Good to be Bad, Again

Good to be Bad, Again
The Good, the Bad and the Sadistic

Alexander Karls | 28 Aug 2007 11:44
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Beyond affecting gameplay, options like this can help create a sense of depth that might otherwise be missed. By inviting the player to help craft the protagonist's sense of right or wrong, a game can provide a context for gameplay that goes beyond that provided by narrative alone. Playing an action hero is expected, almost cliché. Being given the reigns of a character who saves or dooms the universe as you decide, that's something else entirely.

The Punisher, based on the 2004 film of the same name, offers a mix of action and stealth gameplay. Players take on the role of Frank Castle, the Punisher, a comic book superhero waging a one-man war on crime. While the Punisher can gun down criminals in any number of ways, he can also stop to interrogate them.

When the Punisher conducts an interrogation, he must maintain careful pressure in order to break the criminal's will to resist. Too little pressure and the thug won't talk; too much and he might accidentally kill the suspect. Should the player complete an interrogation successfully but kill the prisoner in the process, he loses points. In exchange for losing these points, the player receives a reward in the form of a gruesome death scene.

This helps to characterize Frank Castle as the Punisher. The Punisher is a vigilante, an anti-hero, but not a sadist. By offering the player the chance to kill a suspect, the game offers him a choice: Adhere to a semblance of a moral code or just play a psychopath.

Each game offers the player a choice: Just how evil do you want to be?

Still, bringing morality into the gameplay isn't easy. In The Punisher, the point penalty seems unintentional - it has a very small effect on the game system. Still, the choice is there, and it's in that space that the system works. The developers aren't strong-arming the player into acting in a specific way. They're simply offering a choice.

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