Why Far Cry 3 Fails As Meta-Commentary
Games are also so vast and complicated that it’s hard to keep the tone consistent. For all its later hyperbole, Far Cry 3′s opening sequence plays things straight, with a stealthy escape through a pirate camp that ends with the death of the protagonist’s brother. This is a moment of real pathos, and it’s no wonder that the game’s subsequent attempts at satire fell on deaf ears. A scene which plumbs the psychological ramifications of torture is followed by a high-explosive romp through a fuel depot, in the company of wisecracking mercenary with a bad German accent. The game simply can’t decide what it is trying to be. An exploitation piece? An allegory about Millenial culture? A critique of the “Hero’s Journey,” as portrayed in video games?
Things get particularly bad whenever the writer’s high-minded approach conflicts with the financial exigencies of the game industry. When protagonist Jason Brody receives magical tribal tattoos as the result of leveling up, it’s a clever bit of parody. But when Ubisoft asks customers to spend virtual currency on “Exclusive Tattoos for Multiplayer,” the joke’s not on video games. It’s on us.
Far Cry 3′s writer and publisher are attempting to have their cake and eat it too, enticing potential customers with big, dumb fun, while ensuring the conscientious minority that this is all deconstruction. Ubisoft pockets $60 from people who like the look of island witch doctor Citra’s picture-perfect C-cups, while the game’s writer wiggles his eyebrows and says things like “Why do games treat females this way? Why is there a princess in a castle? Citra doesn’t need to be saved, it’s all Jason’s idea!”
When it comes down to it, Yohalem’s meta-commentary on video games — which are often sophomoric, gratuitously violent, culturally insensitive — is itself a sophomoric, gratuitously violent, culturally insensitive video game. If players miss the point, they’re left with a game that they are A) offended by, or B) not offended by, which means that they’re accepting the game’s many tasteless excesses as permissible. Even if you do get the point, you still have to slog through 25 hours of dreck, with the added frustration of knowing that the game’s creators made it this bad on purpose. According to Yohalem, Far Cry 3 is a satire of the “Mighty Whitey” trope best known from Dances With Wolves and Avatar, in which a white interloper uses mystical power that only he can access to save indigenous people. But is 25 hours of Mighty Whitey created by people who think it’s stupid any more fun to experience than 25 hours of Mighty Whitey created by people who think it’s cool?
If he still wants to deconstruct video games, Yohalem might have more success with a title made on a smaller-scale. Big budgets and big open worlds lead to confusion and compromise. And if he wants people to solve his riddles, he should write better ones. Even after reading all its writer’s exhaustive post-release explanations, Far Cry 3 still feels a little too much like “what’s in my pocket?”