Thanks to Call of Duty's fetishistic devotion to weapon mods, we've gotten choosy when it comes to guns. Shall we sellotape an uzi to our shotgun? Or would sir prefer an automatic silenced laser sighted rocket launcher? Getting your loadout exactly right can mean the difference between airstrike and Copycat, urging an entire generation of online players to duke it out for the most bling-bling boomstick. But even before CoD went global, games like Half-Life and Doom had us juggling weapons. Their gigantic arsenals offered just as much choice: pulp a squad of demons with your hefty chain-gun, or pop them from a distance with a crossbow to the headcrab?
From GTA 4's dopey cops to Uncharted's burly henchmen, Goons just can't wait to line up between our crosshairs.
But none of this customization is worth it without the satisfying, bloody death throes of your unfortunate prey. Watching some poor OpFor sod fly ten feet into the air after a blast from your gold plated, extended mag, double chocolate AK-47 is exactly the reason we bother to beef up our guns in the first place. Nothing says victory like a gory death animation; that killer gratification you feel every time you put down another bad guy just isn't the same without a hefty splash of blood. Euphoria and Havok physics are designed around our lust for violence, and the more fun we can have with them, the better. So for that, we pay tribute to the Goons.
These are the guys that love to get shot. From GTA 4's dopey cops to Uncharted's burly henchmen, Goons just can't wait to line up between our crosshairs. They might act like they want to live - ducking behind walls, returning fire, calling reinforcements - but really, they're only happy with a headshot between the eyes and a grenade around their ankles. Take Max Payne 3's gun fodder. Sure, they pretend to be taking cover, but they always leave a fat chunk of forehead poking out for us to aim at. Then there's Crysis, where the bad guys can't wait to find us just so they can call up more of their Goonish buddies for a spontaneous death party.
And back in the days of Goldeneye and Metal Gear Solid, Goons were plain suicidal. Sluggishly patrolling preset routes, the self-respecting Goon would offer himself up by keeping his back to the action. So-called "guards" would stand still at the end of a corridor, diligently inspecting the wall tiles while the player took aim with his PP7. Engaged in frontal combat, the professional Goon was just as useless; standing perfectly still, he needed half an hour to figure out which end of his gun was the loud one. Even with the help of ten or more friends, Medal of Honor's meat targets were hopelessly outmatched by your trigger finger. They might have managed to kill you once or twice (especially if they'd got their badly rendered hands on a rocket launcher) but generally they'd end up shafted by their own AI, running at you from the same direction every time.
That's the point. We don't go gunning for the Goon because we think he's fair game; it's his willingness to eat our bullets that makes him so much fun to play with. But even more than that, he's ready to play solider. Today's Goon presents an illusion of challenge; ducking and weaving, dodging and flanking, he's the perfect blend of can-do spirit and suicidal intent, always ready to break cover before we have a chance to get frustrated. Pulping zombies with your Electric Rake can be fun, but it soon gets tired without a competitive element. Lurching towards you with bovine gormlessness, Dead Rising's shuffling corpses are the perfect squibs, exploding into bloody red fireworks at the slightest hint of a sledgehammer. But the Goon, with his slick, modern AI and cover system connivances is the discerning player's most dangerous game. He'll take some hunting down, but once you inevitably get the Goon zeroed in, the resulting display of ragdoll physics is more rewarding than a hundred headless zombies.