I am a super villain. I am a Demigod. Let me talk about my powers. I can summon guns from thin air; almost any gun you can imagine, in any colour, loaded with any ammunition. I am almost immune to bullets and my wounds knit themselves together when I am shot. I can turn myself invincible and make my bullets explode and my gun, whichever gun I am holding, never runs out of ammunition or needs to be reloaded.
I am playing Army of Two: The Devil’s Cartel.
I am running through Mexico and I have little to no idea why. Something to do with the war on drugs. A woman, referenced earlier in the plot. An evil masked man. A noble politician and his corrupt opposition. It’s all just chaff, just noise, drowned out by the relentless THUMP THUMP THUMP of my full-auto shotgun, everything firing too fast and too loudly to make sense.
When I pull the trigger, my shotgun fires all eight rounds almost at once. It is perfect. It might as well be loaded with one shell eight times the size. It is made of silver, polished silver, and it glints in the evening sunlight as I move through legions of men dead at my hand.
EARNEST IN ITS BADNESS
Sometimes the characters talk to each other, or me, and it is like someone has drawn faces on some guns and is waggling them around whilst muttering under their breath. It is ridiculous, childish, almost earnest in its badness.
I have a vintage M1 rifle, modified to fire explosive bullets that shear off heads and legs and send men spiralling out from cover, dead before they hit the ground. The bodywork is crafted from ivory, fine and white, and can you believe as I selected that option I thought “Gosh, that’s a bit controversial isn’t it” after I had spent ten hours scything my way through half of Mexico’s young male population.
The politician is dead. He was our last connection to any semblance of plot, an anchor we have lost forever. We are cast adrift in a sea of absurdity. I think we are in the fifth act by now in a story that needed two to get everything across; here is bad man, shoot him face, great victory. Not this. I think I am supposed to care.
Buildings fall down with a terrifying regularity; these are people’s homes that I am destroying. The city trembles at our touch. There is an achievement for killing 200 men in one single sitting; for one burst of the thirty-second Overkill power that makes us invulnerable to harm and gives us unlimited ammunition. That is too many men, even wicked ones, as these men supposedly are. If we were officially employed by the military, we would be tried for War Crimes, I am sure.
My name is Alpha, and I am the first. My personality trait is: Serious. My friend’s name is Bravo, and he is the second. His personality trait is: Headstrong. That is all. We have no other names. Everyone else in the game gets names. We are presumably clones, created in some vast massed ranks of vats, spat out for the TWO Mercenary Corps to spit into combat.
(Perhaps I am actually a clone and when we die we are not checkpointed but memory-inserted and plunged into combat, our masks recording every relevant instance of our lives, writ hot and new on the vat-wet brainflesh of some mad-eyed double. It would explain how our tattoos keep changing in between missions when we purchase new ones at “The Armoury,” an inter-dimensional space that we are somehow able to access by sheer will and weight of spare money alone.
I have earned $175,000 in the last two weeks. There is no Retire option. There is nothing to spend my money on other than guns and armour and protective masks and things to stick on my guns and tattoos, I suppose, which would perhaps impose some personality on us but the very transience, the impermanence of their nature, negates that utterly)
My partner is wearing a Viking mask. I am wearing official Skullcandy branded gear, a t-shirt and facemask/headphones combination, which sets off my ivory and silver guns perfectly. I have killed a thousand men dressed like this. I am at work. It is my uniform.
We exchange banter. At one point my partner brings my sexuality into question, suggesting that I am gay, because that is hilarious. He laughs and I do not, because Serious.
A boss arrives, or rather, we chase him down, through barrios, through slums, through graveyards, through places where a quiet war has existed for years unseen and we are merely adding to the tumult. He has a machete. In a cutscene, earlier, he used another enemy guard as a human shield. He is a Badass Motherfucker. He is taller and tougher than everyone around him.
And yet; I am invincible. I have infinite ammunition. I have a Viking friend. The boss appears in a doorway and I activate my Overkill power and run towards him, finger on the trigger, my shotgun firing dragons-breath flame rounds impossibly fast, never stopping. Around ten a second. I am become a dragon, an unbeatable thing, a tongue of flame that burns through everything in my path. I see myself on my partner’s screen for a second, pissing fire into the twitching corpse of this Machete Man and I think that I look ridiculous, that my existence is camp only by accident and then only in scant glimpses, that I could be so much more with a self-aware team at the helm.
The boss never got to act because the game forgot, I think, it forgot that it gave me the ability to turn invincible and stunlock my enemies until they die. There is an undeniable joy to this, a brief and glittering thing, that melts as soon as it is observed; overwhelmed with shame, perhaps, and disappointment at the ease of it all.
I break the rules of the world without trying, without cheating. I am a god, for sure.
It is all noise and bluster, an unending drumroll for something more important yet always unseen, the sense of manufactured import for the sake of gravity not tethered to any narrative. I have not finished the game yet, but we are powering towards something that looks like an ending; the third ending so far, by my count, so I would not be surprised if it ramped up the action again and switched us out to punching buildings with other buildings, using trains as hand weapons, wall-running off the face of a Titan, etc.
The only way from here is up and my face is already pressed sideways against the ceiling.