I was a kid once. If my faltering memory is to be believed, I wasn’t a very good one.
I suppose the real sign of growing up is realizing this about yourself, but the truth is that no matter how old I get, I will always have this unshakable feeling that I’m still a dumb kid at heart, the same dumb kid that drew Stussy symbols all over his Trapper Keeper and did bad karate during recess to impress girls that didn’t know his name. That kid lives on in his own way, reflected in every self-depreciating word I type, a subconscious spectre that looms over everything I create. For better or worse, it defines me, and this is, officially, one of the only things that I share in common with David Jaffe.
Though I can say I enjoyed my time with Twisted Metal unironically, I can’t say that I’ve had high expectations of the man for a while. After all, he’s responsible for Kratos, the most unlikable protagonist that video games will perhaps ever see. That’s where the disconnect started, for me. I could tell that there was no irony, no awareness. David Jaffe thought that Kratos was exceedingly cool, and in that moment I felt incredibly sorry for that man and the inner child that defined his work.
Playing Drawn to Death has done nothing to change this feeling. If anything, it’s made it worse.
My PS4 came with a free year of PS Plus. I’m fairly certain that I wouldn’t have the service if actually required to pay for it, since the mandatory multiplayer wall pretty much signaled the end of it having any real value to me. No longer did Sony need to offer quality freebies to justify the cost of the service when everyone suddenly needed it, which is why, most months, I download nothing, despite being deep into Sony’s ecosystem and owning a PS3, PS4, and Vita. Drawn to Death, as part of April’s promotion, seemed to offer, if nothing else, an experience comparable to a Gotham City Imposters, a game that was never going to have much in the way of a significant player base, but one that kept pulling me back for quick sessions whenever I needed some cathartic mayhem. I didn’t need it to be groundbreaking, I just needed to enjoy it.
As it turns out, Drawn to Death really really doesn’t like me very much.
Upon starting the tutorial, a wacky frog-man with all of the ‘tude of Poochy the Dog drawn by Rob Liefield showed up on the screen to tell me how to play a third person shooter, whilst stopping every few seconds to call me a doo-doo head or something. It was around the point that the game decided I wasn’t “extreme” enough to do a double jump that I honestly expected Jaffe himself to come through the screen and demand my lunch money. I suddenly had flashbacks to Duke Nukem Forever, a game that had no hope of being anything but behind the times, treating its protagonist as the ultimate Alpha Male in a time when the idea of such came off as incredibly insecure at best and downright lame at worst.
Drawn to Death is no different, asking you to ignore the last decade or so of evolution in the medium to engage with a joyless eyesore that constantly has to remind you of how cool it is, lest you forget long enough to realize you’re playing a below average shooter. It’s not edgy. It’s certainly not offensive. It’s just… kinda sad.