If I kill it, will it explode on me?
Over the next few months, your wallet, and most likely your dead body in some violent video game, will be dismembered into several pieces and then eaten in slow motion. Be it Gears of War, Fallout 3, Far Cry 2, Left 4 Dead or Dead Space, they all have exceptional amounts of dead bodies, graphic dismemberment, and an endless supply of spurting blood. But is any of it justified? Or even necessary? Let's find out.
The rating system used to rate these games will be based on a 5 point scale. 1 being justified and 5 being gratuitous. Gratuitous violence is unnecessary violence and/or the depiction of unjustified/excessive violence. Justified violence is violence there for the purpose of bettering and immersing the player into the game, without ruining the immersion by over doing it. So here's the scale otherwise known as the Welcome Mat of shame.
Far Cry 2
The sequel to the original Far Cry, Far Cry 2 ramps up the violence a degree or two. Killing foes isn't very graphic nor unnecessarily violent, however, should you be shot by another enemy and choose to heal, you will be presented through a rather graphic animation consisting of things such as ripping bullets, rhubarb, wire and teeth out of... places. Watch all the animations here.
Is this gore justified? Although the healing animations go a bit far out, they make sense, and add an extra layer of immersion into the game. And really, if you had a nail protruding from your hand, would you just leave it in there and keep fighting?
On the Welcome Mat of shame, Far Cry 2 receives 2 fingers in the arm out of 5. Because playing doctor on yourself never hurt anybody.
When you buy a game who's primary combat method is dubbed "strategic dismemberment", your going to have to come to some quick conclusions. The first being that you will have to dismember things strategically. Dead Space involves so much gore, ripping apart of appendages, and straight up weird stuff, that it quickly becomes an easy game to categorize. Guy holding own head, cutting off of limbs, enemies who birth more enemies mid-battle... I don't think I'm wrong when I say the violence is alot gratuitous, and to the games credit, the violence works in the game, makes it scary, but is still over done.
On the Welcome Mat of shame, I'll give Dead Space 4 dismembered tentacles out of 5. Because even though the violence adds some to the experience, most of it is over the top.
Left 4 Dead
Yes, I know, this game has yet to be released to the masses for a little while now, yet from the abundance of gameplay videos of it out there I believe we can come to some pretty close conclusions. To me, Left 4 Deads' violence and gore is perfectly suited for the games main theme, zombies. A bit of blood splatter here, some brains over here, just the good 'ol zombie stuff. Yes there are some weird things, like explodable fat guys and other zombies we probably haven't heard of yet, but all the flesh and guts blends perfectly with this zombie survival game, making Left 4 Dead a prime example of justified violence and gore.
On the Welcome Mat of shame, Left 4 Dead is getting 1 combustible fat zombie guy out of 5 combustible fat zombie guys. Because the violence and gore blend so well with the classic zombie theme.
Fallout 3 is plenty bloody, slimy, and appears to have individual pieces of flesh physics, which is plenty appetizing. Featuring a shooting system in which players can pick individual parts of an character and then shoot them off, Fallout 3 is mighty gory and violent. Throw in a perk that zooms onto that pefectly decapitating headshot, providing every gruesome angle, then add in the fact that you can do it to any law abiding citizen, and you've got yourself some excellent, over the top, gratuitous violence.
On the Welcome Mat of shame, Fallout 3 will be honored/cursed with 5 slow motion decapitations out of 5. Because it goes through some big steps to make living things explode.
Gears of War 2
Ah yes, Gears of War 2, the sequel to one of the more graphically violent games released this generation. I'm 99.9% positive that this game will contain as many, if not more chainsaws and curb-stop-o-rama as it's predecessor. One indication that Gears of War 2 might go a bit over the top would be the GDC Gears of War 2 tech demo, which involved a large piece of meat in the shape of a cube bounce around with some fancy physics. Now imaging a couple thousand of those tiny flesh cubes flying off of some doomed locust as you cut it in half with a chainsaw equipped lancer, get the picture?
Although Gears of War 2 shows many promises at being obscenely violent, it is one of the few games where I've actually heard the designer justify some of it. In some interview, Cliffy B mentions that the reason enemies spurt foot high fountains of blood when shot is so that the player knows when his/her shots are connecting. However that does not justify walking up to someone on their hands and knees and crushing their skull into the ground.
On Welcome Mat of shame, Gears of War will be rewarded/shamed with 4.5 meat cubes out of 5. Because although the violence is through the roof, a little bit of it is justified.
So is Gratuitous Violence good?
You may be asking yourself this question, contemplating and tearing yourself apart over the moral decision to make, but it's all a matter of opinion. As I see it, gratuitous violence is a lazy mans way of entertaining the easily entertained. On the other hand, when done well, gratuitous violence can improve a game, making aspects of it much better. Morally, gratuitous violence is wrong, but these are videogames, and if we avoided every game that was immoral in some form or another, we wouldn't be playing very many games.
Now it's your turn, what is your opinion on gratuitous violence in todays videogames?
Thanks for reading.
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