Franklin Raines’ FPS Tour of the Arts

A common aspect of playing shooters is how you often visit a locale only once. No returning to the burned out house set-piece from two hours ago to revisit an NPC, as most shooters like to make every area a sequestered bubble. My experience with most shooters is that you are expected to only run down that hallway or back alley once, unless you happen to get shot dead before you hit the next checkpoint. Certain games like Resident Evil 4 (whose action hybrid approach to gun fights make it an odd duck in this example) would sometimes have you backtrack for puzzles, but once you crossed that bridge to Ramon Salazar‘s castle, there was no returning to those lovely Spanish households.

First Person Shooters specifically are a great example of a quick type of game where you are rarely expected to sit and smell the flowers. Some FPS developers do try to get their players to appreciate the atmosphere though.  A way that developers utilize in order to get the player to slow down their gun reloading is by simply placing detailed things on the wall. They know players like to speed through their campaigns, as FPSs lead themselves to quick gameplay. I decided that with all the late 90’s and early 2000’s FPSs I have been playing lately that I owed it to you readers to give you a tour of some of the better (or at least odder) art I’ve found at the end of my gun barrel. Let’s call it “Franklin Raines’ FPS Tour of the Arts”, at least until I can think of/patent something better.

The first stop on our tour is the future-scape of the early Mega City One level from RebellionsJudge Dredd: Dredd vs. Death. In this graphically messy, but still sort of charming early 2000’s FPS, you get to play as my beloved Judge Dredd. Tasked with protecting civilians as top Judge, you switch between alternating the six or so magazines of your trusted Lawgiver Mark 3. Fighting Mega City One’s roaming bands of thugs and plot-relevant vampires pales in comparison to the artistic expression of the cities’ gang of graffiti artists known as the Scrawlers. Feast your eyes on this glorious piece of social commentary.

Look at how it lovingly takes a stab at Mega City One’s totalitarian police regime. Judge “Pink’s” shimmering glare and stoic pink underwear make mockery of the…already pretty goofy looking Judges, whose in game appearance still uphold the traditional navy and poppy green from the 70’s comic.

Some Scrawlers like to keep it simple and take to the practical defacing route. Since the male and female Judges often look identical with their uniform helmets, I am just going to pretend that this is a mustache and goatee combo on a Judge Lauran or Judge Candice.

Yet, the most interesting of all of these Scrawler expressions come in the form of foreshadowing the arrival of Judge Dredd’s greatest terror, Judge Death. Death and his companions, the Dark Judges, reign from a parallel universe where they deem life as the biggest crime of all. In game, the Dark Judges look more like comical villains from an awesome late 90’s Saturday morning cartoon that never existed, but this one piece of underground vandalism gives a nice insight in to what the Dark Judges mean to Mega City One’s youth. A single showpiece that beats all the fashionable death cultists found later in the game.

Moving away from the not-to-distant future of Mega City One to a place where time is but an ever-changing collection of set pieces and enemy designs. That’s right, we are stopping by the Purgatory that grizzled protagonist Daniel Garner combats in People Can Fly’s Painkiller. Purgatory is a realm where the towering generals of Satan can roam near a 1930’s military base or a bright modern Venetian city. Now I could possibly write an entire article on how much thought went into the architecture design of Painkiller’s Purgatory (using fantastic examples like this and that), but I will keep it to paintings this time. For the sake of not making this article to long, I am also postponing our stops at the ax-wielding Lutheran monk and fire skeleton spirit filled Atrium Complex and Cathedral to focus on Purgatory’s most lavish gathering spot, the Opera House.

Bear witness to Purgatory’s home of high class and fancy culture. The Opera House nicely encapsulates Purgatory’s general approach to aesthetics; where a mishmash of elements like ninjas with blow-darts and samurai spirits with katana feel right at home with fine European art. I did promise not to harp about the architecture, but the Opera House appears to be based on the Teatro Argentinia Opera House inspired by a baroque painting by Italian painter and architect Giovanni Paolo Panini. Fitting, as the Opera House is filled with real baroque paintings.

Who could this mysterious woman in the painting be? Could this be a visage of Daniel’s heaven bound wife Catherine; Daniel’s sole reason to continue his fight against Satan’s army?

This piece, entitled The Card Players, was done by Flemish artist Théodor Rombouts. I will let your imagination work out how many lifeless bodies of old samurai spirits are but mere feet below this perched painting.

But just like the graffiti we saw in Mega City One, Purgatory’s Opera House has also experienced defacement and vandalism. A great example is this graffiti mocking a flipped image of 17th century French artist Claude Vignon’s piece, A Youth Singer.

The worst vandalism includes simple destruction and removal of paintings from their frame, hinting of a small narrative of centuries old vandalism.

Last on our tour is the train station of another future city, one called Avernus, set on the planet Cronus in Monolith‘s Shogo: Mobile Armor Division. The protagonist is a brash mech-unit pilot and military commander Sanjuro Makabe, whose planet consists of what a bunch of 90’s anime dorks (like me) thought a world influenced by a love of Neon Genesis Evangelion and Patlabor would look like. What does that mean from an art standpoint? Well, the artistic approaches found in the tons of advertisements featuring 90’s anime girls plastered on them, of course!

I wanted to start with my favorite one first, as we can see that in the Shogo: Mobile Armor Division universe, Ghost in the Shell’s Major Mokoto Kusanagi reps C-Silver cigars like a champ. Now, I too wonder what a cyborg like the Major could gain from C-Sliver’s bold smooth flavor, but maybe that’s best left up to the imagination.

Once again the pretty allure of sparkling eyes promotes the C-Silver glory. But don’t think that C-Silver actually doesn’t have a market choke hold on this whole “anime girls sell your marketed vices” as it would appear. Let’s take a look.

Ah ha! It appears that local bars are also getting in on the anime girl craze, as they seem to be mirroring C-Silvers’ approach.

Even Avernus’ night life has found the way of least resistance by calling upon the anime girl. Truly Avernus must live in a golden age.

Thus concludes our tour ladies and gentlemen. I hope you found this either enlightening or entertaining, but most of all, I do hope you discovered something new and different.

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