Gordon and I finished our co-op play-through of Gears of War 2 this afternoon, at long last freeing our souls from the grasp of completion-fever. Frankly, the end of the game was pretty disasppointing: a series of set-pieces and far-too-easy combat sequences that ended up with a big ol’ “yaaaay, we won!” and then the obligatory “or did they?!”
The play-through has been rather devoid of interest for me from the perspective of saying something about video games, but today, while being shot repeatedly in the face, I did come up with something. One of the more amazing experiences in the game (and this is true for other action games too, but perhaps most of all for games like Gears of War) is being shot repeatedly and not dying. In one instance a guy with a machine gun opened fire on my head. As I went to shoot back, it turned out my gun needed reloading. More machine-gunning to the face as I start reloading. The gun jams. A hail of bullets exploding in my face. Finally it reloads. Blood spews forth from my face. I blow the guy away.
This isn’t a common experience, because I’m not so incompetent as to stand in the line of fire all that often, but it’s remarkable when you come across it. You can really take a lot of damage without it making much of a difference. Even when you hit the “near death experience” all you do is crawl around a bit like you’ve lost a contact lens until your buddy helps you up. In Gears of War you get shot to shit, but keep on ticking.
It puts me in mind of the related genre of Hollywood movies, particularly films like Rambo and Commando. The difference is, though, that in the film versions all the enemies are constantly missing the hero. He walks out of the bush or whatever and everyone starts shooting and missing him until he takes them down one by one. Miss miss miss. In Gears of War it’s “hit hit hit” but to no avail. Like trying to harpoon a whale with a toothpick.
So we have two kinds of heros who are serving very similar roles. In both cases the heros impassively take down hordes of enemies. In the film version, the enemies are incompetent fools who seem to be begging to die. In Gears of War, the enemies get their shots in, but to no avail. It’s “hero as bullet sponge”. The man who can take the most bullets to the face wins, and that man is your avatar, beefily indestructible.
It’d actually be kind of great for one of these games to channel a movie like The Wrestler… allow the player to take huge and unreasonable amounts of damage, but somehow portray the agony associated. Extract some sort of emotional pound of flesh from it.
Even an ounce would do…