Top 5 Games About Murdering the Innocent

Postal2_frontpage

The ever-so-controversial Hatred is out this week, and early reviews give the impression that it’s neither as horrible nor as interesting as everyone decided it was after watching a single trailer. But it’s also this week’s highest-profile game release, which means it’s a perfect jumping-off point for Vidjagame Apocalypse. As an experiment, I thought it might be fun to talk about this week’s Top 5 before it becomes a podcast Top 5. You know, like how we used to do in The Old Days.

To be honest, I’m a little surprised by the furor Hatred managed to cause, since it doesn’t seem like anything new for this industry. Rage-filled protagonists aren’t new. Violence for the sake of violence isn’t new. And games that let you indiscriminately murder innocent nobodies have been around for as long as game characters were detailed enough to be considered “innocent nobodies.”

Here are five of my favorites!

5. Naughty Bear

naughtybear1

I won’t go so far as to actually recommend Naughty Bear, because I know a lot of people don’t like it. It is widely considered to belong to the genus Bad Game, and I can understand why. I like Naughty Bear, though, because underneath its twee exterior beats the dark, wormy heart of Jason Voorhees.

While it’s always annoying when fans accuse critics of “not playing it right,” there is actually a right way and a wrong way to look at Naughty Bear. The wrong way is “hurr durr cute thing kills other cute things, pshhh.” The right way is to realize that it’s so gratuitously brutal, it had to recast its characters as varicolored teddy bears just to avoid an Adults Only rating. Put simply, this is a game where you play as a slasher murdering hapless teenagers in remote locations, and in that respect, it is utterly unique.

Screenshot030

At its heart a stealth game, Naughty Bear isn’t just about killing  your enemies, or sneaking to achieve a specific goal; it’s all about scaring your prey, seasoning the meat with fear before you plunge the knife in. Yes, the “meat” is a bunch of stuffing surrounded by fluffy fabric, and yes, your “prey” seems to come back to life after each level. But that doesn’t make it any less awesomely disturbing when you shout “BOO!” at your victims so hard they commit suicide. Or when you flatten their heads in car doors. Or shove them into candy-mixing vats. Or keep them from calling for help by choking them to death with telephone receivers.

It’s a different vibe from something like Manhunt, for the key reason that most of your victims here are unarmed and — ignoring the fact that they all mercilessly tease and ostracize Naughty even after they should goddamn well know better — innocent. Your goal isn’t really to survive; it’s to torment and murder everyone before they can escape. Naughty Bear is the only game to really try and capture the feeling of being a creature like Jason or Michael Meyers, so by default, it’s also the best.

4. Carmageddon 2

CARMA2_HW 2015-05-30 00-25-42-47

Roger Corman’s 1975 film Death Race 2000, starring David Carradine at his smirking best, is an amazing dark comedy that you should all go see right now. It features Sylvester Stallone as a cartoon gangster. It contains the line “Mr. and Mrs. President Frankenstein.” And it revolves around a nihilistic vision of the year 2000 in which the most popular entertainment is a real-life version of Wacky Races that awards bonus points for running people over.

Carmageddon 2 is gaming’s most earnest attempt to bring that vision to life. It doesn’t feature the same coast-to-coast challenge or outsized characters as the movie (although the cars are kinda goofy-looking), but it does encourage you to win by bashing your opponents into slag and splattering as many pedestrians as possible. In fact, that’s the best way to win, as Carmageddon’s lead artist Neil “Nobby” Barnden once pointed out when he said (and I’m paraphrasing here, because the quote was in some ancient issue of MacAddict that I probably threw out years ago) that only lame people win Carmageddon by actually racing. The true path to victory is through the silly morons standing between you and the finish line, and you’re a doofus if you try to be nonviolent about it. Nobby said so and everything.

In my experience, though, victory never really happens at all in Carmageddon. Not when there are all these distracting blood bags to run into.

CARMA2_HW 2015-05-30 00-22-39-59
First-person is best-person.

3. Jaws Unleashed

Jaws2

Those who know my work know that I never let an opportunity to mention Jaws Unleashed pass me by, and what an opportunity this is! If tormenting and massacring helpless, harmless people sounds like fun, few games let you do so as gruesomely as Jaws’ wonderfully stupid PS2-era open-world adventure. Made by the same developers that brought us Ecco the Dolphin, Jaws Unleashed made a half-hearted effort to cast its toothy protagonist as some kind of environmental avenger who went around destroying oil rigs and the like. But that’s only because games without structure are boring. Absolutely nobody plays Jaws Unleashed for its story; they play it because there’s something innately titillating about terrorizing swimmers as a bloody enormous shark.

Where other shark games are content to turn eaten people into anticlimactic clouds of blood, Jaws Unleashed’s detailed dismemberment drew out the act of man-eating in ways that would eventually, probably, make you feel sorry for your victims. Jaws’ teeth could latch onto a swimmer’s limb, and with a few shakes of its giant head, tear it off as its former owner shrieked and clutched at the stump. As they awkwardly tried to swim for safety, all that remained was to lazily latch onto another extremity, tear them to pieces, and gobble those pieces down for a small health boost. And that was just for starters; even before Jaws unlocked the ability to tail-whip people into the air so that they exploded, all pretense of realism had long since escaped out a window after assuring us it was just going to the bathroom.

Nothing was safe from Jaws’ bottomless appetite; divers, swimmers, bungee jumpers, water skiers, hunters, boats, helicopters, and scientists were all fair game, so long as they fell into the water, or were within biting range of its surface. And if they weren’t, Jaws could hurl exploding oil barrels or old torpedoes at them, heralding a terrifying new age in which sharks can use tools and we’re all fucking doomed.

Jaws1

There are plenty of standout opportunities to create horror for the residents of Amity Island in Jaws Unleashed, but the pinnacle of the shark’s cruelty comes near the end, during the little seaside community’s Fourth of July celebrations. After taking down a heavily armed Coast Guard vessel, Jaws proceeds to munch his way through a beach’s worth of revelers. A banana boat is destroyed, its riders devoured. Amity’s mayor, who so stubbornly ignored the sharky warning signs as countless tourists turned into clouds of chum, perishes in an explosion. And as hordes of people flee the beach in terror, Amity’s fireworks display goes off without a hitch, heralding the ultimate victory of carcharodon carcharias over puny homo sapiens.

I like to think of that as the ending. It isn’t, but trust me, it’s better this way.

2. Postal 2

Postal2 2015-05-31 23-47-46-75

Postal 2 made a lot of missteps, but probably the biggest was that it gave away its most fun section for free. There’s more sadistic pleasure packed into the Postal 2 demo than there is in the entire rest of the game, because once the nominal story kicks in and your enemies all start shooting back, Postal 2 tumbles from guilty pleasure to so-so shooter. When that happens, not even the short-term thrills of unleashing deadly zoo animals, blowing up marching bands or terrorizing a mall can bring back the initial thrill.

If all you want to do is be an asshole and fuck with random civilians, however, Postal 2’s early stages – particularly the big, open playground that makes up its demo – are glorious. If you’re boring, you can run around shooting people, but the other deadly implements scattered around the world are so much more fun. Finding a shovel lets you beat people and ultimately knock their heads off. A taser can non-lethally incapacitate your neighbors so hard that they pee their pants. And as they lie there whimpering, you can douse them with gasoline, set them ablaze – and then pee on them to put out the fire. Actually, being one of the few games that lets you chase people around and pee in their faces until they throw up is kind of one of Postal 2’s chief draws.

Postal2 2015-05-30 00-44-10-00
Remember: When a stranger pees on you, stand still and vomit, then run away.

If they were rendered with today’s graphics, the actions I just described might look as horrific as they sound, but Postal 2’s dated visuals and marionette-like character models make for a silly cartoon world on which to unleash your nastiest impulses, so long as your nastiest impulses involve shovel decapitations, burning people alive, and seemingly endless high-pressure urine streams.

1. Grand Theft Auto III

SCR_0009

Yes, Grand Theft Auto III had a story. Yes, it pushed gaming forward in exciting new ways, and yes, it did a whole hell of a lot more than provide opportunities for slaughter. You can make a pretty compelling case that it isn’t “about” murdering civilians at all. For a lot of people, though – or at least for me – the combination of passive crowds and high-powered weaponry was irresistible. Getting to rampage through a consequence-free world that closely resembled real life (at least by 2001 standards) was something angry teenagers had secretly yearned for for years, and actually being able to do it was something of a dream come true.

And who among us played it safe? Who looked at Liberty City’s crowds of polygon sheeple and said, “Can I bring myself to purposely bring violence into their humdrum lives? Dare I shoulder this dark responsibility? No! I can’t! For I am a virtuous criminal!*” I’m going to guess the answer is relatively few, because dismembering people with sniper rifles and rocket-launching crowds into flying heaps of body parts was awesome. In fact, in those early years, GTA was largely defined by giving people a chance to rampage. Nervous parents were convinced that was basically all it was. And to be fair, so were a lot of kids who ignored the story in favor of throwing grenades at ambulances.

SCR_0007

Later GTAs brought better visuals and more inventive ways to hurt people, but bloody rampages aren’t as strong a draw in those more sophisticated games. (Speaking for myself, at least, killing my way through crowds in Vice City and San Andreas was something I did until it was “out of my system,” and by the time GTA IV rolled around, its civilians were realistic enough that I actually preferred to leave them alone.) The sheer newness of it, combined with the mute amorality of protagonist Claude Speed, just made it feel right. And maybe, thanks to graphics that look cartoonish next to Trevor Philips nonchalantly busting some poor sap’s kneecap with a wrench, it still does.

*Your actual internal monologue may have varied.

Mikel is not normally this creepy. You can listen to him every week on Vidjagame Apocalypse, or follow him on Twitter @wikiparaz.

12 thoughts on “Top 5 Games About Murdering the Innocent

  1. It is nice getting a visual component to go with the podcast. I’ll probably look at this article when the podcast goes up. Keep em coming!

  2. I have to say I really like the idea of posting the Top 5 first and discussing it one the podcast later in the week. Maybe it’s just nostalgia. Regardless, In relation to the list itself, I’d like to remind people that Carmageddon: Reincarnated, the Kickstarted reboot is officially out as of last week. If you can somehow fight your way past the hideous optimization, it’s pretty good. It’s just as fast and loud as you’d expect with some incredibly unique modes. It’s violent too, keeping in theme.

  3. My buddy and I tried to recapture the “See how fast you can get to 5 stars and how long you can survive” magic of GTA III on GTA V recently… and well… GTA V is far more “realistic” and so it is harder to survive for long. GTA III’s rampages could last a half an hour as the weapons were hilariously over powered and tanks were nigh unkillable. GTA III is still the pinnacle for senseless rampages within its own series.

    1. That was our absolute favorite thing to do in GTA3. Just hand off the controller after a killing spree. Something I loved to do was hop in the back of a truck and take a shot at the driver. Then, try to pick off as many people as you could when the driver is hauling ass down the road.
      Good times.

  4. I swear to god, if it wasn’t for Wiki periodically bringing up Naughty Bear, it would have been wiped from existence long ago.

    Great list!

  5. I swear to god, if it wasn’t for Wiki periodically bringing up Naughty Bear, it would have been wiped from existence long ago.

  6. Legit sir, legit! Guessing Uwe Bowell will be bringing Hatred to a redbox and Netflix stream in the near future. Probably Staring Ray Liotta and Burt Reynolds.

  7. I own Naughty Bear, but never really played it. The controls are pretty rough, but I do want to go back and try to get into it.

    As for GTA, that is one series that I could never get into. As an Xbox owner, I had to hear for years from PS2 owners how awesome GTA was… So when they finally released the double pack of GTA III and Vice City, I blind bought it and expected it to be awesome.

    And it promptly bored me to tears. I expected something revolutionary, but ended up with a game that simply improved on the formula that Driver 2 had already done years before.

  8. Also didn’t Carmageddon: Resurrection literally just come out of early access on Steam? Not a controversial peep.

  9. I recall spending too much time killing civilians in UbiSoft games such as AssCreed and FarCry. Half because fuck the Beggar Lady’s and Lepards, auto-death for killing them was worth it. Half from announce that FarCry also auto-kills you for hurting civilians while plays as a douche-bro-psychopath.

    But what’s always fun is trying really hard to hit someone in a game where people jump out of the way then finally nailing somebody. Oh god now I sould like the douche-bro-psychopath.

    Imma go hug a tree.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *