Video game torture: tame or terrifying? A medieval executioner weighs in

Scream Rocket

Torture--that most brutal application of pain--was first discovered by an unwitting 'Adam 1' in the biblical Garden of Eden. After accidentally pulling out a lock of Eve's precious hair, Earth's first woman quickly reciprocated with the old 'bamboo up the fingernails' treatment, followed by several hours of 'electro-sponge' swabs to the genitals. You know, like in Lethal Weapon.

And lo, was the evil act of torture created. Of course, this truly sadistic pursuit didn't begin to hit its stride until the gruesome middle ages, when our man Throgg--freelance executioner for hire--had more fans screaming his name than many-a mid-90s boyband. Given his expertise in the field, I've convinced Throgg to give us his verdict on some of gaming's most miserable acts of torture. So, without any further ado: let's rack and roll.

Call of Duty: Black Ops brings new meaning to the term 'glass jaw'

Hey buddy, need some help removing that cartoonishly throbbing tooth? Ha ha haa! No, but seriously we are here to mess you up pretty badly, so you'd best get to talkingThis is the somewhat unusual situation facing Black Ops' resident punch bag Dr. Clarke during the opening moments of the game's seventh level. With the COD boys already in a bit of a bad mood, they decide to extract some much-needed information from the good doctor, with predictably dire results. One of which apparently includes Jack the Ripper's idea of a swift sparring match. Mouth opens, glass goes in, mouth closes. Player punches. Yikes. And here was me thinking that COD saved all of its worst outbursts for those long lines at the airport

Throgg: Kudos on the boys' quick thinking. Ask any drunken hooligan and they'll tell you, jagged glass is really in this year. Sure, they may've had all kinds of knives to choose from, but this scene is all about ensuring psychological suffering, which of course I'm a huge fan of. As long as Clarkey remembers to tuck his tongue back, the glass shouldn't cause too much pain. Plus, if he decides to get cute he could always direct it towards Mr Mason's pummelling fists. That way, everybody loses. Huzzah!

Manhunt 2 embraces heavy metal with an Iron Maiden

I say, what's the lead singer of Linkin Park doing to that reverse-centaur chap? Ah yes, now I get it--he's merely encasing a unicorn mask-wearing medical professional inside of an old timey torture device. It's so obvious. Why didn't I see it before? I suppose you might even say that he's collaborating with Iron Maiden *readers are advised to take a full 15 minute laughter break* You knowthe iron maiden, that spike-filled casket up there? Urgh, never mind. Let's see what Throgg thinks of this unusual form of torment.

Throgg: Love it. Love everything about it. Spikes on the inside of a coffin! Fabulous. Not to mention uber-practical. The iron maiden provides a great all-in-one death-and-funeral option for those families who've begun to suspect their daughters of witchcraft but simply can't afford another flashy pyre. I'd love to get one of these bad boys down in the dungeon!

Grand Theft Auto V inks an unwilling Lazlow

Ahaa! I bet youd thought I'd opt for that other, totally non-stomach-churning torture scene. Well, try as I might, I just couldn't come up with anything intrinsically funny about a man's kneecaps being shatteredha'kneecaps'. What are they, like little backwards baseball hats for your knees? Amirite!?...Anyhoo, this brief scene of distress finds shock rock DJ Lazlow Jones undergoing a rather obscene makeover at the hands of an irate Michael De Santa. Receiving a new tattoo is painful enough at the best of times, but when it's being administered by a man specifically trying to harm you, well let's just say those quick little needles suddenly get a whole lot sharper.

Throgg: It's a crying shame that other torture mission wasn't included on this list. I enjoyed every minute of it, really took me back to my youth at the academy. As for the scene in question, it saddens me to see this kind of miniature piston technology going to waste. Why not include a 15ft needle and skewer your prisoner from across the room? Despicable acts of suffering just aren't what they used to be.

Metal Gear Solid serves up a well-fried Snake

Oh Snake, you and your shenanigans. One minute you're battling vampires, the next you're tied half-naked to an operating table and shocked to within an inch of your life. Good times. Despite the strange prevalence of these torture techniques in the series--it really ought to warrant its own back-of-the-box bullet point--I'm going to go ahead and include the original scene from Metal Gear Solid. Why, you might ask? Well, aside from being an iconic and memorable moment, it also taught the world how to endure all forms of torture. Just keep pressing O people.

Throgg: It's always pleasing to see a technique that makes use of your modern amenities. Waste not want not, I always say! Back in my day, we had to wrangle up a couple of electric eels, build em a nice fish task and then dunk a damnable sinner all the way in. Really wet work, and cleaning up afterwards was always a chore. We even tried tying a few people to a church spire, but that darned Doc Brown kept siphoning off the lightning strikes for his own ungodly experiments. Pah.

GTA: San Andreas squishes a rather large bug on its windshield

Torture racks are all well and good--and awful and terrifying--but why should any self-respecting torturer be expected to come to the captive? Why not bring the captive to the torture? I mean, who really has the time nowadays to be dragging a man off to the depths of some dungeon when a morning commute will do just fine? That's the kind of forward-thinking pragmatism that propelled a little-known Carl Johnson to the top of the San Andreas crime tree, and now, thanks to some shoddy restraints he can do a similar thing for a no-good squealer. Get it? Because there's a bloke tied to the front of his car, and he might go flying off into traffic if CJ doesn't get his answers? Yeah, you get it.

Throgg: Ah yes, the old 'lash him to a horse and cart manoeuvre'. I see it's come on a mite since my day. With this technique, all of the problems of the past--sparse roadways, achingly slow movement etc.--are handled in a flash. I really can't speak highly enough of this torture, but then neither can the poor sap strapped to the windshield. It's far too loud to hear him!

Wolfenstein: The New Order revs up the Third Reich

Ever had one of those days where you just can't seem to locate your imprisoned comrades? Pretty galling isnt it? Makes you just want to scream, or better yet have someone else do it for you. If you're the unfortunately named BJ Blazkowicz then normal stress exercises just aren't going to cut it. You need something with a little more bite, like a whirring chainsaw held to the chin of a terrified Nazi. Aaah, now that's better. In this scene from the latest Wolfenstein shooter, players are tasked with kitting out the all-American hero, before watching on as cutscene BJ pumps his prisoner for info.

Throgg: An automated sword, covered in smaller spinning swords? Count me in. It's just too darn bad we never get to see this modern marvel go to work. *Sigh*

Fable 2 undoes hours of hard work via discount force lightning

Metal Gear's strenuous button mashing may have warped more than a few forearms, but no game has done more to involve a player in its hero's agony than 2008's Fable 2. Having been recruited into the ranks of the Spire prison guards, players soon find themselves subordinated to the will of the evil Commandant. Failure to heed the warden's every command results in a sudden shock of electricity being delivered to your custom-fit neck brace, oh and you'll lose a ton of XP in the process. That's the exact same experience you've been carefully accruing all game long, gone forever. Not so defiant now, are we?

Throgg: Ensuring the obedience of your own guards? Don't these people enjoy torturing their prisoners? I guess the world's just gone soft. I say save those fancy electro-shock collars for the dungeon dwellers! Maybe trick a popstar into thinking it's bling.

The Punisher is a very big kid in a blood-soaked candy store

There's a reason they call Frank Castle The Punisher, and no it doesnt have anything to do with his witty stock of puns, unfortunately. You see, this burly, black-clad crusader doesn't just straight up murder his foes, oh no. He insists on giving them a damn good talking to first. In the 2005 action title of the same name, Punisher drags many a would-be informant through some of the game's context-sensitive torture spots. Highlights include an inside look at a car compressor, a good old chinwag by the wood chipper, and a spot of emergency skull surgery via drill bit.

Throgg: Who says you need a fully-equipped torture chamber to make those miscreants squeal? Frank defines freelance torment for the modern age. If it'll spew your guts halfway across the hall, then by golly, it's a torture device. The Punisher is setting the bar high for every bright-eyed rookie executioner, before crunching it down on some unfortunate prisoner's face. Can I get an autograph? For the dungeon?

Beyond: Two Souls produces some eye-popping peril

Beyond's Jodie Holmes really ought to be a little more careful, she could have somebody's eye out! Oh right, context Following their capture at the hands of the evil Kirzastannis, player character Jodie and love interest/douchey CIA handler Ryan Clayton are both tortured for information. If the player chooses to give in and disclose some of her secrets, both characters can make it out (largely) unscathed. But, if Jodie opts instead to keep schtum, [minor spoiler alert] Kirzastan's finest will in turn gouge out one of Ryan's eyes. I bet he didn't see that coming.

Throgg: There isn't much to say about this brief scene of suffering. Me and eye gouging go way back--I used to perform it as a bit of a party trick you see--so of course it maintains a special place in my heart. Still, these Kirzistanni soldiers aren't really doing it justice. You may not be able to see it happen (another big minus) but you can certainly tell it's being done in a haphazard fashion. Zero artistry, no appreciation for the method! Colour me disappointed.

No more. You're killing me!

That's just about all we have from Throgg right now, he's off to join some of GamesRadar's other failed mascots--including 'Radar the sentient Radar', and 'GRrr' the irate gamepad, in a special file marked 'garbage'. If you have any suggestions for further video game torture scenes--just what would Sonic do if he got his hands on Dr. Eggman?--let me know in the comments below. Ciao!

And after you've done that, check out some of our other fine, fine Hallowe'en content. If all of this gore-talk has you trying to hold back a little bit of vom, calm your senses with our guide to horror-gaming for the total wimp. And if you're stronger of constitution, have a look at The Top 7... undead creatures that are totally not zombies. Because really, they're not. They're totally different.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

When he's not busy saving small animals from dangerous brush fires, Sam enjoys writing about the weird world of video games. All-time favourites include Half-Life 2, Knights of the Old Republic, GTA: Vice City and Final Fantasy 10. Last year, Sam finally succeeded in besting Rayman 1 for PlayStation, leaving his life utterly without meaning.
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