The vast majority of videogames harbor a raging, barely concealable boner for violence. But it takes a special kind of violent videogame to step over that fine line into the realm of fetish porn: where violence is used for neither shock nor gore nor anything remotely resembling reality. Rather, the videogame snuff film aims to entice that primal, buried part of your sexuality that lusts after something without knowing whether you want to consume it, have sex with it, kill it, or some combination of all three.
That’s the Vampyr E3 trailer in a nut shell: the loving caress of a CGI-ed blood stream splattering across your face with the warm tenderness of a paramour. While certainly not the most expected followup from Dontnod, the same French team that brought you the heartfelt teen drama Life is Strange last year, Vampyr‘s bloodlust is only deliciously amplified by the studio’s dramatic left turn away from the innocuous and toward depravity. Brand consistency be damned. Vampyr is the crimson-soaked goth teen Max wishes she could have been, before abruptly realizing she’s a lot less “alternative” than she originally thought.
Vampyr follows the story of Jonathan Reid, a newly-minted vampire living in a 1918 London so desolate and diseased that Bram Stoker would feel at home in it. Harkening to the campy grit of Showtime’s Penny Dreadful series, the game takes a folkloric approach to horror. Adding a Jekyll & Hyde layer to the classic vampire gothic, Reid struggles with the duality of his own existence, “torn between the Hippocratic Oath he swore as a doctor, and the bloodthirsty need to kill due to the monster within,” according to publisher Focus Home.
While adding combat to the mix, Vampyr‘s biggest connection to Life is Strange comes through in its focus on choices that cause ripple effects in the story, both big and subtle. As a vampire, the player is forced to make tough decisions come dinner time, choosing who to feed on among the humans that inhabit the city. Every NPC is a potential target—or victim, depending on your vantage point. The people you kill lead to ramifications in the city’s ecosystem—murder a good doctor from a prominent hospital, and you’ll watch the body count from Spanish Influenza skyrocket.
While the game appears to be set up as another choice-driven moral quandary a la The Walking Dead, the preview launched during E3 yesterday suggests a more abject ethical backdrop. The trailer so thoroughly eroticizes blood and violence that I honestly blushed while watching it in public. Especially when, midway through, the camera pans adoringly over a suspended figure in climactic slow motion: a blade thrusting through the poor guy’s innards as blood spurts from his every orifice. Whoa there, Vampyr, you haven’t even bought me dinner yet. Can a girl get to know you first before she’s expected to “be down” with the hardcore stuff?