Browns, greys and other dull mundane colours usually litter these games, creating dark, joyless worlds where the human population scavenge for food and attempt to rebuild their lives following a great catastrophe. This side of the apocalyptic coin is portrayed brilliantly in the Gears of War series. Gears isn’t really known for its emotional impact, although it did try its ass off through its heartsting tugging promotional trailers. Emotions, however, are for pussies and there is no time for such things in the military. On a cataclysmic event known as Emergency Day, humanity found itself victim to a merciless attack by another race. A horde of enemies struck major cities across the globe from the underground and watched them sink into the rubble beneath them. Humans, being the thoughtful and considerate creatures that they are, retaliated with waves of chemical weapons; wreaking havoc on anything unlucky enough to still be alive. It seems that the only ones really left on their feet following the second wave of destruction are the military and the hordes that they’re destined to spend the next 40 years fighting against.
I’d love to say that Gear of War plays like practically every other third person shooter on the market, but the truth is that Gears players were taking cover behind waist-high walls before anyone else even considered the possibilities. Back when the rest of us were indulging in the same old gameplay techniques, Gears was changing the future of gaming; for better or for worse. It created the things that we now call cliché, and for that deserves a lot of respect. However, the real interesting thing about this series is something that’s seldom seen. From the outside looking in we see gigantic, muscle bound men popping shots into anything that moves from their high powered firearms with chainsaw bayonets. We see a lot of “hoorah!” bullshit and macho talk between the cast of characters and how the writers have absolutely no concept of emotional storytelling whatsoever as Dom buries a round of lead into his wife for no apparent reason other than she’s not looking great at the time. Again, we ain’t got no time to be feeling them there feelings of your’s!
The brooding colours displayed Gears’ version of the end of world are fantastically contrasted in the epic and heart warming masterpiece, Enslaved: Odyssey to the West. This criminally underrated game twists the old views of a post apocalyptic world to create something that’s both beautiful and dangerous.
You play as a nameless man- named Monkey- who escapes a slave ship to be somewhat incarcerated by a lady named Trip. Her goal is to find her way back to her home village and she needs Mr. Monkey to help her along the way or she’ll use a weaponised headband to inflict him with a fatal headache. You know, like the kind of one who’d get if you tried to suss out exactly what the fuck was going on in Project Rub. So, begrudgingly, the two embark on an adventure that spans the city skylines to the deep wastelands. Trip and her hostage are among the last people in their world. Everyone else has been wiped out or captured by mechanical slavers and brought to a mysterious place known as Pyramid.
Enslaved’s world is a bizarre one. It’s mean and unforgiving, which makes you constantly feel like your next step may be your last. The mechs that populate it are aggressive and will kill Monkey and Trip on sight. It creates a great sense of vulnerability knowing that they have countless numbers while you attempt to avoid combat at all costs. To make matters worse, there is no such thing as Paracetamol in the future! However, even though it’s ripe with danger, the game is absolutely beautiful. I remember simply being blown away by it when I first bought it. It was the polar opposite to everything else that was on the shelves at the time. Forget your countless dull and gritty FPS titles or your depressingly dark RPGs, this was alive with colour. Years had taken their toll since the apocalypse and nature had struck back against the world’s manmade structures. Huge buildings’ concrete had been rotted and their steel rusted, but these were replaced with tree and plants growing up through the structures, adding vibrant greens to the mix. Grass had spurted out from the concrete and everything felt somewhat organic. The rivers and streams had long since washed away humanity’s pollution; instead now there were crystal clear waters with gorgeous blues running through the landscape. I’ve always loved a good game where I could just stand back and drink in the atmosphere. Enslaved lets me do this in spades!
It’s worth mentioning though that the likes of Gears of War and Enslaved are products of what I like to call “The lazy man’s Apocalypse”. Half-assed jobs where there are still survivors roaming around, getting up to mischief and generally surviving. I believe that if you want something done right, you’ve got to do it yourself, and the best way to really apocalypse it up is with Twisted Metal: World Tour. I wasn’t the most chilled out teen you’d ever meet. I was never one of those Justin Bieber/ Brittany Spears role model types. Nope, I had a lot going on. Life was far from easy and sometimes I needed a little release. Others in similar positions might go outside and cause trouble in the local neighbourhood. I, however, was not a complete dickhead. Instead of being a menace, I plugged in my Playstation and booted up the second Twisted Metal game. Here, I could release all the anger and hate I wanted in a positive way.
Unfortunately it’s something of a forgotten genre now, but vehicular combat games (or Cars agus Carnage, as they are affectionately known in my area) were all the rage back in the 90s. Vigilante 8 was good afro swinging fun, but Twisted Metal titles were the real deal. Huge arena based games where you picked from a variety of different cars, each with their own special weapons, and blew the living shite out of everything else in sight. I loved it! To me, it was a deranged hybrid of fighting games and racing games. It was like Mortal Kombat on wheels as each of the game’s macabre characters was more than happy to belt up and let loose on their opponents by any means necessary. It was edgy and I loved it.
An introduction could be viewed in the options screen of World Tour which showed tournament organiser, Calypso, looking down on the ruins of LA following the previous year’s tournament. He decides that this year he will unleash their manic destructive drivers upon the whole world and let them battle it out all over the globe. This put me in the driver’s seat for my own apocalypse. Tearing a hole through the planet, I spent so much time exploring the arena and experimenting with each car’s weapons to discover what I could break that I wasn’t even a teen by the time I’d finished.
It seems that the concept of a broken world is the flavour of the month once again with the recent release of Mad Max and the upcoming Fallout 4. It’s an undying concept that will always captivate the mind, if done correctly. Personally though, I both love it and hate it. Armageddons are a pound a penny in video games; they come in so many different variations that it’s simply impossible to enjoy them all. In fact, they appear in such numbers that it often seems like I’ve faced more apocalypses than Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It does raise the question however, are these games preparing us for our own impending doom? Will the people who have played these games, survived these virtual scenarios and battled untold in-game odds have a better chance of surviving a real life shitstorm of apocalyptic proportions than those who didn’t? Possibly, because when certain death comes knocking, we simply won’t answer the damn door. We’ll be too busy enjoying the latest post-apocalyptic video games with a small chainsaw attached to our joypads for good measure.
How do you avoid playing the evil role in games about gangsters and murderers? Spud explains how to be a hard-ass nice guy in his latest blog; Not The Nicest Guy.
Get twisted with Spud’s review of the intense car combat behemoth, Twisted Metal.
Action, espionage, story, and a loyal pig? Grab your camera and join Spud as he journeys to Hyllis for his review of Beyond Good and Evil HD.
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