Ray Girvan sent me a link to this YouTube video, drawing my attention to the fantastic view of St. Paul’s, the Houses of Parliament, and Westminster Clock Tower at the end:
I’m unclear whether this is an official promotional video for the game or a fan effort. It looks official enough, but I can’t find a source for it online that confirms this impression. If it’s a fan machinima, it’s an interesting mashup1 of game footage and Finnish metal track (a German-language version of David Bowie’s Heroes).
The video is action-packed and it doesn’t look as though there’s much time for the thoughtful contemplation of the decline and fall of civilizations among the hail of bullets and mobs of demons from another dimension. The IGN review backs up this impression:
There is no shortage of combat in Hellgate: London, so from the instant you step into your first level, you’ll be fighting against a range of zombies, flying brains, gun-toting demons and pale ladies with electric tentacles. Every place you go is packed full of enemies who have nothing better to do that to sit around all day waiting for you to show up and kill them. In fact, you can barely walk twenty feet through London without being confronted with some sort of hellspawn that you can hone your skills on.
I’ll tactfully say nothing on the subject of footwear most appropriate for exploring ruins — much less performing acrobatics. And let’s stay of steer clear of discussions of the form-hugging properties of high-tech body armour. Still, it’s artfully constructed. It’s also utterly convincing as a metal promo video, for reasons that I can’t quite put my finger on. Maybe it’s something as simple as putting the song title and performers’ names at the beginning and end of the video. I have to admit (rather guiltily) that it brings out my inner metalhead.
A quick search using a Famous Unnamed Search EngineTM turned up some other promotional footage for the game. Gametrailers.com hosts a large collection of trailers and fan videos. Here’s one trailer showing some ruins around Covent Garden:2
This time, there’s no narrative holding these scenes together and the aim of the video seems to be simply to showcase the game’s locations, characters, and monsters. Oddly enough, in its presentation of these locations and their inhabitants, I think it has more in common with the ways in which, historically, we have viewed ruins of contemporary cities. The lack of action leaves us more room to reflect on the changes in places that we might know (e.g. “Oh! That’s Covent Garden Market. And that’s Covent Garden tube station. I met a friend there, once”).
Unfortunately, many (if not all) of the locations are apparently randomly generated and populated so as to make replay more rewarding. For me, as both someone interested in imaginary ruined London and a former Londoner, this is disappointing. I can’t re-visit and explore the places that I’m acquainted with.
But is this really a problem? How geographically accurate does a representation have to be, in order to communicate a sense of place? And do we expect geographical accuracy in other media? Anyone who lives in a city that is the setting for a blockbuster movie might have a good idea of what I mean. For instance, one can have endless fun comparing a famous city’s places as they’re arranged in a film with how they’re actually laid out.3 Does strict geographical and architectural verisimilitude actually matter?
Definitely, something that I’ll have to ponder …
1 If using only one video and one music source can count as a mashup. I’m more vague on my terminology than I should be, here.
2 I’m linking to a YouTube version of the video, so that I can embed it in the blog post more easily.
3 For instance, San Francisco residents might remember the short time that Harry Callahan has to run from ‘phone booth to ‘phone booth in Dirty Harry — and the remarkable distance that he actually had to cover in that time, if one locates the various landmarks on a map.