated as well. Even if the player’s attempts to evade are always met with resistance, even if the player is always guaranteed to fail for the sake of progressing the plot and story missions, at least it makes more sense than Jacob’s homing darts and Faith’s wily trickery. At least it is relative to the gameplay experience.

Unfortunately, the lack of seamlessness removes the player from the game just like the drug sequences. The player should want to play the game, not angrily mash buttons the entire way through a forced sequence in which he has no interest. Furthermore, even if the player hate-plays his way through a more challenging or less interesting sequence, at the very least it has to make sense.

And it should definitely not take the player out of the game.

Above All, the Story Fights to Trump the Gameplay

Far Cry 5 is, at the end of the day, a video game, and video games are an interactive medium of entertainment. Naturally, one of the cardinal rules of game development is to keep the story out of the way of gameplay. In their book, Slay the Dragon: Writing Great Video Games 1, Robert Denton Bryant and Keith Giglio emphasize that “Players are often not as interested in what happens in the story [the writer has] authored as they are in what happens in the story they are authoring themselves by playing the game.” In other words, gameplay and story must cooperate. They cannot operate exclusively of one another.

Ubisoft ignores that rule here. It wants so desperately to subject the player to its story, to flaunt its antagonists and its setting. It forfeits gameplay experience for an attempt at a story in which many players were only slightly interested, or gave up on halfway through the game after realizing that, in its efforts to force story, Far Cry 5 actually pushes players away from it.

Vaas Montenegro: Far Cry 3

The most redeeming feature of Far Cry 3 was Vaas, mo-capped and voiced by Michael Mando. He was enigmatic, intimidating, terrifying, and unpredictable. The story actually fell off after his death midway through the game. Far Cry 4’s Pagan Min, voiced by Troy Baker, was not quite as compelling, but was still rather fashionable, amusing at times, and a less confrontational villain than most. Pagan Min is actually quite passive toward Ajay, which you discover in the secret ending and/or if you allow him to live at the end of the game. A different type of antagonist he was, which made him interesting.

The Seeds, on the other hand, are hardly interesting. They are cardboard cutouts of cult fanatics and nothing more. Bad antagonists is just one reason why the story fails, just one reason why the story does not compensate for the gameplay experience you are denied while enduring forced sequences. And if the antagonist cannot, in the very least, make up for gameplay experience, then the game is already on a downward descent.

In an interview with The New York Times, game writer Tom Bissell, who has most notably written for Gears of War: Judgment, states that he “realized pretty astonishingly quickly that the more writerly [Gears] got, the more it stopped feeling like a Gears game…And our biggest goal, early on, was to get the hell out of the way of the things that make Gears awesome” 2. Bissell knew that the game was about gameplay, not about story, and he and the rest of his staff took that to heart when developing the game.

Unfortunately, Ubisoft thought itself the exception to the rule. Are there games in which story surpasses gameplay? Possibly. After all, what makes The Last of Us more than just another zombie game is, in fact, its story and characters. But ultimately, it is still a game, and players do not want things forced upon them. They want to interact, to enjoy the experience even in the most frustrating of times.

Ubisoft’s attempt to reinvent the wheel has left Far Cry 5 wanting for more when its very premise was interesting all on its own. The more Ubisoft added to the story, the more it doomed the game. Perhaps in the future, Ubisoft will consider the lamentations, the cries, and the curses of its players and fans, and opt instead for more interactivity than story.

Until then, we have no choice but to suffer through a capture sequence—again.

Works Cited

  1. Bryant, Robert & Giglio, Keith. Slay the Dragon: Writing Great Video Games. Michael Wiese Productions. 2015. Print.
  2. Suellentrop, Chris. “Building a Narrative That’s Explosive.” The New York Times. 2013. Online. https://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/20/arts/video-games/gears-of-war-judgment-and-the-writing-of-its-narrative.html

What do you think? Leave a comment.

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MFA dropout. Wielder of B.A. in English. Writer of the whimsical. Lover of the video games. Eater of the foods.
Edited by JamesBKelley.

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  1. I think the game would’ve been better off without the capture parties. It only has a negative effect on my experience, to a point where I had to resist the urge to skip the cutscenes the first time through.

  2. Swafford

    I absolutely loved 3 and Blood Dragon, but since then they seem to have taken everything I liked about that game and thrown it away.

    I also think Ubisoft games seem to be suffering lately from being a mishmash of all previous Ubisoft games, those gameplay elements are great in the games they’re designed for, but it makes the rest seem like part of a Bi-Annual generic Ubisoft release.

  3. I just don’t get it anymore, they capture me again and again and again but just don’t want to kill me when I’m helpless. Then they send planes, convoys, elite squads etc with only one mission, to kill me. It’s still fun but goodbye immersion a long time ago.

  4. The only Far Cry game I really enjoyed was 3 and Blood Dragon because of it’s 80’s retro skin. Primal was okay, but not much longevity to it and Horizon Zero Dawn was a good idea similarly repetitive, yes I know it’s not technically Far Cry but it felt a hell of a lot like it. I’m still intrigued and your analysis has convinced me to give this a shot!

  5. After trains the article, makes me to think twice before purchasing this game. I love the Far Cry franchise and how every game objectives is to bring the player into a unknown world of pure craziness while being nonchalant.

  6. Farcry brought a new realism to video games when it first came out. I remember the sleepless nights I spent playing the first FC game and being hooked immediately. FC3, in my opinion, is probably the best game in the series that I have played, and I loved the classic FC elements such as capture the bases, climb the towers and the open world gameplay. I agree that the out of body experiences detracted from the overall immersion in the game and wished that the main bosses could be defeated normally in the game rather than through a hallucinogenic experience. Ubisoft should pay attention to this and rectify it in the next FarCry game, as that would make it perfect, on par with the likes of Witcher and Skyrim.

  7. Good article. You managed to give a good impression of the game and somewhat touch on the social/political aspects without going overboard on that.

  8. I manage to kil entire party that was coming to capture me but after i climb down from church when all was clear – stupid animation was triggered that i was hit (never was in fight all enemies dead) and i was captured any way – so this is totally idiotic way to force players and its killing all the fun

  9. I got shot by the by them while wingsuiying out of a plane

  10. This franchise has become stale, tired and repetitive. Far too many games developers think that ‘jaw dropping eye candy’ makes a good game but the reality is, game play makes a good game. I think Far Cry series goes by the numbers and these games feel like they were put together in a box ticking manner.

    • Sol Rigsby

      FC becomes repetitive, but at least you are repeating fun things until you get bored.

  11. While I enjoyed Far Cry 4 and has one of the best Easter eggs in gaming history. I found it more of a re skin of Far Cry 3 than a true sequel. I get the impression that Far cry 5 is the same. And doesn’t offer any thing new like the first three games did.

    Also Far cry 2 is still my favourite game in the series.

    • Looks like a return to form after the misfire that was Far Cry Primal. Yes I’m sure the game is moderately repetative like all the recent Far Cry games (you either enjoy that or not and I do) but the antagonist looks like one of the very best and it looks stunning in 4k. Plot sounds like ‘Waco the game’ which makes it only more appealing to me. I’d urge anyone who has not yet played a Far Cry game to confidently jump into this.

  12. I have no idea why the capture party isn’t a bigger complaint, I mean the premise of the story is already hard to swallow, but okay u get over it and try to get immersed anyways only to be hit with this immersion breaking truck later on, this is austin powers levels of silly, difference is I’m not laughing… but maybe I should, is far cry a comedy now? If so they need more jokes, and not just the 1 bad recurrent joke, they should have consulted with the south park team a little more…

    Any sense of threat or intimidation the “villains” could have had is out the window imo with the way they handled the story with this gimmick.

  13. GOOD analysis of the game’s flaw.

  14. Though I am not familiar with the Far Cry games, through reading your article, I felt as if I knew them fairly well. It sounds like this game is a large disappointment for its fans and that is tragic. The forced storyline is a very strange ploy. I would understand if the storyline coincided with the choices one makes as a player, but because these blips are forced upon each player regardless is odd. I hope they fix that in their next installment (will there be a next installment?).

  15. The problem with Far Cry as a seriesis with each game through the series it becomes progressively more of a spoon feeding type of game play which ruins the immersion where you truly feel like one man versus a bunch of radicals in the case of the 5th one. I still like Far Cry 2 the most in terms of the entire package.

  16. The problem with Far Cry as a series is with each game through the series it becomes progressively more of a spoon feeding type of game play which ruins the immersion where you truly feel like one man versus a bunch of radicals in the case of the 5th one. I still like Far Cry 2 the most in terms of the entire package.

  17. Although I haven’t played the other Far Cry games, it feels like this one tried to go for a more immersive, open-world route, but failed. At least, that’s what I understand from reading the article.

  18. I haven’t played any of the Far Cry games yet, but I can’t believe those darts can actually hit you way up in a helicopter. That’s got to be frustrating! One of these days I will get Far Cry 3 and see what the series is all about.

  19. Great article but this is the most stupid aspect of the game, you can be standing in the middle of a friendly outpost surrounded by troops and with a companion and you suddenly get one shotted in the leg by super ninja dude who then takes you to a prison place where they do a catch and release because it’s ok to kill you in the field but not in captivity.

  20. My youngest teenage son just got this. He’s been sitting there all weekend, thumbs locked and a thousand yard stare. Must be good.

  21. Interesting read. Definitely not the game I expected it to end up as.

  22. These capture party things are by far the most annoying, most unbelievable part of the entire game. I mean the dude literally BROADCASTS to you that he’s sending people after you. Were this game an actual real life thing, where the cult was fighting an ACTUAL American militia, they would just sit there and go: “Cool. We’ll be nicely entrenched to ambush you when you show up. By all means. Come after me. I’ll send you your boys’ heads back in a box.”

  23. Mechanics are so good I do not mind the repetition in Far Cry’s padding.

  24. I stopped at far Cry 2. The respawning enemies at checkpoints made the game almost unplayable. I’d spend a fair while clearing an area only to find the same number of enemies on my way back from my mission when I was in a weaker state.

  25. Playing through, I am glad to find that others felt the same issue with the capture party system. I think they are an interesting concept, but one that should have been approached differently, as it gives the illusion of control to the player, no matter if you had proximity mines, rocket launchers, and an army around you, destroying every member of the capture party that showed up, there was no way to actually prevent it. Realizing this, I stopped fighting altogether, standing still in the middle of a battleground to let the cutscene happen. While the cutscenes were amazing, I loved everyone, it felt terrible to be ripped straight from the middle of a huge gunfight to a cutscene. I hope they further refine this system in the future, making it more fluid with the gameplay, rather than splitting totally away from it.

  26. I was just captured for the first time and it was the most annoying experience of my life. Trying to explore and I get attacked and it was a frustrating firefight because bullets just seemed pass through the cultists. Then I get shot and railroaded into a longass cutscene and a mission. It was an immediate buzzkill and I just quit to desktop.

  27. I was hoping this game would be like the TV show “Justified”.

  28. Capturing party does really interrupt the game and it also breaks the power fantasy of this game. It was interesting at first, especially when you didn’t know if you were supposed to fight them or not, but it gets old really quick and it’s annoying on the fourth time it happens.

  29. Doesn’t sound quite like the game I was hoping it might be.

  30. I was literally flying 500 meters up in the air while doing a mission and all of a sudden I get shot with an arrow and wake up in an underground bunker, like how is that even possible!

  31. They’re story based. Pretty sure you’re meant to be caught. Who came up with this idea…

  32. Capture party feature really sucks. I am done with Far Cry 5. How can I get my money back?

  33. I managed to hold off a capture party for about 5 minutes by running around a lot, you need a really boss weapon like the LMG with extended ammo capacity. My bugbear in FC5 is the flying. I had to completely replay John’s section because I could not shoot him down, could not even make a dent in his health so I replayed the whole first section of the game and virtually did nothing but flying to get practice with the shithouse flight controls, even so it still took about 20 attempts to get him.

  34. I so agree… “Hate Play” what a great term to describe this… This would be a truly great game if not for all the Bullsh$t… I love the open world Crysis style game play… and I literally HATE everything else… What a Drag! Just think how easy it would be to just leave out the crap… and have a great game!

  35. I fully agree, the game sucks on several levels and the capture parties are the worst. While it took me a while to get used to the stupid gun-toting hicks and their non-sensical monologues, thw capture parties and what follows are just plain annoying. I usually, watched TV until wahatever rambling was over and I could resume game play. Also, considering that you escape every single one of them, what is the point?!?

  36. graphicscardhub

    Just finished it and loved this game to the core.

  37. Far Cry 5 is a formulaic game made by creative developers and released by an often irreverent publisher. As a result, juxtaposition is at the core of the experience. Current themes, a darker tone, and the potential to tell a more grounded story were poorly handled. Furthermore, they were too at odds with the wanton, anarchic (almost gleeful) violence of the core gameplay.

    A more hands-off approach to the “Far Cry Formula” couldn’t detract from the fact that we were still engaging with a formula almost a decade in the making. As a result, the game felt freer but less focused. And now, more than in other games, control and freedom had to be wrestled away because obligatory narrative needs still needed to be met.

    It all resulted in a clever narrative and gameplay concepts being diluted to death by expectation, obligation, and stagnation.

    The Capture Parties, I believe, were one of the casualties of Ubisoft’s approach to development.

    In a different game–one with different ambitions–the threat of random capture could do a lot for checking the player and creating a sense of powerlessness and perspective (feelings lacking in most open-world games).

    However, Far Cry 5 (along with the majority of Ubisoft’s releases) struggled (and failed) to make itself unique while still remaining the known quantity that we kind of guiltily love it for.

  38. I don’t despise the antagonists or story present in Farcry 5, as even though they might be cookie-cutter I still find them interesting or cool enough for a video game setting. I agree that one should not force a player into cutscenes via capture parties though, and it seems that was laziness on Ubisoft’s part.

  39. Russell

    I ran into Jacob’s capture party tonight, tried to run it twice and uninstalled the game. Lucky I only paid $5 or I’d be incensed. Is there as class at the Institute of Art or whereves these designers go that covers and encourages this kind of cheap awful design?

  40. Sounds like the dark side of the formulaic.

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