Remember when games were violent? I'm not talking about chainsaws going through the heart of the Locusts, I'm talking about the good old days when gibs were flying, Carmageddon was running over helpless pedestrians and the original Grand Theft Auto actually rewarded you for killing sprees. The gaming world was never shy from a few grand splashes of claret across the screen, and when I take a look at the majority of games right now I'm actually saddened by the state of video-games violence.
Every game seems to take itself too seriously. Gone are the days of having a scoring and combo mechanic behind the senseless violence, as we usher in a new generation of ultra-realistic, thought provoking violence, usually fought on the front lines of some modern day war that isn't supposed to mimic the Middle East, but we all know that it does.
That's why I smiled with delight when Hotline Miami gave me a glimpse back to those good old days, the days when you were rewarded for senseless violence.
"You're crazy! You have mental issues! This is why the world is so f*#ked up Heller!" I can hear the backlash already, but you misunderstand why I'm so excited to see this top-down gorefest appearing you shouting already. It's not so much the fact that there is violence, it's more to the point that they didn't let modern game expectations deter them from their vision.
When I see those pixelated actions unfold on the screen, I'm literally shocked at what is happening. I'm surprised, I'm exhilarated, it's something that has been missing from certain games for quite some time, and I'm so glad it's back.
With increasing realism in modern graphics technology, most games are photo-realistic, right down to the point where each and every action faithfully mimics the actions and reactions of the human body. It's pretty damn impressive stuff, but when it comes down to violence in video-games it changes everything.
I think Star Wars 1313's creative director, Dominic Robilliard said it best when discussing violence in the upcoming game:
When you can render characters that look like the ones in our game – and other games – you get to this realism level where you really don’t want to encourage that kind of thing. Seeing that kind of reaction from gamers. It may well be human nature, but you don’t want to put content out there that pushes those buttons.
Maybe I simply feel hard-done-by living here in Australia, a country notorious for banning or censoring violent video-games. Left 4 Dead 2 was censored in this country, with all severed limbs, bodies and gore removed to fit in with guidelines set out by the ACB. It may sound silly that a lack of dead zombies and red liquid could change the feeling of a game so much, but it really did, so much so that I refused to play the damn thing until I got a copy from England with the gore intact.
I'm not suggesting that developers should make titles full of senseless violence with no real meaning or purpose, we've passed those days long ago and the games industry is much better because of it. However I wish that developers would lighten up, at least occasionally, and let rip with a game that is shocking, thought-provoking and if the situation calls for it, ultra-violent.
In the case of Hotline Miami, Dennaton Games has done exactly that; created a layered story that has you doing some very nasty things, but the protagonist feels horrible for doing them, so much so that he is sick to his stomach and is constantly seeking a chance at redemption.
I know we've surpassed the days when running over a bunch of monks can be considered a killing spree, but I'd just like to have some fun when I game, and not always be relying on an in-depth story and realism to pull it through.