Every year, for a period of 12 hours, all crime in the United States is legal. This is the world of the hit action/horror film franchise, The Purge. With the fourth installment – The First Purge – now in cinemas and a television series set to arrive this autumn, we can’t help but wonder why the hell there isn’t a Purge videogame yet.
When you think of the possibilities of a videogame adaptation of The Purge there’s a good chance that Grand Theft Auto Online comes to mind. While the explosive chaos, fast car chases, and random gunfights certainly play into the murderfest, it lacks the context and tension of the films.
GTA is a colourful and often kooky game that leans into the satire of the United States that has come to define the series. In contrast, The Purge is a serious – if a bit over the top – horror film about people who abandon their morals for one night.
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This is a perfect setup for a videogame – especially with the rise of the battle royale genre. Having a hundred or more players partake in a purge until one is left standing is ripe with potential. However, it’s vital that such an adaptation blends both the horror of being a victim and the brutality of each murder seen in the films.
Instead of using traditional guns, any game based on The Purge needs to feature melee weapons, homemade explosives, and deadly traps – there has to be room for experimental killing. Likewise, we should never feel safe when travelling down alleyways or entering a building. There must be a sense of dread lingering over every second that you’re alive, desperately trying to survive against the odds.
But that’s the obvious way to do it. If you move away from the multiplayer concept, it’s possible to see that The Purge is also a brilliant setting for a single-player horror game. Beyond the radical high-concept idea at the centre, these films tackle the important issues and political debates we’re having today, touching on race, class warfare, government control, and the dangers of nationalism.
Horror games are no stranger to tackling sensitive and modern concepts either: Outlast 2 investigates religious extremism in the rural US, Soma discusses the limits of consciousness, while Inside explores the effects of surveillance and autonomy on the human body. The Purge could slot right in among these horror game experiences to provide a platform for us to not only scream in terror but to debate the horrors that plague us as members of today’s society.
What would especially distinguish a Purge game amid these other titles is who you are fighting in the streets. It’s not monsters or unknown soldiers, but your friends, neighbours, and family. Their drive isn’t purely evil, but a core belief that purging will help better society – this is a hot topic right now, but games rarely give us a chance to talk about it. This is because we don’t face villains like this often, and are usually presented with themes that don’t challenge us in the same way. As such, they don’t often open us up to potentially uncomfortable discussions about our present day reality.
Helping such a narrative along could be a number of meaningful choices for us to make that shape how the story plays out. Do you purge and kill those hunting you or simply hide from the psychopaths to avoid becoming like them? Horror games have a bad habit of funneling players into the same scenarios over and over again, but a game based on The Purge has a chance to change this simply by being true to the films.
The horror genre is currently regaining its footing in the gaming landscape due to the number of quality titles that have been released in recent memory. But it could do with some new games to help it along that aren’t sequels, remasters, or light spins on familiar tropes. The Purge is a strong pick to help the genre continue to thrive.