There was much crying and gnashing of teeth.
I am sick and tired of being told that I have to respect everyone’s beliefs. That is simply not true. What I should respect (and you better believe that I do) is your right to believe whatever crazy crap you want to. And that same freedom you get also guarantees me the right to make fun of you for thinking that invisible people live in the sky.
So let me be clear - Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Whatevers – you’re all nuts. There’s really no excuse for it. By the way, if any deities out there are interested, I’m the one wearing the lightning rod hat
[image1]However most of you get off lightly this time because it’s the Christians we have to blame for Left Behind: Eternal Forces
, a new real time strategy game based on the bestselling book series. A copy of the first book came with the game and I’m in the middle of it now. Combining turgid writing, Tom Clancy suspense, and frequent Lord-praising, the series
has managed to sell an astonishing 63 million copies, often topping the New York Times bestsellers list.
It tells the story of the Biblical end of times - Judgment Day
has come, and the Terminator is nowhere to be found. Instead, The Rapture happens and all the children along with Ned Flanders
disappear in an instant and ascend to heaven. In order to qualify, you not only had to be good, you also had to go to church every Sunday and
have Jesus in your heart. Everyone else like you and me gets left behind
to fight it out on Earth as the Antichrist mobilizes the armies of the world during the Tribulation. Then, after seven years of plagues, war, locusts, and general chaos, Jesus himself returns and the world ends.
I know, it sounds like a pretty good setting for an RTS. After all, Orcs, dragons, starships and Zerg aren’t real either, but they flesh out some very good games. Alas, if you’re imagining great armies of good and evil battling it out under a storm of meteors, think again. What you get is preaching on the street corners in New York City. Hallelu – oh, fuhgeddaboudit.
Although it doesn’t directly mirror the events in the books, many of the heroes from the novels appear in the game. These members of the Tribulation Force seek to convert both “neutrals” and the followers of the evil Global Community Peacekeepers. Wait a second, the evil side is called the Global Community Peacekeepers? Yep, and while they do include criminals and “pretenders”, their followers also include builders, nurses, doctors, and musicians. Remember, they’re folks just like you and me, they just haven’t been saved. They might even be Jewish.
[image2]Just like the books, most missions follow a predictable formula: you need to buy a training center and housing for your cult members – oops, I mean world saviors. From there, you turn them into singers and preachers at your church, and send them out into the streets to preach, sing and convert new cultists. Oops, did it again. You’ll also need banks to create wealth, and cafés to provide food. It’s practically a Rev. Sun Myung Moon
While bullets do fly, more important is “spirit” - the saved have it, everyone else doesn’t. As your units pray and sing, glowy spirit balls fly around between them. The evil rock musicians and nurses can counter with their own glowy balls of, uh, anti-spirit I guess, by playing the guitar or swearing (although you never actually hear any bad words). According to the game, every time you swear, a Christian loses faith. No fucking shit. Two down!
And when the glowy balls get thick (anytime a lot of people are on the screen), the game starts to seriously lag, and sometimes even crash. All your units look and dress alike once they’re converted (which is kind of creepy), and you certainly don’t need a cutting-edge graphics card. Still, someone went to a lot of trouble to accurately recreate a few sections of New York City, right down to the actual storefronts and, of course, wandering religious fanatics. I wonder if McDonalds’ and HSBC’s lawyers have discovered that they’re in this game yet.
Unfortunately, there are very few of these locations, and you’ll find yourself playing the same maps over and over, preaching on the same corners, buying the exact same buildings and turning them into banks and churches and hospitals all over again. It’s like the movie Groundhog Day
, but Punxsutawney Phil is played by Jesus.
The sound is oddly good in comparison with the rest of this title. The units get repetitive fast - I don’t think I’ve heard so many “Praise the Lords” in my entire life as I have in the last few days. But the soundtrack is excellent, a top-notch effort by video game soundtrack veteran Chance Thomas.
[image3]The real problem is that the game is frustratingly hard. The camera is wily, and the tall buildings of New York frequently get in your way. Even when you can send your little missionaries in the right direction, their faith is frighteningly fragile. Even your hero units, when confronted with a couple swear words or a wicked guitar lick start to question their faith like a Christian Scientist with appendicitis. Forget trying to convert someone to your religion while they’re shooting you with a gun. Lose even one follower to bullets or bad words and it's game over.
To add insult to injury, in between every level of you preaching and praying at sinners, the game turns around and preaches at you with its "Get Found" clues. These pages play Christian rock (with a convenient "Buy" button of course), while trying to convert you with dubious “facts” about evolution, Christianity, and the Bible. You’d think that a game based on the Bible wouldn’t have to add more Jesus commercials in the middle. Buy now or burn forever!
While it could have been an interesting premise for a game, Left Behind: Eternal Forces is little more than a not-so-special message from Jesus Christ. Its few bright spots just can’t save this sinner. Speaking of which, I’m sure there are a few of you out there praying for me right now. You don’t think I’m prepared for the second coming of Christ, but I am. You see, I’ve got a nail gun.