Heavy Metal

Heavy Metal
We Are Heavy Metal

Jonathan Glover | 5 Jan 2010 09:10
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Decidedly less boob-infused was Capcom's Dreamcast brawler Heavy Metal: Geomatrix. Essentially a repurposed port of the publisher's other arena-based fighting game, Spawn: In the Demon's Hand, it was Heavy Metal in name only, a cheap cash-in whose violent cyberpunk exterior could have easily belonged to any number of musclebound shooters. It somehow managed to be a worse iteration on the Spawn title, with fewer characters and an unappealing aesthetic that made its precursor's world seem almost inspired.

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It's telling that one of Heavy Metal's videogame spin-offs looks totally derivative, because no medium has embraced the magazine's aesthetic like games have. While the anthology certainly didn't single-handedly create Frazetta-style heavy metal fantasy, it has been its torch bearer for over 30 years now. That signature combination of fantastical, dark settings and childish brutality, sexism and "baditude" have both helped and hindered the gaming landscape. It's made its way into innumerable titles, from Altered Beast to Devil's Crush, from Demon's Souls to pretty much everything Epic has done after Jazz Jackrabbit. There's even a little Heavy Metal in World of Warcraft, as any person that's ever spent an evening in the World's End Tavern in Shattrath City watching the The Artists Formerly known as Level 80 Elite Tauren Chieftain (or TAFKAL80ETC) jam out can attest to.

In a medium that works hard to legitimize itself, approaching conversations about racism in Resident Evil 5 or homo-eroticism in ... well, everything, with a groan-inducing air of Newshour seriousness, it's nice when everyone can take a step back and revel in the silliness of it all. In fact, two of 2009's best games did just that by presenting endlessly entertaining tongue-in-cheek summations of what makes Heavy Metal simultaneously enthralling and appalling: Zeno Clash and Brutal Legend.

Zeno Clash, the first-person fighting game by Chilean developer ACE Team, may very well have been based on a near-silent strip running during Heavy Metal's heyday, its psychedelic foreignness and graphic violence drawing comparisons to fellow director, writer and fellow Chillean Alejandro Jodorowsky. Jodorowsky, a constant collaborator with artist (and co-founder of Métal Hurlant publisher Les Humanoïdes Associés) Moebius, has a penchant for the violent, the sexual and the mental. Zeno Clash taps into the most primal elements of their collaborations, its beautiful Jim Henson's Creature Shop rejects crashing and gnashing under the equally exotic locales that earned the game a nod as a finalist for the 2009 Independent Games Festival's Excellence in Visual Art award. It's also self-aware, hilarious and happens to be rather disturbingly tit-filled, which I'd like to think is not a coincidence.

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