You’re about three quarters of the way through the latest AAA action game and you’re tired of shooting the same bad guys over and over again. Suddenly, a third party enters the fray and starts killing your enemies for you. Pretty sweet, huh? But then you realize they also want to kill you. Not so sweet.
This has become a popular trend in gaming (stemming from literature and cinema most likely), and it arises in the same way almost every time. There’s nothing inherently wrong with adding variety to a game in the form of a new enemy type. It is rather curious however that the “three faction mentality” seems to permeate the action genre these days, as if mandated by some unwritten law. Let’s take a look at just how prevalent this phenomenon is.
10. The Flood
In the Halo series, the main antagonists are the alien race known as the Covenant. After killing thousands of Covenant, you eventually run into The Flood, a parasitic lifeform that infects other living beings. These Flood don’t have any allegiances, or a mind of their own for that matter. They are controlled by a sentient being known as the Gravemind, who for some reason is able to communicate with Master Chief and arranges for him and the Flood team up against the Covenant forces in Halo 3. The Flood have the dubious honour of being one of the most hated enemies in gaming, not because of their evilness but because of how fucking annoying they are to combat. You can guess that it’s a godsend when you end up in the same room as them and they’re on your side rather than on your ass.
9. The Lambent
The Gears of War series sees future humans in a desperate battle against the Locust Horde, who are (surprise) ugly aliens looking for a home. The Locust are apparently locked in a civil war of their own, as the Lambent Locust (Locust exposed to Imulsion, a.k.a “all dat juice”) seek to overthrow the queen or something. This was only touched upon briefly near the end of Gears of War 2 when you notice the civil war happening in the background. This angle will most likely be explored further in Gears of War 3; if not, then Epic Games have curb-stomped and spit in the face of its humans-vs-aliens shooter brethren.
8. Spanish mutants
Wise-cracking treasure hunter Nathan Drake subsists on a steady diet of gun-toting pirates, but even he needs to broaden his palate every now and then. In Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, you think you’ve had your fill of pirates when some ghastly creatures crawl out of the depths of hell to torment you and anyone else standing in their way. In the way of what, exactly? Do they want treasure? Sweet human flesh? Or maybe they just want to be loved. In any case, do what you will to them. Just don’t call them zombies.
7. Shadow Company
No one knows who they are exactly except that they are shadowy and often found in groups—companies, if you will. It doesn’t really matter who they are, because in Modern Warfare 2, red cross-hairs means you can kill it. On one side, you have your arch-nemesis Makarov’s men and on the other, General Shepherd’s other elite fighting unit besides Task Force 141 of which you are a part but not really anymore since he used you and now he’s going to win the war for America which is good but you must stop him because he’s bad. If your mind is done boggling, the lesson to take away here is that in a battle between America and Russia, Britain wins.
Not one to stoop to the same trite levels as its predecessor, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves takes the high road and replaces supernatural cursed humanoids with…supernatural indigenous humanoids. When first introduced in the Himalayas, they appear to you as super-powered Yeti things, which is pretty frightening in and of itself. But there’s a perfectly scientific explanation for them: the super-powered Yetis are actually super-powered humans in disguise. Mystery solved! Yeti or not, they will protect the sacred MacGuffin from you and your treasure-hunting rivals and die trying.
A.k.a. Trashbaggers, a.k.a Transients, a.k.a Hobos With Shotguns, the Dustmen are bulkier and hardier versions of the scrub-type enemies known as Reapers in the sandbox action game Infamous. They use the same tactics the Reapers use, including knowing exactly where you are at all times in a huge city and shooting wildly in your direction from miles away. Though they seem cut from the same cloth, they’re not exactly best buddies with the Reapers, as evidenced by their frequent street wars you drop in on from time to time. Once you gain access to the third island, you encounter yet another new threat known as the First Sons. They also get into fights with the Dustmen. They also shoot at you wildly from miles away.
Engineer Isaac Clarke has more than his hands full with Necromorphs in Dead Space 2; he’s also got regular-ass humans after him. Director Tiedemann and his security force on the space station Sprawl are intent on stopping you from doing whatever it is you’re doing, which is killing a lot of Necromorphs, an obvious threat to the security of the Sprawl. Justice is served later on in the game when a group of highly trained badasses get their asses handed to them badly by a horde of Necros while a single unassuming engineer dusts off his shoulders like it ain’t no thang.
What? Again? Wait, this isn’t Uncharted 2. The Guardians in question are winged alien/insect things with teleportation powers from the FPS/RPG hybrid Borderlands. What are they guarding? It’s not entirely clear, as the only thing I got out of entering the Vault was shooting the shit out of a giant monster. Not even the loot you got for killing it was worth that nonsense. Of course, a human faction known as the Crimson Lance is also keen on entering the Vault, and your job is abundantly clear: kill them and the Guardians while they fight it out with each other.
2. Big Daddy
In Bioshock, these hulking diving suit-wearing brutes have only one allegiance: the Little Sister (creepy clone girl) to whom they are bound. That is, until you earn enough Adam (currency) to buy yourself the Hypnotize plasmid (power) and get the Big Daddy (large father figure) to fight on your side. By chance, you may happen upon a Big Daddy already fending off a group of Splicers (regular enemies) in the halls of Rapture (underwater city) and you can sit back and relax while he does the work for you. Of course, maybe the Big Daddy has been inside you all along…no wait, that giant drill was burrowed into your torso just seconds ago.
Aliens and humans. Humans and aliens. For as long as there’s been science fiction there has been conflict between the two, and the Half-Life series is no exception. Well, it does make an exception in Half-Life 2. One-time enemies now become your friends as the alien race known as the Vortigaunts join forces with humans to take on a new threat known as the Combine, who are probably aliens but may be humans as well. As a bonus, the Vortigaunts provide you with the technology to turn Antlions—ferocious man-eating crab-like things—into your friends to combat your real enemies. Do I really want to trust some ugly aliens who tried to kill me? Why not. You only live once. Or in this case, half of once.