I shouldn’t like him. He’s a lunatic. A psychopath. A deranged and dangerous force of nature that has no concept of right, or wrong. He rules Far Cry 3’s island chain through fear and torture. He kills for pleasure, for thrills and occasionally just because he can.
But he’s really fun, and I kind of love him.
Vaas is one of the games industry’s most interesting collaborations. He’s probably the first virtual performance since Alyx that I’ve actually believed in.
He’s played by Michael Mando, a fresh Canadian actor whose career only started a few years ago. But working with him: writers, developers, artists, animators, and designers, all building on his work. And that’s important. Everything they do actually improves his performance.
We can see that improvement in the promotional videos Ubisoft released in the run up to Far Cry 3’s release. They depict Vaas capturing and torturing Christopher Mintz-Plasse. By the end of the series, Christopher is stuck in a hole in the sand, while Vaas dreams up increasingly vile tortures for him.
It’s horrible and grotesque and as sick as you like. But admit: it you laughed.
But the Youtube series doesn’t quite feel right. After encountering Vaas in-game, YouTube Vaas feels incomplete. He doesn’t inhabit the space as he does in the game. His eyes aren’t anywhere near as piercing. His movements aren’t quite as perfectly paced. On YouTube he has the same tics, the same voice, the same body. But you don’t feel the same weird empathy.
The reason, I think, I love Vaas, is his contradictions. He’s brutish, violent and dangerous: but he’s not built like a goon. He’s lithe, slightly effeminate and slim. He doesn’t need bulk to inject fear in those around him: he has all the guns and the power that comes with them.
But he’s also funny. He has a great flair for language. He’s so brazen.
His first line is pure filth: "Way up in the fucking skies, you thought you had your finger on the pussy trigger!. But hermano, down here, down here.....you hit the ground."
Or this: he doesn’t just want Jason Brody dead: “he’ll “give $10,000 to the first person to bring him Jason Brody’s nutsack.”
What’s really interesting, though, is how the player slowly reveals Vaas’s madness to Vaas himself.
Vaas doesn’t really believe in his own madness, until Jason Brody starts screwing with his head. His ‘definition of insanity’ speech is absolutely key. When I first saw it at the E3 reveal of Far Cry 3, I just assumed he was prattling on in the hope to show Far Cry 3 is ‘proper mad’. But if you re-read the text, you begin to understand Vaas’s problem.
“Did I ever tell you what the definition of insanity is? Insanity is doing the exact... same fucking thing... over and over again, expecting... shit to change. That... is crazy; but the first time somebody told me that...I dunno, I thought they were bullshitting me, so boom - I shot him. The thing is, okay... He was right. And then I started seeing: everywhere I looked, everywhere I looked, all these fucking pricks, everywhere I looked, doing the exact same fucking thing... over and over and over and over again thinking: "This time, it's gonna be different; no, no, no, no, no, please... This time it's gonna be different."
Vaas sees the hostages that he’s taking and killing as the mad ones: they beg and plead but nothing ever changes.
But Brody keeps surviving. Vaas keeps killing him, but he keeps getting up. It doesn’t make any sense.
“The thing is... alright, the thing is: I killed you once already... and it's not like I am fucking crazy. It's okay... It's like water under the bridge.”
It’s that impact that I love. The realisation that you’re slowly driving Vaas insane. It’s very clever.
I’m a bit sad at Far Cry 3’s finale, and the announcement on Twitter by the game’s lead writer that Vaas is definitely dead. I’d love to see him return.