Spec Ops: The Line Criticised Mindless Shooters, Then Had A Mindless Multiplayer Mode Forced On It
Spec Ops: The Line is a shooting game about why shooting games are a pretty messed up concept. It features heinous war crimes, extensive ruminations on the horrors of conflict, and simulated post-traumatic stress disorder. It's not exactly the popcorn fun of the new Call Of Duty: Minority Hunt, is what we're saying here.
So while it's almost mandatory for shooters to have multiplayer -- especially once the suits figured out that they could sell gun skins to suckers for $4.99 a pop -- the developers of Spec Ops wanted to keep it single player. They were making a story-driven experience, and they figured their "virtual war is hell" message would be somewhat undercut if, right after the downer ending, you could hop online and whip up a sick kill streak.
2K GamesSomberly reflecting on the horrors of war, and the 13-year-old who called you "Suck Ops: The Lame."
Publisher 2K Games considered this stance, nodded thoughtfully, then outsourced the multiplayer component to another studio. It's like if the studio feared audiences would find Apocalypse Now boring, so they added a few scenes in which Martin Sheen kills waves of attack gorillas with a rocket launcher.
Spec Ops was well-reviewed and won tons of awards, but critics trashed the multiplayer for detracting from the game's themes. The multiplayer also did nothing to help the poor sales numbers, because in addition to the tonal dissonance, it also just plain sucked. Lead designer Cory Davis lambasted 2K in an interview, saying that the "multiplayer shouldn't exist," and that it "tossed out the creative pillars of the product." Fair enough. Then he went on to say the publisher "raped" the game and compared the multiplayer to cancer, which seems like a bit much. But then, this is the game where you're forced to bomb citizens with white phosphorous to prove war is bad, so maybe subtlety isn't their strong suit.
2K Games"Did someone say zombie mode multiplayer DLC?" *cash register sound*
BioShock Was Going To Have Genuinely Tough Moral Decisions, But The Publisher Wussed Out
BioShock explores some heavy themes, like the importance of choice, the flexibility of morality, and whether or not free will is an illusion -- and all this in between sessions of setting maniacs on fire and beating them to death with a wrench. Here's the most devastating of those choices: In the game, you can power up your abilities by finding Little Sisters (basically possessed first-graders), and then either saving them ... or "harvesting" them. Saving them is great for your conscience, but harvesting them doubles the awarded amount of power goo, aka ADAM. The idea was to give the player a hard choice about how far they would go in order to gain strength for the greater challenges ahead.
Luckily, saving the Little Sisters is objectively the best way to go. You're periodically rewarded for rescuing them, so by the end of the game, you end up with roughly the same amount of ADAM, plus all sorts of bonus goodies.
2K GamesPro Tip: Always go with the option that doesn't make you sound like a child molester.
What was supposed to be a challenging moral decision was instead a superfluous "kill the little girl for no reason" minigame. BioShock's creator, Ken Levine, originally wanted this choice to be much tougher. Doing the right thing would have truly handicapped the player and given them a serious challenge, but the publisher was worried that players would simply follow the logic and figure that it would be best to commit mass child murder. So the developers overcompensated, and the opposite became true -- killing the Little Sisters, and the ending you see from doing so, is all so depressing and grotesque that the whole point of the exercise was defeated. A heady, grey moment of self-reflection turned into a basic black-and-white foregone conclusion, and all to, what? Prevent some child murder? Was it really worth it?
Download Chris's new party game Cheer Up! here for free. Preorder it here now! Jordan Breeding also writes for Paste Magazine, the Twitter, and himself.
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For more check out 5 Video Games That Pose (And Reward) Awful Moral Choices and 5 WTF Video Game Design Choices That (Somehow) Nobody Caught.
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