2008: A year to dismember

Videogames have always been violent. Violence is inherent in the medium, inseparable from the essential experience of playing games. Without competition and conflict resolved by violence, games wouldn’t be games: they’d be screensavers. Gore is a slightly different matter, though. Better graphics and physics have ushered in a new era of explicit gruesomeness. Many of this year’s top games featured not only bucket-loads of blood and guts, but also active dismemberment as an integral part of gameplay. Just have a look:

Fallout 3
With Fallout 3’s VATS system, players target specific limbs in a semi-turn-based combat. Add in the Bloody Mess perk, in which limbs spontaneously explode off the body of a vanquished foe, and you have the Game of the Year. It is also not uncommon to encounter dismembered corpses hanging from chains around Fallout 3’s shattered wasteland. While not an active part of gameplay, it does set a savagely hopeless tone.


Dead Space
From the get-go, Dead Space makes no bones about its gameplay mechanic. If the severed hand on the cover or the Thanksgiving Dismemberment Demo didn’t make it clear enough for you, perhaps this will:

Above: Would you kindly? 

The premise is simple – you must blow the arms, legs and heads off your assailants in order to kill them. No torso shots, noob.

Gears of War 2
Brain-splattering headshots and chainsaw dismemberment were a part of the first Gears of War, but 2 ups the stakes with disintegrating meat-shields. Once the arms and legs have been shot off, you’ll have to look for another wounded Locust to take for cover.

Left 4 Dead
Exploding heads are just the beginning in Valve’s zombie outbreak masterpiece. Removing the legs from attacking zombies will slow them down, but they’ll continue to drag themselves toward your luscious brains until you put them down for good.

Call of Duty: World at War
Dismemberment is portrayed vividly at the start of the Peleliau stage, after a rocket attack on a Japanese-held beach. Limbless survivors writhe in the sand, and you’re invited to put them out of their misery. Interestingly, none of the corpses of American soldiers littering the beach are missing limbs. In Nazi Zombies mode, the zombies’ limbs and heads can be shot off or removed by explosives. Also, a cheat in co-op mode causes Exploding Headshots.

Ninja Gaiden II
As you carve your path through waves of enemies in Ninja Gaiden II, dismembered foes crawl toward you for last-ditch suicide attacks. The solution? After you’ve lopped off their limbs, shred the fallen torsos to pieces so they won’t come back to haunt you.


Let’s quickly touch on a few other titles from 2008 in which detached limbs played a vital role.  Wii shocker No More Heroes is rife with decapitation and splitting enemies in half with swings of the Wii-mote. There’s also an overdrive mode, in which anti-hero Travis Touchdown knocks dudes up into the air before dismembering them with his beam katana. Dark Sector’s glaive weapon handily removes any appendage it impacts with an explosion of blood and screaming. Even the E-rated Dragon Quest IV has players systematically dismembering the final boss.

Ironically, ESRB darling Mortal Kombat stands out for not allowing players to cleave each other into bloody stumps in this year’s Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe. Star Wars: The Force Unleashed was also criticized for being too tame, and almost certainly would have scored a point or two higher if Stormtroopers’ limbs had been detachable. Get on it, Euphoria engine!

This year in particular, games seem fixated on dismemberment. Yes, the industry has always had its Dooms and Postals, its Mortal Kombats and Manhunts. But this last year has seen a focus not just on general gore but very specifically on graphic dismemberment as a significant element of gameplay in high-profile mainstream releases. Why is 2008’s crop of games so intently focused on severed limbs? With a little digging, we can uncover the basis of this preoccupation and come to a greater understanding of ourselves and our world.


  • yodafan92 - January 21, 2009 3:43 a.m.

    FEAR wuz as far as i would care 2 go as far as gore... i don't see whats so fun about mutilation, especially if thats what the whole game is all about
  • majormoses117 - January 6, 2009 4:06 a.m.

    to MitsuharuSan Fuck you. It isn't just japanese people. I have only played 2 games where japanese people are the enemy. Medal of Honor Rising Sun and CoD WaW. You wanna know how many games I have played where japanese people aren't even involved? Plenty. So go cry yourself to sleep you fucking fag.
  • gaming_goon - January 3, 2009 11:03 p.m.

    awsome article i have a code for the gold lancer in gears of war 2 [limited edition] but when i try to download it says it is not valid. but i downloaded the free map pack and i was like wtf! why is the gold lancer code not working does anyone know what i should do?
  • thejadefalcon - January 3, 2009 12:10 p.m.

    You forgot all the Lego games. They all fall apart when killed. Children shall mimic this and the end of the world will be nigh!
  • Cernunnos - January 3, 2009 6:05 a.m.

    i believe adding the real pic was the right decision. seing real brutality is the most effective to turn people away from it. why is it always perfectly fine to shoot nazis? yes, holocaust was an atrocity, but get the fuck over it. if its ok to discrimate agaist one belief-system it should be ok to discriminate against all. the world's double-standard is appaling. not all that fought for the nazi side were even part of the belief-system, they were just terrified, victims of war like everyone else. and the bombing of hiroshima and nagasaki werent at all a necessity for ending the war; it had already ended. i think however it was a necessity in form of showing the world how destructive nuclear weapons are, and that they arent worth the price they cost. i also think that albert einstein was dead-on when he said: "i do not know with which weapons world war 3 will be fought, but i am sure world war 4 will be fought with sticks and stones." he also mentioned something about if he had known what his research would lead to, he'd have become a locksmith. lol
  • HotSht95 - January 3, 2009 4:53 a.m.

    left 4 dead rocks left 4 dead rocks left 4 dead rocks left 4 dead rocks left 4 dead rocks left 4 dead rocks left 4 dead rocks
  • eggo13 - January 2, 2009 9:35 p.m.

    all the good games are gory Mortal Kombat v.s DC should have been bloodier though
  • Major_Wuss - January 2, 2009 5:41 a.m.

    It kind of pisses me off that some non-gamers and politicians are on a crusade (JACK THOMPSON) to get rid of these kinds of games, just because they think the people who play these are going to do things like this in real life. Violence, is unfortunately, a part of life, like it being in the news or even experienced firsthand. When you look past the violence in a game, the stuff you see is great, like a story, and characters who are like real people, and not mindless killers.
  • camo510 - January 2, 2009 5:34 a.m.

    M rated are M rated for a reason. if u dont like it dont buy the game. and people who think that us playing games will make us do it in real life should lay offand go live their perfect little, well behaved lives
  • CptCHARLES - January 2, 2009 2:02 a.m.

    @MitsuharuSan, The American's limbs can also be taken/torn off, not just the Japanese. So can the Russians, and Germans. And in response to your comment "I'm sick of games portraying the Japanese as enemies": Name one game other than Waw that the Japanese are enemies. But then again, it's not like the Japanese tried to TAKE OVER THE WORLD! Oh wait, they did. I'm sorry but the Japanese have not been targeted racially in any video game I've heard of, and if they were than that is wrong but in WaW they weren't. However, that said I am 100% sympathetic to the amount of ignorance that the majority of Americans show and also the amount of "USA FTW" I think that racism is wrong and feel for your family that has suffered when those things were happening. Nothing personal but you were playing it that WaW is racist, if I came off rude or racist I didn't mean it and apologize. No hard feelings.
  • jar-head - January 1, 2009 5:46 p.m.

    War. Nothing compared to what might happen if things keep going the way they are...
  • Jimmyjammy - January 1, 2009 2:11 p.m.

    Also, First on page 2!!!
  • Jimmyjammy - January 1, 2009 2:10 p.m.

    Just reading the words 'Would you kindly?' gives me shivers. Bioshock was a fucking good game.
  • WeirdJamFace - January 1, 2009 12:25 p.m.

    would you kindly? (i lol'ed at that reference......LOL!!!)
  • Whogivsachit - January 1, 2009 4:53 a.m.

    I played all of them except Dead space. All gory as hell(: But what about GTA 4 those cars are killers.
  • MitsuharuSan - January 1, 2009 4:50 a.m.

    Sorry, I meant "that THIS was nothing...", not "his".
  • MitsuharuSan - January 1, 2009 4:48 a.m.

    Yeah, God bless America because the japanese and the rest of the world are not people, right? I'm saying that because I'm sick of games portraying the japanese as enemies and having japanese soldiers without limbs while the american are just dead, nothing much besides that. I still cry to this very day when I see and hear about the goddamn bombs back in '45 and I have family that was present in Japan back then to say the terrible thing it was. And I'm even more sick of hearing that his was nothing compared to "ZOMGZ PURL HARBER" and things like that. Don't get me wrong, I love USA, but there are things that I just can't stand anymore.
  • trexasaurusman - January 1, 2009 4:44 a.m.

    that pic of the american soldier is gruesome, made me layoff of playing fallout 3 for about a month, although i've got started again, god bless america.
  • Amnesiac - January 1, 2009 2:49 a.m.

    I wasn't expecting this to be so thoughtful when I clicked the headline. Well done. And agree w/ bambo0o-stick, no matter how desensitized to videogame violence I become, real life violence still gets to me.
  • heartskuppy - January 1, 2009 2:05 a.m.

    deep.. and enlightening. i love it when gamesradar does these kinds of articles.

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