05/12/2013

wisecracking robot ninjas

'We need to shoot the train off the rails!'

Day 2 of Killzone Shadow Fall and I shit you not, that was an actual line uttered by an actor channelling superhuman powers of indifference towards the material he has to work with. Don't get me wrong though, in its own big stupid way that line made me grin and hope that in some way this game is aware of its own stupidity.

I have my doubts though, in a game as self-consciously 'gritty' as this I'm not sure the humour was intentional or more the product of my twisted mind. The part that likes b-movie schlock only as long as its done well. Part of the reason Call of Duty has prevailed for so long is that its stories go big on stupidity much like the finest 80's action movies. Its makers know stupidity is best done in large doses, because in increments it gets rapidly tedious.

Am I defending stupidity in storytelling after yesterday bemoaning the lack of nuance and substance in videogame storytelling? Am I frustratingly inconsistent? Of course I am. That is to say there's room for both sides of the argument and all the points inbetween. It applies to other media where the trashy and the high brow co-exist alongside each other, it can apply to games too.

I mean I'm playing a game where me and my portable murderbot are shooting intergalactic cockneys by the truckload. There is ample room for creatively entertaining stupidity here and they barely scratch the surface of its potential. I want to save the President from the walking, talking atomic bomb that (in a shock twist) happens to be the President himself en-route to broker a peace treaty with the Russians of Planet X. I want well made shlock that goes big and holds nothing back.

Too much to ask? I don't think so. This game and many like it are most of the way there already. But their makers are just a little too precious about their self-image as 'serious' storytellers to come to grips with the fact that they tell ridiculous stories and have been doing so for ages.

Maybe this is all coming from someone who thinks Robocop is the most awesome film ever made. A film that proved that stupidity can be kickass, stupidity can be endearing and in the greatest twist of all, stupidity can be intelligent or at least intelligently made.

Stupidity as a cover story for something that plays it smart behind the facade. It's a fine line few tread so maybe I'm asking too much as I wait for videogames to have their Robocop moment. Not sure I'll find it in Shadow Fall but if I find any interdimensional wisecracking robot ninjas I'll be sure to let you know.