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Sunday, February 5, 2023

10 years ago, Far Cry’s best villain changed action games forever

Evil is fun. Not real-world evil, which oscillates between rapacious oligarchical technocapitalism and macabre criminal brutality, but pretend evil. The evil in our stories is often the most compelling thing about them. How can you measure your hero otherwise? Video games have evil villains galore, but ten years ago one villain turned a little-known franchise into a household name.

Far Cry 3 introduced the world to Vaas Montenegro, a modern-day pirate lord who kidnaps wayward everyman Jason Brody and his friends after a skydiving accident lands them on his narco-terrorist prison island. Brilliantly voice-acted by Michael Mando (Better Call Saul) Vaas oozes a lethal charisma that is electrifying to watch.

Word-of-mouth spread quickly, and despite having very few pre-orders Far Cry 3 went on to sell more than 10 million copies worldwide. That Christmas, it earned the top spot for gift-givers beating out juggernauts like Black Ops 2 and Borderlands 2. It also earned near-unanimous praise from critics, elevating the franchise in ways the previous two entries could not. Ubisoft took note, which is why every Far Cry since has followed the formula of putting its over-the-top villains front and center in marketing and promotions.

When your bad guy is so bad, its good (for sales). Ubisoft

Far Cry 3 offers more than just a top-tier villain. Its open-world mayhem lets players turn a sandbox into a bloodbath, and felt like an FPS GTA game in the best ways possible. Playing it now, you’ll see the roots of some of the enduring formulas that may be overstaying their welcome in the genre. There are lots of collectibles, outposts, and waypoints on your radar.

Fortunately, there are a number of things that keep Far Cry 3 from feeling stale even if it is derivative in hindsight. The first is Rook Island itself. It’s a gorgeous and creative space, offering everything from tropical beauty to creepy caves. Plus, it’s populated with aggressive predators that will attack you at the worst possible time. One second you’re staring down your sniper scope and headshotting goons, the next a leopard is tearing at your throat. It’s a great jumpscare every time.

Is that a leopard in your bush or are you just happy to see me?Ubisoft

The action itself is fantastic too. There are oodles of weapons and skills to unlock that turn Jason from a panicky opportunist into a walking death machine. The body counts are ludicrous in this game, with plenty of double-digit kill streaks that peak your adrenaline. Few games will slip you into a flow state as often or as easily as this one.

Then there’s the supporting cast. It isn’t all about Vaas, and the resistance fighters on the island along with Jason’s friends offer some significant story beats of their own. There’s even a bit of romance if you’re into unhinged sociopaths. Like Rook Island itself, the cast is colorful, dangerous, and compelling. Far Cry 3 holds up surprisingly well 10 years later.

Far Cry 3: Classic Edition is available now on PlayStation Plus for Gold and Extra subscribers. It’s also for purchase on PlayStation, Xbox, and PC.

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