Developer: Idol Minds
Release Date: TBA 2007
PAIN will be seen by many as a marketing decision – a byproduct of the “Jackass” generation. Both perspectives are likely correct, but I see it as more of an amalgamation of the more irresistible elements from two of the most enduring franchises on the market.
The “bail” concept in Tony Hawk’s Project 8 (also seen in Amped 3) rewarded players for breaking bones and allowed them some control over the trajectory of their ragdoll skaters. And while human characters were not directly involved, the Aftertouch Takedown move in Burnout Revenge let players slow time down to a crawl and slide their recently totaled wrecks into oncoming traffic for maximum damage and ultimate revenge. Combine these elements with a generous helping of mimes and monkeys and you have a good idea of where PAIN is headed.
Expected later this year as a PlayStation Network downloadable title, PAIN is built upon the concept of “controllable chaos” – that is, being able to influence a potential event at a point in which it would otherwise be out of one’s hands. As a spiky-haired everydude, players will launch from a massive slingshot into an open world full of possibilities. Want to kick an elderly woman in the head? Go for it! Have a grudge against the dweeb in the furry mascot costume? Smash him into a brick wall!
As stated by Producer Travis Williams in his Gamers Day presentation, PAIN was born of a meeting between marketing and product development in which the teams examined what young people were looking for in their entertainment. Williams related his interest and amusement in the power of video-sharing sites to spread viral clips in which others are put in compromising or rather painful situations. Thus, PAIN was born, and according to Williams, the title is based upon five core concepts creatively concocted to benefit from the proven presentational power of alliteration.
Chaos leads the list, and with obvious reason – PAIN is all about using the human body to cause destruction in a number of ways. PAINdemonium is the single-player, sandbox-style mode in which players can openly practice their intended paths of destruction and earn points in the process. Once launched from the slingshot, players can “ooch” (nudge) the character in midair up to four times by pressing the d-pad in any direction. This allows the player to make adjustments or try to complete multiple tasks in a single shot.
However, PAINdemonium is really just a practice mode to prepare players for the humorous tasks found in Challenge mode, which is where Comedy takes center stage. Two challenges were on display at Gamers Day: Mime Toss and Spank the Monkey. In Mime Toss, a pale-faced mute suspended in midair must be grabbed and tossed at a scattered assortment of nearby windows. Spank the Monkey, on the other hand, drops a pair of primates at various spots in the cityscape and challenges the player to dispatch with both in a single shot (though they can be taken down separately). Goofy sound effects and animations fill every aspect of the game to maintain its light-hearted nature.
Competition comes in many forms, relying largely on the concept of one-upmanship. Not only are high scores uploaded to leaderboards, but outrageous replay videos can also be saved and uploaded to the PlayStation Network servers. The PlayStation Network also plays host to online play, including head-to-head action and co-op play. HORSE may find its origins in basketball, but the PAIN version tasks players with matching each other’s most amazing path of destruction. Like those old Michael Jordan/Larry Bird commercials, the lines get much more complicated as the battle continues: Off the donut, into the propane tank, up to the massive cereal bowl…
Creativity and Community come hand in hand, as Williams revealed that players might be able to influence the direction of the downloadable content. The producers at Idol Minds will troll the uploaded replay clips to find trends and unique ideas with which to focus additional modes and challenges. Additionally, Williams suggested that notable characters (including real-life celebrities) could be added to the mix if the community demands it. PAIN will ship with the downtown setting shown in the available screens, but future theme packs will up the ante with additional environments.
PAIN carries with it the hallmarks of most downloadable titles, including simplistic visuals and lowered production values, but for a minimal investment, the game has the potential to deliver entertainment in spades. If the community aspects work out as intended, PAIN could become one of the first mainstream releases to truly form itself around its audience and develop an ongoing experience that continually evolves with the demands of its users. Is this an amusing experiment in mass-market masochism, or just an excuse to act like a jackass? Assuming the end result is a good time, I doubt it really matters.
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