Ubisoft’s roster of iconic video game characters is not to be taken likely, especially in the early stages of modern gaming as we know it. Their open world shooter series, Far Cry, left much to be desired in the way of truly memorable characters in the first couple of entries. It wasn’t until Far Cry 3 that Ubisoft had struck gold with a particularly charismatic and insane villain, Vaas Montenegro, who would go on to define the series’ staple Joker-inspired villain through to Far Cry 4 (but that’s for another day). However, many would agree that the Far Cry series is instantly recognizable by means of Vaas alone, seemingly becoming the twisted poster child for the title. Let’s dive into the definition of insanity with Far Cry 3’s spectacular “bad” guy.
Far Cry 3 set the bar for open world shooters at the time. Following central protagonist, Jason Brody, and a group of friends on a vacation to the remote Rook Islands for some daring outdoor activities, the story is kicked into high gear when his group is kidnapped by pirates lead by Vaas Montenegro, the foul-mouthed resident loony bin. It’s here do we begin to see the brilliant layers of the story unravel central to Jason and Vaas, and the strange successive bond that forms between them. What makes Vaas stand apart from any other generic villain is the odd motivations behind his actions. While most villains would appear stoic and one-track minded in their agendas, Vaas tip-toed with the concept of inner change and destruction.
This was quite excellently perpetuated through Jason’s character, who begins the game as another everyday man stuck in some unfortunate circumstances to pulling an entire character change through basic survival instinct. Vaas constantly taunts Jason to survive the harsh nature of the island, which players are probably well aware of the gravity of that task. When everything is built to kill you, rising above the occasion and taking up the mantle of alpha predator is the only way to ensure survival. This little bit of philosophy is ultimately what makes Jason bond so well with Vaas, who views Jason as the ideal test subject of just how fickle the mental state of people really are.
Vaas not only serves as the central antagonist (for the most part) of the game, but also as a mentor-type to Jason, whose own destructive warpath on the island ironically becomes the destruction of himself. Perhaps one of the most iconic lines in gaming history comes from Vaas when confronting Jason with “the definition of insanity”. Like The Joker’s unreliable backstory in The Dark Knight about how he got his scars, Vaas’ definition of insanity changes with each confrontation. From at least what players can deduce, there really wasn’t any point in the definition. Rather, the lack of a definition was the meaning of insanity itself. Jason, being susceptible to many destructive habits as the game progresses, becomes a natural part of that wheel of insanity. His motivations change drastically depending on his actions and the events surrounding it, which leads to one of the most baffling final confrontations with Vaas halfway through the game.
Without spoiling anything, the wheel of insanity comes full circle, and Vaas’ impact is felt, not only in terms of narrative, but the very notion of vengeance in video games. This absolutely masterful stroke of metaphysical storytelling is what puts Far Cry 3 high above the average shooters, and thanks to Vaas, also a memorable tale of insanity by way of primal instinct. It’s scary to think that humans, when pitted with no other choice but to survive, can become the very monsters they fear. In this case, Vaas, the foul-mouthed pirate leader we met in the beginning of the game, is now projected on Jason’s character transformation. In a way, Vaas was also presented as the ideal personification of insanity. Through his actions, outlandish dialogue, and odd charisma, Vaas embodied the crazy, anarchistic nature of villains like The Joker that he was obviously inspired by.
Vaas Montenegro, without a doubt, put Far Cry on the map and set the bar for deranged, psychopathic villains in gaming (only rivaled by the games own sequel, Far Cry 4, but in due time will we explore that icon). While his presence was mostly short-lived in the game itself, the impact left a trail of impersonators to follow, each given their own philosophical spin on the insane bad guy archetype. Vaas allows gamers to celebrate the fact that video games have evolved beyond the point of “save the princess, fight Bowser”. We’re at a pivotal point in gaming now where villains don’t need to wear masks or be big, anthropomorphic monsters. There’s a villain in all of us.