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Why We Game - Villains

FBT explains his favourite bad guys and why he killed them.

In movies, the villain is often more fun than the hero, but in video games you rarely wish you were fighting for the other side. Bosses are usually lumbering cheats with over-sized health bars like they're compensating for something. But this is a list of bosses, final and mini that I’ve loved to hate - or in some cases, hated killing.

Frank Fontaine, despite being the actual Bioshock baddie is often forgotten in favour of Ryan; from setting his beloved city’s self-destruct to stop ‘Atlas’ getting it, to letting his own son beat him to death to prove his point, Ryan is a tough act to follow and Fontaine seems a panto villain in comparison. But...

It’s true Bioshock loses something after Fontaine is revealed, but that’s not his fault. Fontaine and Ryan were similar – they believed in the self, in being unrestrained, but Ryan did compromise himself; he robs the Splicers of free-will, the backbone of his belief system, to do his dirty work - making him the very parasite he rallies against. Fontaine never compromised, never wavered. No pontificating, no grand speeches – yes, he goes on a bit, and his plan is convoluted, but Fontaine knew who he was; a crook. Nothing more complex than that. It’s rare that a narrative-driven experience, be it a game, movie or book has just a bad-guy to foil. Villains nowadays need motivation and are usually, well, more like Ryan. Fontaine is a refreshingly simple gangster.

I hated killing Vaas in Far Cry 3. Not because I liked the nusto, but because losing him two-thirds of the way through is a major mistake the game never recovers from. The final boss Hoyt is a sneering pillock who tried to be scary, whereas Vaas is scare. The time with Vaas is gaming gold. From his opening scenes mocking us in the cage, setting dogs on us, making us run Forrest, setting us on fire, explaining insanity, trying to drown us, shooting us point-blank - and still anticipating us surviving? He’s not just an insane maniac, he's like a cat playing with a mouse and the impact of Vaas feels bigger than the game actually planned; a strange connection builds between him and Jase, one that is criminally wasted once he's gone. Jase and Vaas were like Batman and the Joker, they completed each other, reflected each other – most importantly, Vaas is the madman Jase might become, yet he's what Jase needs to be to survive. It always felt like Vaas knew what Jase was walking into. Vass claims the definition of insanity is repeating an act and expecting a different outcome, but once Vaas and Jase break the cycle, the game ironically gets samey.

But Vaas isn’t the only bad guy in FC3. Buck is something else again. A sadomasochistic bastard who takes pleasure in upsetting Jase with tales of abusing our pal Keith - he’s so horrible you feel Jase’s rage, and look forward to gutting him. FC3 does astonishing work of making Buck and Vaas very, very dangerous men and the tension, the fear and anger that you get just looking into their eyes is unnerving.

Sticking with the FC franchise a bit longer, one villain that caught me off-guard was FC4’s Pagan Min. At first I thought he was an effeminate Asian cliché, but while there’s some North Korea vibes to him and the story, you realise he’s actually a brilliant antagonist – and that all he ever really wanted was for you to take control of Kyrat. Mid-game, when he’s calling to ask if Denis Rodman might be persuaded to visit, he seems just a typical self-aware meta villain, but you start to suspect he’s more than that, and when he saves your life or talks about tough love, he’s not just toying with you, he’s trying to turn you into the king Kyrat needs, makes you see the truth of the place. When he finally allows you to put your mum’s ashes to rest and explains how he ended up like this, you actually feel for him. It’s the only game where I sided with the bad guy, then went and killed the supposed good guys Sabal and Amita.

Exactly what FC4 is saying with all of this isn’t clear, but when did an FC have a satisfying ending? Min is a brilliant baddie. At the beginning when he says “you and I are gonna tear shit up!” that’s the game I wish I’d played. The Golden Path suck.