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Shooters finally have something to say in 2012

And then there was Far Cry 3, which so engrossingly tackled the theme of insanity. Jason Brody, the Brod-ster, the spoiled-rich-kid-bro-dude, was stranded on an island and kidnapped. He was scared, but he had to kill to survive. At first, he was reluctant to do so--but then it got easier. He started enjoying it. He cried out gleefully while he set human beings ablaze with a flamethrower. I mean, I did too, because I was doing it in a video game and it was pretty damn fun, but when Jason met up with a friend, she made a comment along the lines of "You've become a monster." And Jason, he basically replied, "Yeah, this is kind of my gig now." The dude had lost his mind.

Of course, I can't mention Far Cry 3 without name dropping Vaas, the psychotic villain who epitomized the game's insanity. That guy was scary in a way most video game villains just aren't. His threats didn't feel empty--they freaked me out. He'd charm me with his soft tones and buddy-buddy banter, then he's snap and shove a gun to my head. He was crazy; I felt his psychotic aura through my TV.

Many shooters in 2012 imbued the genre with a level of maturity we'd only seen glimpses of before. BioShock, of course, is a great example of one that took a philosophical approach, providing intelligent commentary on the political dimension and roles of science and religion in our day-to-day lives. But there weren't many shooters in years past that garnered the same chin-stroking reaction from players. 

This year, though? Several of them consistently touched on post-adolescent themes. Max Payne 3 portrayed a broken man coming to terms with his harrowing past. Call of Duty: Black Ops II elicited discussion about the future of warfare and the possible implications of relying so heavily on man-less drones. Medal of Honor: Warfighter attempted a more mature take at storytelling by emphasizing the strained relationships of military men and women torn between duty and family. 

So where do we go from here? The thing is, the best shooter anyone can make--the one that perfects the art of physically pulling the trigger--has already been made. But as with all things, the genre will continue to evolve. Considering shooters are, at their core, about committing the absolute worst crime you can commit against another living thing, that evolution will necessarily be an ugly one. And its kind of got me freaked out. 

You know that kid at parties who talks too much? Drink in hand, way too enthusiastic, ponderously well-educated in topics no one in their right mind should know about? Loud? Well, that kid’s occasionally us. GR Editorials is a semi-regular feature where we share our informed insights on the news at hand. Sharp, funny, and finger-on-the-pulse, it’s the information you need to know even when you don’t know you need it.

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26 comments

  • Rub3z - December 12, 2012 10:56 p.m.

    Okay, maybe it just seems like I'm trying to sell Max Payne 3 to you guys at this point, but... dammit, this reminded of this article I read on how the gruesomeness and grotesqueness of violence is being portrayed in games, notably Max Payne 3. Here, you really should read this if you liked this: http://www.escapistmagazine.com/articles/view/columns/firstperson/9844-The-Exhausting-Violence-of-Max-Payne-3# You're welcome. And very good job, Ryan. Engrossing read.
  • GR_RyanTaljonick - December 13, 2012 8:33 a.m.

    Thanks! Max Payne 3 was TOTALLY exhausting in the way it was (purposely) hyper violent. I've never seen heads explode so completely. It was one of those few games where taking people out often made me cringe.
  • valance23322 - December 12, 2012 2:41 p.m.

    No shooter can have anything even resembling a coherent story due to the sheer format of the medium
  • drummer2288 - December 12, 2012 2:50 p.m.

    You ignorant twelve year old nit wit.
  • deceasedxo - December 14, 2012 6:12 a.m.

    Hahahahaha, no.
  • scaler2000 - December 12, 2012 10:21 a.m.

    deep
  • jackthemenace - December 12, 2012 9:35 a.m.

    Well, I'm definitely going to have to try and get hold of a copy of Spec Ops now. And this is the second article in so long that I can remember from GR that was really thought provoking and poignant. Not that I don't love stuff like Cundy's cosplays and the silly features, but this kinda stuff really makes me feel like video games ARE an art medium to be respected. And there was definitely a game I played recently- although I can't for the life of me think what it WAS now- that really made me consider whether what I was doing was right or not, and what the implications would be for people if it really happened. Great stuff. Thanks, Mr. Taljonick :)
  • GR_RyanTaljonick - December 12, 2012 10:16 a.m.

    Thanks, glad you enjoyed it!
  • deceasedxo - December 12, 2012 8:50 a.m.

    Really well written article. I do find it hilariously ironic how game companies selling violent games for profit have a strange sense of conscience. Who's worse the people fighting the wars, the players or the people making a profit from the two?
  • ObliqueZombie - December 12, 2012 8:28 a.m.

    Wow, first a drastic website change and now these great pieces? I'm liking this a lot. Great article, Ryan; very well done. That doesn't mean GamesRadar is going to lose its silliness does it?! D:
  • GR_SophiaTong - December 12, 2012 9:02 a.m.

    No, we'll certainly keep a blend of great pieces like this one and the silly ones :)
  • zombi3grim - December 12, 2012 7:44 a.m.

    Yes! Thank you! Ive been saying these things about shooters for the last couple of weeks and Im glad Im not the only one noticing how the stories are developing.
  • punkduck2064 - December 11, 2012 6:49 p.m.

    Great article, I loved the exposition in spec-ops and the deeper direction that halo's start was taking. I feel that shooters have trying to mature their stories for a long time but have been too afraid to pull the trigger, excuse the pun. The first one I can think of for this generation was Haze on the Ps3, but that game suffered at the expense of it's story. After that Killzone 2 made a big statement about the justification of war that got barried by it's arcady game play. I'm excited that games have reached a point where their audiences are willing to entertain a deeper story... and blow shit up.
  • DarthKratos - December 11, 2012 6:46 p.m.

    Those quotes from Spec Ops remind me of Snake commenting on "virtual simulations" in MGS and, to a greater extent MGS2.
  • Revolt189 - December 11, 2012 6:34 p.m.

    Fantastic article. I think this trend really, truly, started with BioShock, but even then it infused enough RPG to make it a hybrid shooter. Call of Duty? Halo 4? Not so much. Spec Ops: The Line made me re-read Conrad's "Heart of Darkness."
  • shawksta - December 11, 2012 6:19 p.m.

    Very Interesting article, Shooters are doing things that make them worth than simple shooters people throw them off to be. Just a little tidbit but i just LOVED Borderlands/2's whole Weapon assets, there is no gun that is always the same and every type of every gun type has different special traits, stats and sometimes elements to suite your fancy. It was nice scavenging for a cool gun with that one property that made it a deal breaker for you.
  • ultimatepunchrod - December 11, 2012 5:11 p.m.

    Nice article. I really want to play these especially Spec Ops. I like the idea of having this oorah nonsense mentality in most shooters being subverted.
  • SenorHurt - December 11, 2012 4:12 p.m.

    I agree this is the kind of intelligent article that I will be looking forward to see on Games Radar. Not that I'm against silly, fun stuff. Well written and interesting. I think this will be the area where 1st person shooters will have to evolve. I mean can the graphics get much better? How many custom cross-hairs or gun skins will we really need? More games like Bioshock that makes you think will be awesome. It's amazing that it isn't more common for games to break the fourth wall. The first example I can think of is the fight with Psycho Mantis in Metal Gear Solid. But I can count on one hand the number of games that I have played that had moments that caused me to reflect on my role as I played the game. I haven't played Spec Ops or Far Cry 3 yet but after reading this article they are now at the top of my 'get around to playing this game next' list.
  • GR_RyanTaljonick - December 11, 2012 4:19 p.m.

    You shan't be disappointed!

Showing 1-20 of 26 comments

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