Blackwater game like kids 'playing cops and robbers'

A "first-person experience" starring controversial mercenary group Blackwater was one of this year's strangest announcements during E3 2011. However, the folks behind the game Blackwater stress that they're attempting to avoid controversy and make it as child-friendly as a snowball fight.

"It's a game," Blackwater founder Erik Prince told the Associated Press. "This is not a training device. This is not a simulator. We're not doing this to teach folks how to conduct military operations in an urban terrain. That's not it at all. This is more along the lines of kids running around their neighborhood playing cops and robbers or cowboys and Indians."

The on-rails shooter places a team of Blackwater mercs in a fictional North African town, tasked with protecting it from warlords and militia forces. Wisely, the game moves away from real-world controversy; however, developer Zombie did have controversial aspirations before the team changed its mind.

"I waged strongly for the possibility of shooting civilians because I thought it could tell the story well," lead designer Richard Dormer said. "In the end, we didn't need there to be any more controversy. It seemed beside the point of the game. It was a much bigger risk to jeopardize everything else involved, especially with what happened with 'Six Days in Fallujah.'"

The unreleased game Six Days in Fallujah, developed by Atomic Games, was billed as recreating 2004's Second Battle of Fallujah in Iraq with "the realism of a documentary film." In reality, it turned recent historical events into yet another over-the-top action-o-rama, and was compared to Gears of War by former Shack editor Nick Breckon. Publisher Konami eventually dropped the game from its release calendar.

"We didn't want this to be restricted to adults," said Prince. "We wanted to dial the violence down so that kids could play it in the same way that they go outside throw snowballs at each other or whatever. We wanted to be able to spread the game to that demographic. Frankly, I also wanted something that I'd be comfortable with my own boys playing."

Prince is no longer with Blackwater, which rebranded itself Xe Services to shake off the stigma attached by a string of scandals, then was later sold to an investor group. Prince still holds licensing rights to the Blackwater name, though, presumably because of some great merchandising opportunities.

Blackwater is headed to Xbox 360 on November 1 with optional Kinect support, and is published by 505 Games.

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