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mikeyed avatar 11:45 AM on 11.28.2008  (server time)
That Reminds Me: Left 4 Dead & Kung Fu Chaos

Spending approximately 5 hours and nineteen minutes getting horribly thrashed attempting to complete the same last chapter in a game certainly affords one the time to fully appreciate the influences of this wonderful zombie busting action game. It combines the run'n'gun action of "Hunter: The Reckoning", while retaining the HL2-quality of an FPS. It's like a next generation Guantlet, yet without the overextended level design and ridiculous amount of levels as well. They obviously set out for one purpose, to make a simple, effective, and flexible (future DLC, no?) zombie masher and they accomplished it.

However, I think this game certainly contains some of the attitude of an old X-Box title from about five years ago. It plays like a simple button-mashing side scroller for some parts and then a series of mini games for other leveld, it secured itself a place in my heart as being a standalone example of creative and fun gaming. I bring up Kung Fu Chaos as an example not because it's also four-player, it's also deceptively long, or because I've played too much of either. I am mostly interested in its use of cliche and film.


It drives the characters, they're all the same characters you've seen everywhere else. Mysterious ninjas, fighting princesses, disco queen bad asses, biker dude burly bastards, and old grizzled warriors that should otherwise have their driver's licenses revoked for reckless driving had they not been shoved out back into the battlefield "one last time." It's so strange how this meme picks up, but Valve and Just Add Monsters understood the strength that such old rehashings can provide a game's structure and they did it despite the transparent reasoning behind it. (It's a lot easier than pretending to be creative).

What do they do so well?

However where cliche exists, originality can foster. Kung Fu Hustle creates such a bright and cartoonish world, I've forgiven it's flamboyant "evil director" character in favour of understanding and strongly appreciating the liveliness of the world it illustrates. Much like Okami, its bright colors and fluid design creates an impressionable world with cool bosses and a flurry of cinematic flourishes. The beginnings of each level are framed by a golden film grain and the director only demands exceedingly magnificent results each level, with the bar set higher for even greater rewards. This game builds from where others have only managed to achieve.

Not unlike Left 4 Dead, which somehow actually frames its levels the same way. This is a movie set and you are merely players shooting actors. However, the greatest performance of all comes from the zombies and the baddies that strike with such ferocity. As my brother and me stretched into our third hour of attempting to clear the last chapter of the second scenario, I began to understand my enemy's place. Specifically, the implications of each "boss" character.

A self-destructive glutton, a self-loathing witch, a vice-filled (literally, he's made of nicotine) strangler, a wrathful simpleton, and banal mass of passive consumers. The enemy is something to fight, because they might destroy you as much as you might become one of them. The player becomes the actor. The individual becomes the mob, or the destruction of the mob versus the individual as this case may be. This is a movie. You are merely replaying the action sequences. The end credits will roll. As they indeed do for the end of each Left 4 Dead "movie".

Where this leaves us?

Kung Fu Chaos and Left 4 Dead are movies in action. While the former creates a vivid cinematic experience each level, the latter sets the player versus various vixen and vermin with the intent to either end the movie with escaping survivors or just with the dead. Thus in using cliche to build their worlds, they manage to eek out some sense of a deep narrative that might have otherwise been lost in post prouction.

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