21 March 2013 | william-v-black
This review is focused completely on the story, not any game play elements. And as far as story-telling goes, this is the best depiction of the slide into insanity and/or empowerment that survival in a violent environment can bring.
The fact that the main character is a character, rather than just some first-person avatar for the player, let's the creators of the game tell an amazing story of transformation. Jason Brody starts the game out as a privileged white kid. He's the kind of guy that the majority of us would hate. And in fact, he is pretty douche-y. But over the course of the game, as he has to do more and more to save his friends he changes.
So many times Hollywood is quick to portray only two outcomes from having to fight a war, which though he is in no way a soldier is exactly what Jason does. Either you become a kill-crazy nut-job or you become a despondent, PTSD-ridden misanthrope. Jason skirts between both, sometimes questioning what it is he has become and other times realizing that he is in fact a stronger person for all that he has gone through.
It's really his reactions in this game and how he goes from simply wanting to save his friends to wanting to not only save them but also kill everybody involved in their capture that is so amazing. It really is like watching a very well written and directed movie.
The primary villain through most of the game is Vaas, and he is extremely interesting and fun to watch. He has the same kind of chaotic energy as Heath Ledger's Joker, a kind of humorous outlook and deceptively flighty attention to the world around him that makes is sudden snaps into full-blown psychotic utterly frightening. And he makes a great counterweight to Jason. You get the feeling that if Jason spends too much time on the island he could end up like Vaas.
I've never seen the psychological consequence of battle shown in this light on screen, in games, TV, or film, like this before, and it comes shockingly close to the reality of it. A little part of you does like it, and Jason shows that part. A little part of you can't believe what you've done, and Jason has those moments of panic as well.
If you don't want to play the game or aren't willing to spend $60 for a good movie, watch some Let's Plays on YouTube. It makes for a great movie night.