Today, while I was browsing the Daily SPUF thread as usual, I came across this:
It intrigues me that nudity-related posts are the most read posts followed by Overwatch-related ones. Also, it provides me a clear method of selling out. Now, I could do a feature article about nude OW characters, but I’m pretty sure that will get the full icy wrath of Blizzard coming my way, so I guess not. Besides, that’ll make my Internet browsing history look very, very suspect (“I’m not entertaining myself, it’s for research! I swear!”). So this time round we’ll just do a nudity-related article. We’ll be talking about Loadout’s cosmetic system.
Loadout’s cosmetic system itself is really straightforward. You have three character to choose from: Axl, who looks like Rambo, T-Bone, who looks like Mr. T, and Helga, who looks like…. erm…. a rotund lady. There are no stats associated with the characters, so they’re effectively skins. For each character you can equip cosmetics, which is separated into three regions: head, upper body and lower body. It is a rather simple cosmetic system.
Some of you may wonder, why am I, someone who used to only talk about TF2 cosmetics, talking about the cosmetic system for a completely different game? Well, aside from selling out to draw in the nudity-loving crowd, it’s also because I believe Loadout has one of the best cosmetic systems in PvP multiplayer games, even giving TF2 the war-themed hat simulator a run for its money.
Before I go on to talk about why it’s so great, we need to first talk about Loadout’s damage engine. Loadout has the world’s most satisfying guns to fire because of two reasons: 1) It is fully customizable to fulfill your wildest firearms-related dreams and 2) the damage engine. Here are some photos to show you what I mean:
The photos gives you an idea of how visceral this game is. Guns visibly tear off chunks of flesh until the bones are exposed, blood spluttering everywhere, skin burning into a black crisp, et cetera. And of course, the death animations are extremely violent, with gibs, stumps that are squirting blood like a fire hose, so on and so forth. Hell, one of my favourite moments is when I kill a guy with an explosive to his feet. The guy hopped around on one leg while his other leg is forcefully amputated below the knee by the explosion, finally fell and squirmed in his death throes in a pool of his own blood before he lay still. The guns are the stars and the actual main characters of this game, its every aspect can be tuned to match your exact expectations, it looks and feels powerful, and the characters are effectively just meat targets to shoot at and a vehicle to fire and move the guns around. The main reason why it looks and feels powerful is because of the damage engine, which makes every shot look like it will really, really hurt. The damage on the character model also serve as a good visual indicator as to how much damage your character has taken too.
Now, with a damage engine like this, it’ll normally make shooting people look extremely cruel and borderline sadistic even by video game standards. This is where the art team of Edge of Reality, Loadout’s developer, really shine. Every human character is vulgar, crass, an extremely painful caricature of the worse of humanity to the point that they resemble uncultured sub-humans who fill other people with disgust at the mere sight of them. You will want to shoot them, and it will be satisfying, not just because of how powerful each and every shot looks and feels as you blast away large chinks of flesh, but also because they deserve it. They’re vile, degenerate, unpleasant, bloodthirsty and are coming to kill you. You won’t even feel much sympathy for the person you’re controlling, as he is every bit as undesirable as the people around him.
However, they’re still vaguely human, and slivers and shreds of humanity as they wince or laugh will remind you of how they are, ultimately, still people. To me, this barely-present link to humanity, to us, is the master stroke. Because of this, we can know instinctively, without a doubt, that the wounds hurt, and how much pain and damage you just did to them. But the sheer repulsiveness of them and the degree of separation between us and them (they’re game characters after all) justifies the shedding of every drop of blood in our minds. And the juvenile schoolboy humour that the game is full of, as well as the cartoonish art style, just reinforces the idea that their death and injury is inconsequential and, in fact, somewhat whimsical. Every gib is but a confetti in this insane and horrendous party we throw inside the death pits we play in. And I think I need to schedule another appointment with my psychiatrist.
After describing the damage engine and the art direction that complements it, you can see why I like the cosmetic system. It ties in perfectly with the art style and the the tone the game is going for, exaggerating every bit of disgusting detail the characters have. The cosmetics themselves are unified in their theme of portraying the slimiest, most puerile and disgusting aspects humans have to offer. This all ties back to the game’s main feature: the guns. The beautiful, beautiful guns, that is as much a joy to build as it is to fire. And it will not be such a pleasure to use them if not for the damage engine, the art style, the cosmetics, and ultimately, the tone of the game which makes you spend an hour just to design a gun that you really want. Everything ties back to the oh-so-satisfying gameplay, which is what makes Loadout’s cosmetic system, in my eyes, one of the best cosmetics system in a multiplayer game ever, as it actively complements the gameplay. It helps to neutralize the sheer cruelty and viciousness of the damage engine, turning the game from a painful and gut-wrenching bloodsport to an enjoyable shooter. And that allows you to enjoy every shot you take with zero guilt for causing that much pain. Well, almost.
Funny, I used to find the humour painful and unpleasant, which is why I stopped playing after two weeks and went back to TF2. But now, looking back at everything, I can now fully understand and appreciate the beauty behind it. And it was quite some time later, when I wanted to play Loadout again, that I found out that it’s gone.