All About skrat_01
Fantastical power-fantasies aren't anything new, and it's something video games do tremendously well. It's hard not to enjoy playing out a pretend power fuelled crusade, and natural to relish being in control and teeming with power, especially in games. However it is rare a title actively fuels the leading protagonist and players empowerment with raw direction and honestly, without trying to colour and gloss whattheir horrible tendencies and actions entail. All within the confines enacting a 'heroic' role and of course, in the name offun.
Crackdownin all its pastel coloured, comic book glory is a rare example of a game that evokes a great understanding of power fantasy in video game form, which also resonates in the enjoyable (but ultimately disappointing) sequelCrackdown 2.
The premise is basic and in a sense,RoboCopminus Murphy turned up to 11: You're a super-genetic-soldier-cop made for action, with super powers which entail jumping high, scaling buildings, hurling cars, and of course being an appropriately efficient killer. Both of the games start with the premise of a city wide crisis, be it gangs, or terrorists and zombies, which only the super-cop-player-man can combat.
Thus you're let loose in an entirely free form environment to go about restoring order and control as you please and deliver swift, violent justice, generally resulting in recurring collateral damage in the name of fun. As the games narrator bluntly articulates it:
"You are authorized to use whatever means you feel is necessary to remove the filth from the streets"
So you do.
Interestingly enough while games tend to try and introduce a sympathetic protagonist, generally a poor tortured soul to empathise with and justify their reasons for doing heinous things,Crackdowndoesn't bother. The Agent protagonist doesn't have any character, they're bluntly a tool for the player to run around blowing **** up and in the context of the game a tool for the enforcing 'Agency' to usher in a totalitarian police state as part of 'restoring order'.
You're a bad guy made for bad things; it's nothing subtle at all which is fine, this is a game where subtlety is delivered with rockets. There's no plot and story arc, it's about action, and that's what makes theCrackdowngames a rare example of honesty, particularly in action games; specifically in the correlation between game play and narrative, as flimsy as any sense of story might be. Protagonist and player are entirely occupied with murdering and causing chaos, everything about the game from the box to the game function evokes it, and making sure itfeels good; all as part of the power fantasy.
Sure you're inevitably killing innocents, it doesn't matter they're obstructing your goal of killing proper targets which will reward you with more power to enhance your murder antics, and keep that dopamine count high. Why solve problems any less efficient ways then leaping across a city block, delivering explosive justice in the most spectacular way possible; it's encouraged, it feels great and most importantly,pleasurable. Everything in games function and theme actively reinforces the action of the power fantasy, and the game doesn't shy away from the sheer brutality, which in turn becomes satisfying as a form of visual feedback and following that, desensitising.
If you pause and pay attention, watch and listen to the various audio cues and unscripted lines of the various citizens and targeted gang groups (who are are comprised entirelyof un-enhanced, non-super-people); they're generally petrified of you. No one wants to get in your way, and why should they? They know you will casually run them down, walk into their gunfire or outright ignore it in order to find chase down various items scattering the city which will improve your abilities at a faster rate than murder sprees.
Buildings obstructing your path are bigger obstacles than the combatants, scaling one can mean minutes while killing means seconds. It's a cold and quiet way of providing perspective to your bombastic chaos. It's one which the vast majority of players will inevitably ignore, which is perfectly fitting - why pay attention, you're here for the action and that alone, reaching a conclusion to the chaos only exists as loose goal.
Almost entirely through action and very passive world cuesCrackdowneffectively paints the involved role and actions of the implied heroic figure, as villainous, without presenting moral question or dilemmas in order to establish it, or bothering with a sympathetic character or character growth.
You're not a nice guy, you know that, you don't even question it. The game knows that, and through the games empowering function why even bother with moral quandaries? You can leap over buildings and get cool gadgets and It feels good to be bad; you're being patted on the head and being rewarded for it. There's no reason for plot and understanding here, engagement and participation demands a specific kind of direct, blunt, unsympathetic and uncaring action.
So run about, do what you do and enjoy it; you're the big-boy with the gun made for this kind of trouble, and the cathartic high is just something to die for.
It is oddities like this that seem to embody the vibrancy and strange diversity in the bridge between fiction and function in games.Steel Battalionand its colossal controller isalmost an expensive statement of involvement and commitment, not just of the game but to the player.
If the sight of a two joystick, forty button behemoth would immediately drive away most people, then the addition of a manual gear shift and three foot pedals would alienate the rest. Adding this complex variety of inputs to an on screen interface littered numerous dials and displays, which relay feedback of every physical action made by the player and only the slightly mad and possibly masochistic remain.
This obtuse physical connection however is a necessary barrier. The few who decide to endure the process of overcoming such an immense learning curve, experience the rich intentional struggle at the heart ofSteel Battalion.
Protagonist and player are both thrown into control of a giant lumbering mechanical war machine, a crucial weapon amidst an ensuing battle. In this fictional world torn by an era of conflict there's no concept of form following function. These huge machines are built upwards to the size of buildings, crammed with a small armoury of weapons in an aggressive statement of dominance.
Action boils down to a struggle divided between the battlefield on screen and wrestling the controls; readouts must be read, locations must be noted, prompts must be heard, targets must be tracked, pedals must be pushed. It's an immersive exercise which builds a compelling physical connection with a world where complex problems are solved by impractical machines. Here little people have no importance, only a select few with the determination and ability to hold these complicated reigns firm count.
It's rare even for a game to go this far in deliberately building complex barriers, to drive home its meaning and create such a tangible layer of interaction. It can be argued suspension of disbelief may not be worth such an investment; howeverSteel Battalionrepresents an utterly unique bridge between physical function and fiction. One that cannot be replicated and only a select, determined and slightly mad minority have come to appreciate.
This year I was fortunate enough to pay a visit to Cologne and checkout Gamescom for three days, which is arguably the most overwhelming spectacle in gaming open to the public.
During my time there I also managed to have a chat with a few developers as well as have a look at and give a few unrealeased games a try particularly Firefall, Wildstar and End of Nations. So for you kind folk I'll post some first hand words and impressions soon.
However in the meantime for those curious - behold, a pictorial taken using a dated-cheap Olympus camera. If you would like higher resolution varities of these blurry images, a Flickr gallery link http://www.flickr.com/photos/59268084@N03/
Finally an illusive shadowy Gabe Newell in his ivory DOTA 2 tower.
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