The new CD-ROM games Blood (GT Interactive) and Redneck Rampage (Interplay) are the "Dumb and Dumber" of the action genre. Just when you thought bloody shoot-'em-up games had gone too far in adolescent humor and senseless gore, these titles go even further.
For whatever reason, hard-core computer gamers get their biggest thrill from killing monsters and opponents. From Doom to Duke Nukem to Quake, the first-person shoot-'em-up has reigned supreme, giving players an arsenal of rocket launchers, plasma guns and grenades to blow away the baddies. Each game and its many copycats include the same basic formula: You run around a futuristic world, grabbing weapons and health bonuses, looking for keys to doors and killing anything that moves.
Duke Nukem 3D took the prize for childish humor, with a main character who comments wryly as you flush a toilet, or hands dollar bills to erotic dancers so you can see their bit-mapped upper torsos. The funny thing was that the game was built on a 2-D engine, so much of the landscape looks flat. Both Blood and Redneck Rampage were built from the same Duke engine, meaning much of the action and interface look similar.
But Blood's environment is much darker, with zombies, monks and gargoyles as your enemies, and flare guns, TNT and flaming aerosol cans in your arsenal. The supposed "improvements" in the game include heads that pop off of monsters, which you can then kick around the room until the eyes pop out. Blood spurts out of every limb, with a huge fountain coming from beheaded creatures. And when you kill an opponent in head-to-head matches, on-screen messages read that you "sodomized" your rival, the language sometimes more vivid.
Blood's developer, Monolith, walks a tightrope of hypocrisy. On one side, the company is glib, with CEO Jason Hall bragging, "Blood is easily the most violent game ever created." In one interview with CNET's GameCenter, Monolith game developer Nick Newhard says he hopes there's a backlash from church groups. Hall points to parental locks available in the game to block violence, but then stresses, "The game is for the genre's primary audience, not for children."
Companies like Monolith make millions of dollars from the action genre's real audience, teenage boys, then keep mothers happy by putting "Mature Only, 17+" stickers on boxes. These games are available as free shareware, so anyone on the Internet can download the first few levels.
If Blood is the penultimate in violence, then Redneck Rampage is the peak, or rather, valley of stupidity. As with Blood, the background story makes little sense. You are on the way home from the county fair when your champion pig is abducted by aliens. You basically shoot up the town of Hickston, Ark., using crowbars, shotguns and dynamite to kill huge mosquitoes and pot-bellied rural denizens. The story seems to be an afterthought so that you are supposedly killing aliens instead of humans.
Every stereotype is on display: You pick up moonshine and pork rinds for health, and hear enemies drawl, "I'm a-gonna getya!" Though it does have a certain charm to it, Redneck Rampage gets old fast. The special features include an alien arm with a cannon fused to it, and the ability to shoot turds in a sewage treatment plant. Low-brow gaming has certainly gone beyond the gutter and into the sewer.