“An immersive power fantasy simulator with tactical stealth elements” that takes place in “the hardcore gig economy of corporate liquidations.”
In Cruelty Squad, interdisciplinary artist Ville Kallio envisions a grotesque, low-resolution alternative reality where power, capital and ultra-violence are one and the same, where corporate liquidations involve quite literally liquifying employees and where bio-mechanical, drug-addled assassins are tasked with “performing wetworks” for despotic conglomerates.
This is what Ville Kallio terms “an immersive power fantasy simulator with tactical stealth elements”, a first-person shooter in the style of classic late ’90s and early ’00s games such as Perfect Dark, Deus Ex and Quake, that draws aesthetically from a diverse collection of influences, including Super Mario 64, LSD Dream Emulator and Dark Souls. You play as an “emotionally dead combat-substance fuelled grunt” of the titular Cruelty Squad, a “depraved subsidiary company” headed up by the Corporate Arch Demoness.
“Tired of your shit life? No hope no money?” asks Cruelty Squad. “Suffer no more. Make your own rules. Aspire, attain, accumulate.” Dousing management consultancy, business jargon and team building psychology in high-strength DMT, Kallio’s twisted corporate mercenaries encourage you to “abandon your fragile biology” in order to achieve an “executive mindset” in order to “transgress business boundaries.” By augmenting your body with vicious weaponry and experimenting with combat substances, you can work towards the Cruelty Squad motto: “Become Repulsive. Attain Meaning.”
The game features 13 different levels, 18 different weapons, including a flechette shotgun, a silenced 10mm pistol, a radiation emitter, a dart gun and a corrosive gas launcher, as well as a wide variety of enemy types, including private security, cops, psycho freaks, flower hybrids, swamp cultists and mutant dogs. Kallio has also implemented a fishing mechanic since the game’s launch, with 68 different fish to discover, as well as an advanced stock and organ market simulation.
Cruelty Squad marks the beginning of a continued engagement with the video game medium for Kallio, which he understands as a holistic discipline that incorporates every aspect of his diverse practice, including 3D modelling, sound design, creative programming and writing. “One of the reasons why I enjoy working on games is that I get to avoid the scarcity of the art world,” he explains. “Instead of fighting for a space to show my work, I can make a space and create all the rules for that space, and most likely it’s accessible to a much wider range of people.”
For more information about Ville Kallio and his work you can follow him on Instagram.
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