Context is everything.
Earlier this week, Gearbox Software defended the extreme amount of violence portrayed in their World War II shooter "Brothers in Arms: Hell's Highway."
I'd questioned Gearbox's motives because of a gore-filled trailer publisher Ubisoft had released. Gearbox told me the violence's context was key.
Since the interview, I've played an hour of "Brothers in Arms" and concluded the developers were absolutely right.
When I played the first mission of "Brothers in Arms," I encountered two moments that had been specifically highlighted in the aforementioned trailer. In one case, a man's body was split and launched in two separate directions as the result of a grenade toss. In the other, a soldier's head nearly flew apart thanks to a well-aimed bullet.
During the trailer, I looked away from the television very briefly. Watching someone's stomach come apart in slow motion wasn't something I was expecting. But it didn't happen that way in the game. My grenade was lobbed from a distance, exploded and split a Nazi soldier in two. It was a "holy s---" moment. I describe it that way because those are the exact words that came out of my mouth after it happened.
My grenade was lobbed from a distance, exploded, and split a Nazi soldier in two. It was a "holy s---" moment.
"Brothers in Arms" is still exceedingly violent. I'm not sure it's necessary for the game to do a slow motion zoom-in of someone's face being torn to shreds with a rifle, but it only happens when you execute a particularly skilled shot. The slow motion only came into play twice during the first mission of the game, at least when I played.
But unlike my experience with the trailer, I wasn't disgusted. The context was different. I caused that soldier to come apart with my grenade. If anything, I felt a little guilty about what had happened and found myself wandering over to his body parts to confirm that what I'd seen happen from afar was the real deal. It was.
I wouldn't blame you for taking issue with the violence in "Brothers in Arms," but my opinion has changed. When the game's director, Jeramy Cooke, told me the gore trailer was merely a marketing technique, I could only take him at his word. Having now played the game, however, I can tell you he was right.
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