2, Issue 6
December 14, 1999
if painfully aware of just how far from the physical world they
are, video game cinematics are always striving to be a fleshier
part of our privileged third dimensional perspective. A major
goal of most games is to wow the audience with its ability to
mimic the everyday, a desire complicated, ironically, by the added
want of creating an arena for fantasy play. I suppose that a triumphant
game design is one that brings to life the unreal at the heart
of the real: the world made wonderfully strange.
sports games, however, are the big exception; there the drive
for realism is not linked to a further desire to shadow that reality
with the impossible. Altering this formula casts the game into
a kind of genre limbo. Is it competitive or comic? Realistic or
2 Rumble, a new sports game for the Sega Dreamcast, is centered
around a boxing match, one made to look both familiar and oddly
alien. The designers seem to be taking a cue from a real-life
cartoon, professional wrestling. Pro wrestling is a programmed
distortion of reality, a soap opera in the coliseum emblazoned
with explosions, theme songs and rivalries. The human body is
portrayed as able to sustain violence on an apocalyptic scale,
battered and bloodied by punches that never connect. Wrestlers
are themselves walking distortions, sweating animations sculpted
by meat hooks.
is boxing seen through the color encrusted eye holes of a Mexican
wrestlers mask. By manipulating proportion, the creators
subvert an otherwise life like atmosphere...at least in the opening.
is a salad of cuts put to music, nothing more and nothing less
but still interesting. The poor jerk whose career now consists
of those endlessly repeated five words llllllllets
get ready to rumbbbblllleee gets us started, arm spread
wide in an indicting gesture as his smile cracks across his face
with that same kind of glee that a corpse might show if you ran
electric current through it. Throughout the stadium the fighters
prepare: in the dark of the locker room, in the circling walkways,
in the spotlight of the ring. There are four men: a Mike Tyson-esque
no neck type, a blond Doc Savage wannabe, a drippingly oversized
behemoth and a grooving slickster with a mighty afro. Each is
cast in the light of the Dreamcast design, a creepy realistic
definition that makes them all look carved out of butter and beef.
Each preens as a chorus of women in bathing suits chants the ready
to rumble theme, a faux club track with the standard rap mantra
cum claxon alarm cry hoo, hoo thrown in for good measure.
The fighters dance around, nodding to the crowd and sparring with
invisible enemies before finally coming face to face in a rapid
fire series of rocketing blows.
I do not want to oversell this bit. There is nothing of substance
here, only a clever use of montage...but clever it is and therefore
deserving of praise. The editing is quite good, something rare
in even the narratively simplest of game openings. The cuts synch
well with the pop and slide rhythm of the music, limbs and hunched
shoulders inter cut with banner waving girls, a spectacle by way
of a laughing Francis Bacon. Rumbles figures are both animated
and real, the announcer and the girls mapped onto the game from
the physical world of image, looking like bleached holograms.
fighters are interestingly imagined, something about them both
blocky and graceful. They are cartoons who have skinned humans
and donned that fleshy costume, stretching it to fit their unreality.
Their movement is smooth yet not inhuman, almost lethargic like
a profound gravity sinking the fantasy to earth.
2 Rumbles cinematics are not the product of any deep consideration,
but are a clever play on the grotesque. The creators place distortion
in the service of reality and send the whole thing off on a popish
spin. Like a kaleidoscope pattern, its simply enjoyable
Joshua Vasquez is the resident film critic here at loonygames.
He also writes for the Internet film site Matinee