Fight your way through mangrove swamps shoulder-to-shoulder with
bearded guerrillas clad in the olive green of Fidel Castro and Ernesto
"Che" Guevara. Your mission: Topple 1950s Cuban dictator Fulgencio
Out to foil you are helmeted Batista soldiers and police
in mustard-yellow uniforms who pop out from behind trees and fire from
trucks and farmhouses. You pick them off with a vintage Colt .45 or
Springfield rifle in classic first-person-shooter style. If you're hit
three times, it's revolution over.
Island programmers have
unveiled a brand new 3-D shoot-'em-up video game that puts a distinctly
Cuban twist on gaming, letting players recreate decisive clashes from
the 1959 revolution and giving youngsters a taste of the uprising in
which many of their grandparents fought.
"The player identifies
with the history of Cuba," said Haylin Corujo, head of video game
studies for Cuba's Youth Computing Club and the leader of the team of a
dozen developers who created "Gesta Final" - which translates roughly as
"Final Heroic Deed." "You can be a participant in the battles that were
fought in the war ."
game starts with the user joining the 82 rebels who in 1956 sailed to
Cuba from Mexico aboard the Granma, the creaky and now-iconic yacht that
has become synonymous with the revolution.
After a brief
description of the historic landing - a spectacular disaster that very
nearly derailed the rebellion when some three-quarters of the Granma's
passengers were killed - you find yourself wading through the wetlands
of southeastern Cuba surrounded by fellow guerrillas, identifiable by
the black-and-red armbands of Fidel and Raul Castro's revolutionary
The keyboard-operated game has five levels, most named
after battles like "La Plata" and "El Uvero," and the scenery is full of
ancient vehicles and the ferns, canebrakes and mountain trails typical
of the Cuban countryside. A metallic soundtrack of gunshots and
explosions accompanies the fast-paced action.
Faithful to history,
you never reach the presidential palace to take on Batista, who fled
the island before Castro's troops reached the capital.
The goal is
to survive through Level five, the most difficult, which recreates the
key battle of "Pino del Agua II" months before Batista's departure.
game lets you pick from three bearded player profiles, one in an
olive-drab hat similar to the one Fidel Castro was known for; another
wearing a "Che"-like beret; and the last with the kind of helmet worn by
the ill-fated Camilo Cienfuegos in many revolution-era photographs.
Programmers said, however, that they're not meant to be exact likenesses
of the three famed rebel commanders.
"We didn't want the characters to identify any revolutionary leader, but we did want it to frame the moment," Corujo said.
any case it wouldn't be Castro's debut in pixels: 2010's "Call of Duty:
Black Ops," a U.S.-made game, elicited howls of protest in Cuba because
the plot included an assassination attempt targeting the bearded
Critics in Cuba also savaged "Black Ops" for its violence.
One article in state-run media said it "stimulates sociopathic
attitudes in North American children and adolescents."
declined to draw a parallel between the two, and noted that "Gesta
Final" is tame compared to the goriest games on the wider market.
"We are not responding to any game that was made," she said. "We saw the importance of young people learning through play."
games have been booming in Latin America in recent years, and
programmers from countries like Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Mexico are
increasingly getting into the business, said Rolando Bozas, an Argentine
software expert, though obstacles remain.
"It's getting better and better," Bozas said. "But there is a ton of piracy."
Vargas, a 29-year-old gamer who tried his hand at "Gesta Final" when it
was presented at a technology fair in Havana last week, said the
graphics were surprisingly sophisticated.
"Bearing in mind the level of technical support there is in Cuba, it looks pretty good," Vargas said.
"It's obvious there was a leap in Cuban software," his friend Yoalex Legro added.
Computing Club, part of the Ministry of Communications, has also
developed six other games, most of them 2-D and designed for children.
plans for "Gesta Final" to be the first commercial Cuban-produced game
and sell in the local currency, which trades for 24 to the dollar,
though no doubt it will quickly make its way into the thriving market
for pirated CDs and DVDs.
Pricey gaming consoles like the Xbox are
relatively rare on the island, so developers deliberately made "Gesta
Final" a PC-based game to reach a wider audience.
While the game
doesn't require a cutting-edge computer, designers say it should use at
least 1 gigabyte of RAM, more than what's installed in many older
machines on the island.
There are about 783,000 computers in this
country of some 11 million inhabitants, according to government
statistics from 2011. Private ownership of computers is low, but many
Cubans access them at work, school or cyber cafes.
developer Gonzalo "Phill" Sanchez said Latin American video games tend
to fall into two categories: Those with highly localized appeal, and
those that can reach broader audiences. "Gesta Final," he said, surely
falls into the former.
The game is expected to be released on the
island in the coming months with no current plans to market it overseas.
A price tag has yet to be decided, but nobody's expecting it to rake in
piles of cash with most Cubans earning about $20 per month at their
"We developed (it) keeping in mind the purchasing
power and reality of Cubans," Corujo said. "It doesn't require
incredible technological features."