A Taste of Freedom: Four of Gaming’s Most American Patriots!
We’re right in the middle of what is ostensibly the season for outdoor grilling, popsicles, margaritas, blockbuster movies, and copious amounts of fireworks. Usually all in the same night. Fun stuff.
Well, that’s what it means when you live in a normal state, at least. Here in Florida, we’re dealing with the constant threat of tropical storms, the highest amount of lightning strikes in the US, humidity that makes a rainforest seem arid, and, something I’m only recently discovering, a state-wide ban on projectile-based fireworks. If it is a firework that flies in the air or explodes, you legally can’t use it. Boo!
The 4th of July has always been a fun holiday to prepare for. For me, the preparation and celebration means less “grilling and fireworks” and more “marathoning patriotic video games.” I mean, when you live in a state where a sunny day can turn into a storm within 10 minutes, you learn to stay inside pretty dang fast.
The video game world is no stranger to awesome displays of American patriotism. In celebration of the 4th of July, here’s a quick look at a few notable video game characters that are walking embodiments of the stars & stripes. For this small list, I’m going to eschew listing characters like Captain America and Superman and go with a few that you may not have thought of at first.
And if you did? That’s awesome! You have excellent taste!
1. Minuteman (Freedom Force)
Image Credit: Writeups.org
I first heard about Freedom Force on G4, back when G4 was actually a television channel (and a TV channel about video games, no less!). They always had a good knack for hyping up interesting games that normally wouldn’t get much of a second look from the press or the public. Freedom Force was definitely one of those games.
The game was developed by Irrational Games, the studio behind System Shock 2 and the BioShock series. In fact, Freedom Force was the company’s second game, released three years after System Shock 2. The game itself is a surprisingly deep strategy-RPG, done in the style of a Silver Age comic book. Despite the action-oriented presentation and the fast-paced setting that a comic book world would lend itself to, this is a straight-up slow-paced strategy game. You need to play it like that, or you’re probably going to have problems. That’s not a bad thing, though, if you’re into strategy-RPGs. Just know that you need to take your time, for the most part.
Every character in the game is a thinly-veiled tribute to some of the comic world’s best characters. You have characters like Man-Bot, who is a depressed and brooding Iron Man doppelganger, and The Ant, who is very much Spider-Man in appearance and personality. One of the hidden characters in the game is called Supercollider, which I’m fairly certain is a reference to the Tribe song of the same name. With two members of the band being active in the game’s development (and voicing some characters, no less!), that can’t be a coincidence. But, I digress…
In addition to the rest of the characters, you’ve got Minuteman, who is the first character you start with in the game, and the leader of the Freedom Force. He is definitely inspired by Captain America with a little bit of Superman in there for good measure.
Honestly, just look at that art up there. That art is glorious. That may as well have come from the pages of DC or Marvel in the 1970s. They absolutely nailed the patriotic style for the character, which is also hammered home by Minuteman’s cries of “For Freedom!” and “For Justice!” whenever you use one of his attacks in-game.
2. Rex (Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon)
Image Credit: Leviathyn
This definitely isn’t “retro”, but the game’s style certainly is. For those that are unfamiliar, Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon is a standalone game using Far Cry 3’s game engine, set in a post-apocalyptic future that is actually in our past, a la Escape from New York or The Terminator. The entire world is neon, video screens look like CRT monitors, and some of the cutscenes add in little touches like VHS artifacting. Practically the entire game is an homage to that awesome 1980s-early-1990s pop culture. To give an an example, the game’s shotgun is called the “Galleria 1991”, a subtle reference to Terminator 2.
Oh, and the protagonist, Rex, is voiced by Michael Biehn.
There is a segment partway through the game where one of the game’s supporting characters offers Rex various enhancements to his already-cybernetic body. He rejects them with an amazing display of early-90s patriotism:For those of you playing the home game, that’s a reference to the motto that appeared on nearly every arcade game’s attract mode in the early to mid-1990s.
3. Michael Wilson (Metal Wolf Chaos)
Image Credit: Mad Bracket Status. Also, check out the Best Friends video linked in the source!
This is an interesting one. This is a game about the President of the United States using a giant robot to take back the country from the backstabbing terrorist that just so happened to be your Vice President.
Can you get any more patriotic than that?
Metal Wolf Chaos was a bit of an anomaly. See, it was an original Xbox game that wasn’t released in the United States, despite being the most American thing in existence. See, the original Xbox was only really successful in North America, with minor success in Europe. In Japan, though? They hated the thing. The console bombed HARD in Japan. Historically, Microsoft’s ventures into the Japanese market haven’t been met with much success over their rivals of Nintendo and Sony, so it doesn’t quite make sense for Metal Wolf Chaos to only see release in the one country that probably wouldn’t appreciate it.
Despite the weird release, we now have the internet to thank for getting this game into the spotlight. And, oh, man. What a game it is. This game bleeds America.
Seriously. Look at this cover:
Oh, man. I’m not mad that I can’t launch fireworks anymore. Thanks, Wikipedia, for the sweet box art.
The game was developed by From Software, of Armored Core fame. They know a thing or two about robots and explosions. The game’s plot is ridiculous in a good way, the action is crazy-hectic, and the whole package just makes you really wish that this gem of a game didn’t stay over in Japan.
4. BJ Blazkowicz (Wolfenstein 3D)
Image Credit: Writeups.org
Not many people could break out of the prison of a labyrinthian castle made by the most evil architects of Nazi Germany. Significantly less people could even survive a day inside. Only one person could not only break out, but kill a guard and take his gun, and lead a one-man rampage against the Nazis and eventually kill their leader, who happened to be a cybernetically-enhanced Adolf Hitler.
That man is BJ Blazkowicz, protagonist of one of the pioneer games in the first-person shooter genre, Wolfenstein 3D.
Wolfenstein’s a game that is still perfectly playable today as it was when it was released. A lot of early 3D games didn’t age well, but Wolfenstein 3D bucks that trend heavily. It’s very much like its spiritual successor, Doom, in that regard. Sure, a lot of people who grew up with polygons and rocket-jumping may find Wolfenstein to be just a quaint reminder of the past, but if you’re seriously curious about the history of the first-person shooter, this is a historic installment that can instantly make you realize how and why the genre took off the way it did.
Fun fact: id Software’s Commander Keen series is directly related to Wolfenstein 3D. How so? Billy Blaze, the protagonist of Commander Keen, is BJ Blazkowicz’ grandson!