12.19.12

“Make it Bun Dem”, the song that defines Far Cry 3

There are those moments in games that burn themselves into your memory. How could you forget the beauty and horror of the “Waltz of the Flowers” moment in Bioshock. The battle with Psycho Mantis in Metal Gear Solid and its absurd destruction of the fourth wall always makes me laugh: "You like Castelvania don't you?". What about the bitter hopelessness and irrelevance of morality after you nuke Megaton in Fallout 3? These moments often come to epitomize their particular games, if not containing their very essence. Judging by its mention in nearly every review and repeated discussions elsewhere, it seems that the takeaway moment from Far Cry 3 is the torching of the marijuana fields.

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Garret Martin at Bit Creature seems to be in agreement, saying both the song and the mission define the experience:

“Make It Bun Dem” comes out of nowhere. Unlike other non-background music in Far Cry 3, from “Paper Planes” to the dance music that plays in the bad guy’s headquarters to the Southeast Asian pop occasionally overheard on jeep radios, this song is non-diegetic. You show up at the drug fields, the song starts blasting, and nobody in the game notices or acknowledges it. Its appearance isn’t quite as weird as that Red Dead Redemption song, if only because Far Cry 3 does use pop music at other moments, and is also set in a time period in which the song in question actually exists, but it makes you wonder why this particular song is emphasized in this way. Far Cry 3 tries hard to immerse you in its world, although with occasional psychedelic flourishes intended to make the player question the character’s sanity. Is this non-stop loop of shrill robo-reggae the internal theme song to non-hero Jason Brody’s flamethrower spree? Or is it simply a song that some Ubisoft employee thought would appeal to sullen 15-year-olds while also sounding good on a TV ad? Either way. it’s an unusual one-off aberration.

It might arrive unexpectedly, but “Make It Bun Dem” really does fit Far Cry 3 perfectly. Just as reggae grew out of jazz and R&B, blissed out into dub, and was eventually cross-pollinated with electronic dance music by the British to form dubstep, Far Cry 3 fixates on how cultures appropriate one another. It’s a constant cycle of cultural colonialism, looping ceaselessly as privileged white Americans burn some weed.