In 1993, when the video game Mortal Kombat was ported to the Sega Genesis, the development team made a secret code in the game that spelled out “Abacabb” (with two “B”s) on the controller pad. When activated, it would enable uncensored blood (Game Informer #230 Dan Ryckert p.98). This was a deliberate reference to Genesis, one of Ed Boon’s favourite bands, which happened to share the same name as the console to which the code was exclusive.
I finished Uncharted 2 last night and moved onto the next game on the list – Silent Hill: Downpour.
Reviews aren’t favorable, but I’m a fan of the series. I’m a sucker for anything with “Silent Hill” in the title. I was already 40 minutes into this game, but since I set it aside to start Uncharted 2 I decided to start a new game.
READER! I’m about to ruin the first 10 minutes of this game.
During the course of Silent Hill games you usually discover two things about the protaganist.
- They are dead
- They did something egregious in their life to warrant the punishment they must endure by being in Silent Hill
Within the first 10 minutes of Downpour the protagonist beats and stabs this guy in a prison shower.
I played that part again last night. It’s a pretty brutal scene, in my opinion. You are JUST STARTING the game and you know so little about what’s going on that you may as well be stabbing and beating an innocent man to death as he screams for help.
I MEAN REALLY BRUTAL, BARBARIC stuff going on here. There’s a cutscene with a knife sticking out of the guy’s shoulder. And you HAVE TO DO IT to progress. My theory is that this guy isn’t completely innocent, that there’s a reason why you kill him, but…damn. Hell of a way to start a game. You are THRUSTED into this moment with no backstory. Just stab and beat this man to death in a shower, listen to him beg for his life and scream for guards.
Silent Hill games are known for how disturbing they are – but I hadn’t felt that way playing a game in some time until I played this part of Downpour.1
Then I got to thinking, “what if we started like this?” What if, instead of Mortal Kombat’s cartoonish violence this kind of scene was what greeted players back in the early 1990’s.
We needed Mortal Kombat to happen so that we could have uncomfortable scenes like this. Mortal Kombat made things so over the top that they’re obviously unrealistic. But a scene like this one in Silent Hill Downpour isn’t so unrealistic.
I know what prison is like, man. I’ve seen Oz. THEY FED PEOPLE GLASS! This stuff happens.
Mortal Kombat let us take a leap so that scenes like this—disturbing, raw, harsh moments that could happen in the real world— can exist in today’s video games.
As I read this over it looks like I’m giving Downpour praise for making ‘brave‘ decisions. That isn’t my intention. I really just wanted to note how sick this part made me.
There’s only one other moment from recent gaming history that registered this same discomfort of me, (I’M TOTALLY GONNA SPOIL A MODERN WARFARE GAME RIGHT NOW) that part where in some Modern Warfare game you’re in a helicopter flying away from a nuclear blast, get caught in the blast radius, crash, and then die as the city burns. ↩
J.P. Grant finds the recent Mortal Kombat Kollection to be buggy and out of place in 2011.
…Mortal Kombat’s “gore” feels quaint now. The lightest tap results in a comical spray of pixilated blood. Being impaled on spikes now looks like exactly what it always was—the character model in its “prone” state, superimposed awkwardly in front of metallic rods, like a lousy green-screen special effect in a B-movie. The concept of the “Fatality,” the ritualized murder of a defeated opponent, might remain shocking in theory. But looking back on these finishing moves today, on the primitive art and goofy animations, the net effect is more Monty Python than Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
$10 to play online if you buy a used copy.
Interestingly, Warner Bros. doesn’t want customers to know about it. The publisher is not planning to acknowledge the online pass anywhere on the game’s packaging or promo material. Instead, it’s been quietly emailing retailers about it, just to let them know.
They know it’s a shitty thing to do.