Left Behind: Eternal Forces

GAMER It’s no secret. We’re in the end times, and at the clarion’s call when all of God’s children are raptured into heaven, we’ll be left to deal with the Antichrist — who, by the way, has a job at the United Nations and is working like the devil to see that people get college educations to further support the dark lord and his satanic machinations (which, of course, include sexual equality). Hail, Satan!

Unfortunately, in the recently released Left Behind: Eternal Forces — based on the best-selling series by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins, in which a handful of heroes is left to save humanity after the rapture — you only get to play as the "good guys," the Tribulation Force, whose mission is to foil the nefarious Global Community peacekeeper forces. Actually, you can play for Satan, but first you’ll need to convince a couple of your friends to load this crappy game onto their computers to play with you. Go ahead. Ask them. See what they say once you explain what the game is about. Unless they are 70-year-old evangelists or the parents of babbling blond, banal gospel or country music stars, your friends will laugh at you. I’m no expert, but I think former UN ambassador John Bolton might like this game’s premise.

As for me, I found it childish and ridiculous. And as a video game, it was like playing Pong in a dark swamp. In the time it took me to maneuver my character up the street in order to convert a couple people for "Trib force," I could have easily hijacked a truck or a BMX bike, robbed a police station, and beaten a shopkeeper senseless — all while dressed as Dennis Rodman — while playing Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. The point the developers of this game are trying to make is that immoral video games like GTA and other shoot-’em-ups, such as SOCOM and Halo, offer no positive messages. That said, I’m not quite sure what moral messages there are in this game. It was so hard to play that I never really got a good feel for the potential it might have. At certain points of the game, secret clues appear, except they’re not actually clues but scriptural passages about the end times or some half-assed tirade calling evolution a satanic plot. Whenever your character is activated, he or she will say "Praise the Lord" or "Laying straight paths" before going off to save humanity. When the players run low on spiritual energy, their comments are more like "What now?" or "I could really use a sandwich."

Inside the package was a short video by its makers and the authors of the book series the game is based on. There’s also commentary from other influential evangelical leaders, including Dr. Jack Hayford, the president of the Foursquare Church, who comments that this game is "every bit as much fun as kids perceive other stuff."

Really? Whose kids?

When I was a kid, my evangelical grandparents gave me music they hoped would counter my newfound love of heavy metal. But Stryper and metal missionaries Bloodgood can’t touch Iron Maiden and Metallica, and if parents think their kids will find this game more fun than others on the market, they really should get out more often. Given the choice of playing as a Navy SEAL (as in SOCOM) or some sweater-vested geek trying to convert New York City, I would much rather be the former.

In the promotional video, a gamer named Grant says the game is so unique he "just can’t stop playing it. My eyes are getting so tired, ’cause I’m having so much fun that I might fall asleep on my computer."

Here’s a suggestion if you want to keep Grant from falling asleep and drooling in his keyboard: you have to make it easier to play. I had to keep rebooting my computer in order to get the game to move at all. When I finally did get to play, my character was killed by an evil, college-educated, rock music gang — which poisoned me. That’s right. Gangs in New York have college educations and spend their time poisoning people. I know the developers are trying to keep the level of violence down, but the soldiers get to shoot each other. Are they trying to teach their children that gangs don’t use guns? Has there been an upsurge in gang-related poisonings lately?

I found trying to convert people (which is the main point of the game) to be a soul-crushingly boring waste of time. There is no way teens will flock to this game (unless they feel an obligation to play the gift grandma got them so nobody’s feelings get hurt).

If you see this title at your local store, do not buy it, even if you think it’s funny. I promise you it is not. It must be left behind. (James Woodard)