Ah, America. I hear it’s the land of the free and the home of the Whopper. Sure, it’s in somewhat deep shit over PRISM and several other scandals, but you can’t help but respect it for at least trying to make those scandals possible.
With that out of the way, it’s Independence Day here in the United States. You’re more likely to find a barbecue than productivity this time of year, so in the spirit of things, our reviews editor Andrew Esposito and I have decided to compile our top 3 patriotic games. These are games that will make Lady Liberty herself blush with shame for her relative lack of patriotism.
First up is Andrew Esposito:
3) Duke Nukem Forever
Let’s get this out of the way: Duke Nuken Forever is not a great game. Heck, it’s not even a good one. One thing is certain though: Duke Nukem is a true American video game icon. Right from the get-go, DNF has you cracking witty one-liners and sarcastic jabs at NPCs. One of the first things Duke says is “America, fuck yea.” (An obvious Team America: World Police reference).
There are three things Americans love: Boobs, blood, and explosions. Duke Nukem Forever has all three. From fighting the opening boss on a football field (America’s best sport), to the copious amounts of American flags littered throughout the game, DNF is a true love letter to America. We also like to play with our own poop.
Honorable mention (#3): Wolfenstein 3D – Take that, mechanized Hitler!
2) Metal Gear series
Say what you want about Hideo Kojima and the Metal Gear series, but the fact of the matter is that Kojima touches on some absolutely fundamentalist ideas about the world, society, and America. Take the original Metal Gear game, released in 1987 during the Cold War. The game dealt with the manipulation of soldiers by politicians of the East and West, countered by the concept of “Outer Heaven”, a country without politics. That’s a heavy subject to touch on in an 8-bit NES game, but Kojima does, and does it well. Politics are a pivotal part of American (and world) culture.
Since the original Metal Gear, Kojima has consistently made each one of his games address a certain theme. Take Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty for instance, a game ahead of its time. The game deals with how identity can be affected by the philosophies of one’s society (a ‘meme’) and the effects of censorship on society. Kojima was make memes happen before the Internet. A super prevalent topic in America is how one is shaped: through parents, media, advertisements, and politics. The game is a harrowing, mature view of American patriotism (and patriotism in general).
The Metal Gear Solid game that I think (and one day hope for) speaks loudest about society is Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker. Peace Walker deals with the true nature of ‘peace’, and the concept of conflict in human societies. There will always be conflict in society, but what if there wasn’t? What happens to a country if there were no armies? Could we all live in harmony and peace?
It’s funny that it took a Japanese developer to present the most mature view of U.S. patriotism in a video game.
Honorable mention (#2): The Call of Duty franchise: Take that, Germany and regular Hitler!
1) Grand Theft Auto IV
What is the American Dream?
That’s the question that drives Grand Theft Auto IV and the reason why it’s my “most patriotic game” of all time. The concept of the American Dream is fascinating. One of my favorite plays is Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman. There are many parallels between its main protagonist, Willy Loman and GTA IV’s Niko Bellick. The most important one is that they’re both searching for the American Dream.
Grand Theft Auto games have always had solid stories, but GTA IV’s is the best. GTA IV manages to say something valuable about immigrants and the American Dream. In the game, Niko Bellic, must choose between his Eastern European “old world” of blood and revenge, and the supposed promise of immigration to a “new world” of exploitation. However, it quickly turns out that these two things are mutually exclusive and equally tragic. In the end, Niko cannot have the best of both worlds.
People might disagree, but I believe GTA IV has one of the greatest endings of all time. The final decision of the game has Niko choosing to break his vow never to trust Dimitri again, to hang up his vendetta, (and make a large sum of money), or to use his knowledge of Dimitri’s location to hunt his enemy down and avenge his treachery. In the end it comes down to this: money or revenge.
If Niko decides to embrace the “Old World” code of honor and revenge, his love interest, Kate McReary, is gunned down at Roman’s wedding. If Niko turns his back on vengeance and adopts “New World” capitalism, Roman is killed instead. Kate, as Niko’s future for a new life, is the cost of holding on to his old values, while Roman, Niko’s beloved family and best living link to his old life, is the price paid for assuming the new mode.
The last scene has Niko standing over the bloody body of his final victim. It’s interesting to note that this final showdown takes place on the Statue of Liberty (or its equivalent in GTA IV). One of your companions turns to you and says, “You’ve won.”
It’s not until the credits finish rolling when you hear Niko Bellic utter the words that still haunt me to this day:
“So this is what the dream is like. This is the victory we longed for.”
… “So this is what the dream is like.”
Honorable mention (#1): Red Dead: Redemption – A story of the American West and how it was lost.
And now here are my picks:
3) Metal Wolf Chaos
I’m gonna keep this one short. Only released in Japan for the Xbox back in 2005, Metal Wolf Chaos represents what America is about: the President of the United States bursting through the White House while piloting a gigantic robot, flying Air Force One from a secret area underneath the reflecting pool in Washington D.C., riding a space shuttle and a broken heat shield back to Earth. ‘murica.
Honorable mention (#3): Homefront – a bland, yet promising, defense of our liberties.
2) Freedom Fighters
Originally released back in 2003, Freedom Fighters…well, just look at the title. I mean, come on. The game is set in an alternate timeline when the USSR gained power to the point of taking over New York City. Freedom Fighters tasks you, as a leader of the resistance, to push back the USSR threat.
While the game itself was, plot-wise, pretty formulaic, the execution was spot-on. The game was fun, and the “they’re invading our turf” theme meshes well with the 4th of July.
Honorable mention (#2): Duke Nukem: Forever – Pledge allegiance to the king.
1) America’s Army (series)
No matter what you say, I will still believe this is as American as it gets. A propaganda and recruitment tool for the Army, America’s Army is not your typical run-and-gun game; you need to think. It uses real military lingo, as well as strategies used in the United States Army. It teaches players the U.S. Army’s code of conduct, as well as emphasizes teamwork over individual achievement.
Get shot once or twice, and it’s “game over.” As such, friendly fire and collateral damage are not tolerated in the game. Perform well-enough, and you earn bragging rights…as well as a friendly visit from your local recruiter. Keep that in mind!
Honorable mention (#1): Fugitive Hunter – Re-live shooting Osama Bin Laden in the face, over and over again.
And there you have it, folks! For those in the United States, have a safe and happy 4th of July, and for just about everyone else…this is awkward. ‘murica.