REVIEW – It’s probably not an exaggeration to say that the most memorable Far Cry character of all time is Vaas Montenegro, who made his debut in the third game. The utterly deranged, psychopathic and brutal pirate leader could have been a caricature of the “mad villain” trope, but thanks to the game’s scriptwriters – and in no small part to voice actor Michael Mando – it’s almost impossible not to like this complex, tragic and hilarious character. I wonder what goes through the mind of such a character? If you want to know the answer, read on!
The Far Cry fanbase is very divided on which is the best episode in the series. Some swear by the first or second episodes, the early geniuses; others who think that games with more freedom and serious themes like Far Cry 5 and 6 are the best; and then there are those who believe Far Cry 4 is the best because… well, they like climbing towers?
Anyway, when it comes to the characters, it’s hard to deny that Far Cry 3 set the bar high: Jason Brody, Citra, Hoyt and of course, the protagonist of this DLC, Vaas Montenegro, are all memorable characters whose fate still haunts the series’ fanbase after all these years. It was an interesting decision on the publisher’s part to dedicate each of the official add-ons for the sixth instalment to one of the previous Far Cry villain characters. I must admit that my first thought, when confronted with the situation, was something along the lines of “cash” and “grab”, but based on what I experienced with the first DLC, developed at Ubisoft Shanghai, I’m now more excited about the future downloadable content based around the characters of Pagan Min and Joseph Seed.
“Insanity is doing the exact… same fucking thing… over and over again, expecting… shit to change. That… is crazy” (Vaas)
As the most famous thought of our deranged, sadistic hero – a peculiar interpretation of Einstein’s definition of insanity – goes, well, that’s something you can expect if you load up the DLC Vaas: Insanity. In medias res, we’re plunged into the mind of the title character’s mind, finding ourselves in a place eerily similar to the Rook Islands we encountered in the third part. Only minor things tell us that what we’re seeing might not be reality, like, let’s see: TV screen mountains, dripping blood-rain, flying sharks… in short, just another day in the world of Vaas. Okay, maybe not so ordinary, because the protagonist himself, or us, doesn’t know… well, we don’t know exactly what’s happening to us… or him? I’m sorry, I seem to be going a little Vaas-crazy myself. One thing is for sure: whoever downloads this supplement should be prepared to face the ghosts of the past, sometimes literally, as this mind went haywire is still controlled by the ghost of Citra – and Jason, of course – which does our poor, tormented protagonist little good.
“It’s like that movie with the really good actor in it… you know, the Groundhog Day!” (Vaas)
That’s right, anyone who’s seen Harold Ramis’ brilliant comedy, now a classic, with Bill Murray’s unforgettable performance, will be very familiar with the basic situation. Vaas: Insanity is a kind of roguelike in reverse: we have to “clean up” the not very spacious but wonderfully decorated mind-map by completing various challenges and missions, and if we die, well… instead of the “permadeath” typical of the genre, we have to think of a “permalive” situation. Our friend Vaas is unable to die, a fact he is mostly quite resigned to, as he would like to be free of this mental prison. In the event of death, we will be resurrected, but we will lose all our equipment, weapons, and of course, the challenge in question, what we will have to start again. However, the cleverly devised progression system, based on buying permanent abilities for the cash you collect, is not affected at all. Paradoxically, you can still strengthen your character even when you seem to be stuck in the plot; of course, for such a decomposed mind, this is perhaps not so surprising…
“The more you die, the stronger you become” (Citra)
So you can take Citra’s quote above at face value – by the way, if you liked her character in the third part, you’ll absolutely LOVE her after Insanity! The story is that we have to prove ourselves to her by collecting the components of the Silver Dragon Blade, which has been broken into three pieces. This can be considered the primary mission of the DLC; you’ll also come across secret challenges from time to time (everything is worth exploring), and you’ll fill the 3-4 hours of game time with unlocking the various weapons and their accessories. As for death, prepare yourselves: you’ll greet him as an old friend; not once, but many times. Many, many times. Even the most seasoned Far Cry gurus will sweat through each ‘mind level’ (yes, that’s what they call the difficulty levels here); and the difficulty levels available after the first playthrough can be so nerve-wrackingly trying that, embarrassingly, I had to lower the difficulty after my neighbour said to me that I swear more than Jonah Hill does!
“God, how stupid it looks when I get killed!” (Vaas)
I have to argue with Vaas: he doesn’t look stupid at all. In terms of the DLC’s graphics, it hits the same level as the base game, as if viewed through a distorted, bloody lens, of course. The new “magic” effects are pretty spectacular, especially those involving fire and lava (we’ll have plenty of both). There’s a variety of crazy locations to visit, from a flooded hotel to a shipwreck resting in the depths of a volcano, all of which are unusual and fascinating. As for the enemies, the range of not-quite-worldly baddies runs from body-painted tribal warriors to zombie dogs, magma-crocodiles and ghostly apparitions that only appear at night and explode into ectoplasm at close range. There is not a bad word to say about the sound effects or the dubbing: I would like to specifically praise Michael Mando, who once again brings the character of Vaas to life in a way befitting an A-grade Hollywood blockbuster. Even during the most annoying and infuriating deaths, I laughed out loud at his remarks and comments. I sincerely hope that the actor’s dream comes true and that a series starring Vaas Montenegro, played by Mando, of course, is actually made.
“Like the seed: everything we are is already in us” (Vaas)
There are some annoying aspects to the DLC for all its excellent qualities. Firstly, it is infinitely repetitive. I understand that’s part of the reason it’s so addictive. You struggle to complete a given challenge, unlock a new weapon type, then it’s better and better add-ons… but you’re still essentially doing the same thing over and over again (and expecting a different outcome). I do not deny that for fans of the genre or Far Cry games, this is undoubtedly a fun experience, but for everyone else, I have severe doubts about how much enjoyment they’ll get out of this add-on. If you like the series’s more free-roaming, area-occupying, chase-and-assault gameplay, then Vaas: Insanity may not be to your liking.
Another potential problem is the difficulty. Again, I understand that many people simply want the challenge, but others – I dare say the majority of average gamers – could be put off by the fact that for the first half-to-one-hour or so of the adventure, all the sense of achievement is limited to improving your character’s attributes amidst a constant wave of death. On top of all this, you’ll encounter bugs from time to time, and the AI is… well, let’s say, unlock the sniper rifle as fast as you can, and you won’t have much trouble with the enemy from then on.
“I have no regrets!” (Vaas)
Well, once again, I must disagree with the title character: I have a lot of regrets, although the most important thing for this test – instaling the DLC – I, fortunately, didn’t have to regret it at all. Even so, I cannot wholeheartedly recommend it to everyone. It will be enjoyed by those who: a) loved Far Cry 3 and Vaas’ character in particular; b) are fans of the roguelike genre; c) live and die for a challenge and like to maximise every game, complete every challenge. For those who know themselves in the above categories, I strongly recommend investing in Vaas: Insanity, as there is a good chance you won’t regret it. And for the rest of us, I can say that it’s definitely worth a try because it’s refreshingly different from the Far Cry experience we’re used to, at least at first, and it’s easy to get hooked, and even the monotony can become enjoyable after a while. However, it’s probably not worth rushing to the virtual store for it – there’s plenty of time to grab it when it’s on sale. Based on all this, I gave Vaas: Insanity DLC a definite 7/10, or a “good” mark.
+ Vaas Montenegro
+ Innovative, sometimes brilliantly insane environments and challenges
+ Great voice-acting, lots of humour
– Very repetitive
– Aimed at fans of a narrower genre
– Without a thorough knowledge of Far Cry 3, a good number of the jokes and easter eggs will not come across
Developer: Ubisoft Shanghai
Release date: 16 November 2021