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Monday, March 16, 2009

Ten To Play: Exploitation Games

After getting some time in with Resident Evil 5, I'm glad to say that the game isn't racist*. Instead, it's actually an exploitation game as Stephen Totilo notes on his MTV blog, it trades in cliche.

Here are some other titles that are excellent examples of the exploitation genre - each an excellent game that traffics (well) in sex and violence but not at the expense of the overall game experience.

1. Manhunt (PS2/Xbox) Rockstar Games

The first outing the series captured the Running Man feel expertly with a gritty, grimy world out of a John Carpenter film. The player was implicated in the violence by placing an emphasis on "stylish" kills in order to improve the in-game ranking. The experience is heightened with the terrible-wonderful voice of Brian Cox cooing in your ear the entire time, goading you to "do it... do it..."

The game was of course considered a murder simulator by various pundits and talking heads. The outcry got worse with the (far inferior) sequel which bowed on the Wii and PS2.

2. Twisted Metal:Black (PS2) Sony

This game was like Death Race 2000 without pedestrians (with pedestrians it would be Carmageddon). One gets the sense that this game is what fans of the Insane Clown Posse** see when they close their beady little eyes at night.

The storied franchise started back on the PS1 and has had several enjoyable entries based on the simple premise of "guns on cars." It works and I wonder when we'll get a sequel for the current gen Playstation console.

3. Scarface: The World Is Yours (PS2/Xbox/Wii) Vivendi Universal

It's essentially the adaptation/sequel to an exploitation film. Girls, guns, and blow are all on the screen and in your hands as you take on the role of Tony Montana post end-of-the-move shootout.

Of course, the game is a GTA-clone, a franchise which gets much of its inspiration from the film.

4. Grand Theft Auto: Vice City (PS2/Xbox) Rockstar Games

Which brings us to the proof that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Taking cues from Scarface (the film), Miami Vice, and using the voice of Henry Hill himself, the game is an exploitation blockbuster.

As Tommy Vercetti, players don't just wade in the seamy underwold of Vice City, they crawl, swim, and thrive in it. Before the series took a turn for the serious with part IV, this entry would typify the grindhouse experience in games, particularly within the crime genre. The game was just as often taking shots at the milieu as it was exploiting and exploring the tropes of crime fiction.

5. House of the Dead: Overkill (Wii) Sega of America

The game's trailer is a knowing nod to the recent box office failure Grindhouse and the game itself takes shots at the franchise known for its less than stellar production values.

6. Loaded (PS1) Interplay

Another Running Man/Smash TVs-style game, this was one of the more enjoyable games from the halcyon days of the PS1. Instead of style, the game emphasized racking up a hefty kill count. It was followed by a sequel, Reloaded that was actually superior.

Where's our next-gen Re-Reloaded?

7. Mortal Kombat: Deception (PS2/Xbox) Midway

Death match tournaments are a staple of the exploitation genre (see Enter the Dragon or Battle Royale). The Mortal Kombat series has tapped into this for years. Add in a dash of faux-Orientalism, some t&a, and toss in a helping of monstrous bosses and you have a grindhouse hit.

A part of me feels that a filmmaker with the right chops could make this into quite the R-rated (note, I didn't say "mature") movie.

8. Dead Rising (Xbox 360) Capcom

This game is an outright homage to Dawn of the Dead (not to contradict the carefully-worded warning at the beginning of the game). However, alongside the social commentary of the beloved zombie film is a healthy helping of gore and sex which are actually integral to the gameplay.

Making their protagonist a photographer opened up some well-executed gameplay possibilities for the developers. Players were often tasked with taking the most gory, dramatic, or sexually (read those involving panites and lady parts) photos possible in the middle of the zombie outbreak.

9. Dead or Alive 5 (Xbox 360) Tecmo

Boobs and figting.

'Nuff said.

10. Resident Evil 5 (PS3/Xbox 360) Capcom

Totilo shares his views on it far more articularly than I will here. But essentially, it's you and your hottie sidekick mowing down North African zombies as the white man at the top (captial M on "Man" there) unleashes a deadly virus.

It's the stuff of which Sci Fi Channel original movies are made.

* That is to say, I don't think the game has some deliberate racial agenda with bad black vs. good whites. I do think there are some naive and perhaps ill-advised visuals (the grass-skirted tribesmen spring to mind) but it was not the cringe inducing "brave white man saves the coloreds" of Ed Zwick movies.

**I will NOT use the word "Juggalo" in the main body of my work. It's retarded.

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