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…
Today I watched a couple of trailers for the new Deus Ex game, Deus Ex: Human Revolution. One was the cinematic teaser trailer shown at E3, the other is what I take to be the most recent gameplay trailer. If you’re not someone who has watched many (or any) trailers for video games, they’re both worth looking at to get a sense of just how epic video games seem to feel these days. Given that they’re advertising something you’re eventually going to “live,” these trailers out-do Hollywood in some ways.
The cinematic trailer is pretty well done, spectacular, and obviously filled with plenty of clichés. The biggest surprise for me was how it occasionally screamed “Bladerunner!” in my face – the grabs of the Bladerunner aesthetic were so evident that I guess it was meant to be homage, but it felt too close and too constant to be that for me.
The gameplay trailer is the weird one of the two, though. My understanding of a gameplay trailer is that you’d get a picture of what the game is like to play. Yet in watching the trailer I think I saw what looked realistically like a screen I might see while in control only a couple of times. There were brief flashes of a gun pointing out of the bottom of the screen and I thought, “yep, I understand – I shoot things. I’m down.” The rest of the time, though, I was kind of lost.
The trouble stems, I suppose, from my assumption that Deus Ex will be a first-person game (I haven’t read enough media to know the truth about this). The gameplay trailer is mostly third-person, meaning that it ultimately looks more like the cinematic trailer than anything I might be in control of. It has fancy camera angles, and moves being pulled off that I have a hard time imagining myself pressing the buttons to achieve. Possibly the game simply contains certain third-person passages, and some hard-coded “Do Awesome Thing!” moves that you can trigger where appropriate. Like punching through a wall and breaking a dude’s neck. All in one, smooth button-press.
Because of the simultaneous slickness and cliché of the cinematic trailer, and the feeling obfuscation in the gameplay trailer, I feel as though I have no grasp on what the game will actually be like, just a sense of its aesthetics and allegiances in terms of genre and so forth.
But hey… wait… that’s exactly what Hollywood trailers are like too.