How I learned to stop worrying and love the bomb.
Look at this. It’s not a tiny worm, or an ancient example of cave man cursive, it’s the Ebola Reston virus, one of the most horrifically deadly organisms on the planet. Now look again, and notice how the picture, moments ago just a weird squiggle, is transformed by virtue of its lethality into something cryptic and ominous. Like the innocent light above an angler fish’s hideous maw, it’s easy to imagine if you looked long enough, you might see your own demise staring back at you.
Death has that effect on imagery, and that’s why some of the coolest looking things on the planet are the deadliest, like this, this and this little guy. Now, critters and instruments that are only lethal on small scales are still eerily fascinating, especially since you’re only one person. And really, some of these seem scarier than things like Doppler images of storms or pictures of deadly viruses, because maybe there are vicious dogs where you live, but no stray tropical storms. That you know of.
[image1]But there’s one image that really tops them all. It’s as abstract as a squiggle, as symbolic as the black widow’s hour glass, and yet representative of a force that could wipe out our entire species. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the mushroom cloud. Most recently, this striking image lent its megatons of visual power to a demonstration we saw of Vivendi’s upcoming PC RPG, World in Conflict.
When launched, the nuclear missile arcs in across the horizon like any other (the game is full of missiles), but when it hits, there’s a white-hot blinding flash, followed by an immense shockwave that bowls over trees and obliterates houses. All that remains is a huge, billowing cloud with a fiery core that slowly grows and blossoms into a distinct and beautiful mile-high mushroom. It’s a sight to behold, especially since it won’t burn your eyes out or disintegrate your body.
At first glance, (before you witness the game’s nuclear capabilities) World in Conflict is a not-so-auspicious strategy game that poses a simple question, “What if, instead of just ending, the cold war turned into World War III?” While this same question has been asked in different ways by all sorts of other video games, movies and books, Vivendi’s answer looks to be one of the most compelling.
[image2]Interestingly, the game is modeled after team-based online first person shooters such as Battlefield 1942, in that you assume a role or class, and work together with your teammates to capture strategic locations. But instead of playing just one man, you will play a regiment such as airborne, artillery, tanks, or infantry. You won’t have to build a base or mine for gold, either. Just like an FPS, your slain units will respawn. More specifically, their cost will be refunded to you, so you can immediately replace them with whatever units you desire.
Capturing strategic locations builds up another type of currency that can be used to purchase all manner of bombing runs, air strikes, and paratroopers. If a pesky forest stands between you and an enemy town, you can call in a napalm drop and burn it to the ground with a startling degree of flame-licked realism. And finally, if you build up enough funds, you can drop the bomb.
World in Conflict features a fully moveable 3D camera, so you can view this immaculately rendered phenomenon from a bird’s eye view, or a worm’s. I recommend seeing it from both, and several in between. While I’m not sure I recommend the game itself yet (only the review copy will tell), that explosion was the coolest thing I saw on a day full of Supreme Commander, Shadowrun, and Crysis. We’ll find out if this game’s killer beauty is more than skin deep when it hits store shelves this Spring.