The Unfortunate Life of a Video Game Animal
It would seem that Peta have already picked sides in November's battle of the FPS giants, having taken EA to task on the optional killing of a rat in Battlefield 3. An official press release from the animal rights group has branded the game "sadistic" for giving the player the option to stab-up a rat with a combat knife. Apparently, the murdering of animals in video games can encourage young males to harm them in real life as “Inspiration for these acts (real life harming of animals) often come from movies and computer games".
In their infinite wisdom, Peta have decided that young males struggle to make a distinction between virtual and real, and are more than happy to act-out what they have seen on their PS3 and 360s. Now before I go and shoot my friend in the head and attempt to pass through a wall, I thought I'd celebrate this monumental press release with a blog post. The truth is that Battlefield's rat is just the tip of the iceberg, as we have been abusing video game animals for years. Here are some prominent victims.
Fable 2, Resident Evil 4 and 5
Chickens have a rough time of it in video games. Fable 2 positively encouraged you to kick seven shades of shit out of them with a delightful Chicken Kicking contest, which rewarded you for the accuracy of your chicken punts. They also drew the short straw in the last two canonical Resident Evil games. From zombie chickens to golden egg laying hens, there is no better way to waste a clip of precious ammo than emptying it into a bird and letting every zombie in the vicinity know exactly who is boss. Clearly Chris didn't get those biceps by letting chickens do what they want.
Final Fantasy series
Chocobos, an ostrich/emu type hybrid, have populated the universes of Final Fantasy for decades. Their colour and form has changed over the years, but one thing that has remained constant is that, when in captivity, they lead pretty miserable lives. They are pushed to exhaustion on race tracks, forced to transport a party of warriors across huge distances and even tricked into living on a bizarre sex farm, where they are forced to mate with each other over and over again until they produce offspring with a bit of colour, with only a nut for stimulation. On top of all that, they are the mount of choice for knights heading off to war. This partnership of man and beast doesn't always end well, as seen in the rather gory opening cut scene for Final Fantasy Type 0, where one chocobo is offed in a most miserable way. Moogles don't know how good they've got it.
Anything with a pulse
Red Dead Redemption
Red Dead Redemption is a hunter's wet-dream, and unlike Resident Evil there is actually a reward for the slaughter, as you are able to skin animals and sell their pelts and meat to local merchants, who will buy pretty much any old crap. Quarry ranges from the defenceless to the dangerous such as wild cats and bears that will bring down your horse and chomp on your jugular, if given half the chance. There is even a trophy for wiping out the last buffalo, a nod to their near extermination at the hands of commercial hunters in the nineteenth century.
Horses have it pretty rough in RDR, and I lost count of the number of trusty steeds I lost during the course of the game. Some were shot from under me, some fell to their deaths and others became a meal for a dangerous predator. The most regrettable end that befell one of my horses was death by rabbit hunting, as I accidently put a bullet in the back of her head whilst trying to shoot Thumper with a buffalo rifle. As upsetting as that was, it paled in comparison to my tearful final encounter with a Yeti, which I'll refrain from spoiling here for those of you who are yet to play Undead Nightmare.
Timesplitters 2 and Future Perfect
Timesplitters is the home of simian carnage. Monkeys are playable characters throughout the celebrated multiplayer modes, making appearances in numerous forms from ninjas to Robocop. The Monkeying Around challenges from TS2 and FP see these cheeky monkeys being abused in ever inventive ways. One challenge has you setting alight to as many of them as possible, another shooting watermelons off their tiny heads much like William Tell, only with access to a more exotic green grocer. My personal favourites include simian clays, where a steady stream of monkeys are fired into the air for you to shotgun to death, and Brass Monkeys, which is an elaborate game of curling on a frozen lake, where monkeys stand in for the polished stones. It may sound cruel, but they really do seem to enjoy themselves.
Metal Gear Solid 3
Snake is a very hungry man, and the occasional Calorie Mate will not satisfy his appetite. Pushing through the undergrowth, he is an opportunist hunter who will catch and store local fauna to devour at a later date, though most foods will rot if left in your inventory too long. His personal favourite is snake - the game is called Snake Eater after all – being in plentiful supply and offering a large health boost. Most things are fair game, as noted by the Bond-esque title track where Cynthia Harrell croons "Someday you feed on a tree frog", and fortunately the man who would become Big Boss is not a fussy eater - one of his many redeemable qualities.