Nothing brightens a day like a wave of mutilation. But while killing for a cause can be fun, like anything else in life, there are aesthetic considerations. Capital punishment, for example, is best executed in spotless, antiseptic rooms in a manner that limits bloodletting. But where’s the fun in that?
And isn’t that what movies are for — to allow us to vicariously enjoy these vengeful fantasies in a milieu that usually guarantees the triumph of good over evil (as well as max bloodshed)? Sadly, in real life, evil’s a much more slippery concept that differs widely from person to person. I mean, look at the last election. It’s entirely based on how deeply one wants to look. To medieval crusaders, the Moors were reprobate assholes denying the Christians their holy land. What’s the difference between insurgents and freedom fighters besides nomenclature?
I’m just a videogame shut-in, but am I the only one who wonders what kind of death benefits families of expired baddies might receive as Jean Claude Van-Damne mows through phalanxes of evil henchmen? And are they really evil, or did they just go to whoever could offer them the best money and dental benefits, like a professional ballplayer?
The source of this philosophical handwringing is the latest release by the Bond videogame franchise, GoldenEye: Rogue Agent, which puts you in the role of a disgraced MI6 agent who’s taken his services to Auric Goldfinger in his mortal battle against fellow crime boss, Dr. No.
Gamemaker Electronic Arts trumpets the player’s ability in GoldenEye to do maneuvers like using one’s opponents as human shields, tossing them off stairwells, and murdering hiding adversaries with industrial machinery. In fact, they encourage it, offering additional points for dispatching bad guys in more creative ways than simply blowing their heads off with your rocket launcher.
While chock-full of classic Bond villains such as Odd Job, Pussy Galore, and Scaramanga, to name a few, the game’s basic setup is, like previous Bond games, a first-person shooter. The player’s special “GoldenEye” ability allows you to spy players hiding behind cover, activate machinery or jam opponents’ guns from long range, deflect bullets and throw back assailants, but can only be used for a short period. You can also employ weapons with both hands, but ultimately this plays like any other shoot ’em up FPS. In fact, the points you get for killing only unlock multiplayer maps and such, and have little use in the game.
Conversely, in King Arthur the experience you gain from killing the literally hundreds of Woads you face on each screen at least allows you to improve your stats or add special moves. It also features some beautiful cut-scenes and footage from the movie, which are merged seamlessly into the gameplay. Indeed, the graphics of this game are wonderful, right down to the severed heads and bodies you cleave with your sword.
However incomprehensible the movie was (and inconsistent with the traditional King Arthur story), the plot unfolds nicely. The only major complaint is the annoying lack of waypoints (generously provided in GoldenEye), which forces you to go back to the very beginning of the mission, should you die. Well, that, and the qualms you might feel about slaying Braveheart’s peers, who seek only to protect their homeland from the bitchy, imperialistic Romans Arthur serves.
Even better in its execution is X-Men: Legends. Like King Arthur, it utilizes your typical overhead, third-person view, though, at least X-Men allows you to control the camera view to some extent. Both allow cooperative two-person play, but it’s even better in X-Men because the 4-person teams you employ allow players to switch between different computer controlled players (as opposed to King Arthur which only features two players at any one time.)
X-Men also adds the role-playing game idea of utilizing experience gained from killing your adversaries to increase player’s skills, but it’s even better since each of the X-Men’s abilities are different, and thus allow for entirely different strategies for building your team and your characters. Indeed, one of the great thrills of the game is utilizing their unique powers, be they Jean Grey’s telekinetic attacks, Nightcrawler’s teleportational backstabbing or Cyclops’ optical beam. Plus the sheer wealth of characters to play affords the player a wide variety of gameplay strategies.
Let’s face it, murder is one of humanity’s oldest and favorite pastimes, with rationalizations and justifications little more than afterthoughts. But, these days, who wants the mess and complications?Chris Parker is a freelance writer. Contact him at [email protected].