Earlier in April, we heard about Konami taking on a new game: Six Days in Fallujah, by Atomic Games. The news sparked some controversy, mostly in the UK, but we really didn't have much to go by.
Atomic Games seemed genuine enough, claiming that they wanted to produce a video game based one of the bloodier incidents in the ongoing Iraq War to provide deeper insight into "a history situation."
Creative director Juan Benito later explained, "We want people to experience something that's going to challenge them, that's going to make them think and provide an unprecedented level of insight into a great military significance."
Sounds innocent enough, right?
Turns out this game might not be the most realistic portrayal of war after all, as game journalist Nick Breckon found out at Konami's Gamer's Night for the press.
At the event, Konami and Atomic Games introduced Six Days in Fallujah with brief talks and in-game footage. They even got USMC veteran Michael Ergo to talk about his own account of Fallujah, retelling the story of that frightful day when his life nearly ended. Breckon found himself moved and thought perhaps this game would be something different after all -- a serious and mature take on war:
The video began with what some marketing executive might call a "sizzle reel" of footage from the Iraq war. Trucks exploding from IEDs. Shrapnel from a blown-up building rifling off like bullets. Some kind of hip-hop/rock blasting. A few Marines fading in to recall their memories of battle. Title cards that said things like, "Experience the most intense battle of the 21st century." One Marine: "This is the opportunity to tell our story."
Afterward, Atomic Games CEO Peter Tamte came out to show some footage from Six Days in Fallujah. The first scene consisted of soldiers in an Iraqi street when an Iraqi alerts hostiles to their presence. Commence shooting and that sort of thing, followed by the realization that realism has taken a backseat from the start.
Despite previous assurances that Six Days in Fallujah would be a different kind of war game, the presentation suggested this was going to be just another cheap form of entertainment capitalizing on real-life controversy:
In fact, from what Konami showed us, Six Days is far closer to Gears of War than America's Army. It has the same Gears D-pad weapon selection, the same style of cover system, and the same action-oriented gameplay.
In another clip, the player broke off from his squad, crouched up behind two insurgents who were firing on US soldiers, and took them out from a few feet away like some kind of renegade commando. I may be ignorant of this particular battle, but I've certainly never heard of any Army ninjas breaking off from their squads and capping insurgents solo. Maybe something like that has happened once or twice; either way, the videogamey nature of the moment seemed entirely out of place.
Gears of War? Talk about breathtaking realism! Epic's blockbuster console shooter may not be the only war game out there totally veiled in sensational gore, but such titles walk that fine line of sci-fi (or fantasy) and reality, taking great care not to stumble and fall into the pit of angry protestors and anti-game advocates. Seems like Konami and Atomic have no interest in keeping their feet clean.
"We're not pro-war," Konami marketing VP Anthony Crouts stated before. "We're not trying to make people feel uncomfortable. We just want to bring a compelling entertainment experience. At the end of the day, it's just a game."
After the demonstration, a skeptical Breckon was left wondering just what Konami was thinking. The marketing ploy here is shamelessly blatant, and even a gamer like Breckon found himself slightly offended by the publisher's schemes:
Calling the game "Iraq War Rampage," and lending it the standard shooter setup and exploitative marketing, would be one thing. By picking a specific battle, claiming some level of historical accuracy, and using the faces of real Marines to market the game, Konami and Atomic have created the expectation that Six Days will represent a portrait of warfare that is a good deal more mature than that of Contra. And judging from this early glimpse, there is little evidence of that promise.
... I wondered how any Marine that got shot in Iraq could endorse a game based on Fallujah where you can be hit by a hail of bullets and walk away.