Michael Madsen Takes It Outside in Hawking Recoil, the Real-World Battlefield Game (video inside)

Play high-tech war in the great outdoors

Tough-guy actor Michael Madsen (Reservoir Dogs, Kill Bill, Sin City) portrays a grizzled military hardass named Striker to introduce Recoil, a multiplayer battlefield game that drops today from Skyrocket.

You play Recoil outdoors rather than sitting in front of a computer or TV screen, stalking around your back yard (or wherever) with AR-enhanced, smartphone-enabled “weaponry” in search of the “enemy.” According to product materials, you’ll “feel the kickback of your weapon as 3D-positional audio lets you hear exactly where enemy fire is coming from.”

No more wasting time pointing fingers at opponents and shouting out, “Bang! You’re dead!”

What’s more, the game’s GPS technology lets you track other players’ movements, and you can use voice chat to “coordinate attacks or taunt your enemy.”

Now, doesn’t that sound like fun?

To promote Recoil, ad shop Battery cast Madsen in the short film below. It’s the first of a series, we’re told, notable for its faux-intensity and Madsen’s hypnotic gravel-voiced delivery. At times, he sounds like a hoarse George C. Scott playing Patton, or Peter Stormare slowly building toward an existential freak-out.

“Sometimes, you see what you want to see, not what battle demands you see,” he begins, delivering his lines in eerie semi-darkness. “I remember seeing—I mean, truly seeing, for the first time … I saw the world like a soldier. When you’ve walked along the perimeter of sanity and peered over the edge, you see things for what they truly are.”

Man, this dude really needs a three-day pass.

Anyway, to illustrate his point, household items flash on screen. These include “mama’s meat freezer,” which, Madsen explains, from a warrior’s perspective, can serve as “cover from raining hellfire.” As for that wicker laundry hamper, well, “You see lights and darks. I see an assassin coming to collect a debt,” as a face pops up from among a pile of dirty clothes.

Near the end of the spot, young people race around their tony suburban neighborhood with Recoil armaments, blithely playing war amid colorful explosions.

“The work should rekindle the innate imagination in all of us,” Battery creative chief Phil Khosid tells AdFreak. “Maybe it went dormant for a while but it’s still there. Recoil taps into the childhood curiosity that allows us to reshape and reinterpret everything around us.”

The battle lines are clearly drawn. On one hand, it’s a celebration of harmless fantasy, the high-tech evolution of cap-gun battles from a a few generations ago. Everyone gets to shoot weapons, no one gets hurt—and Madsen’s ridiculously dramatic, semi-rambling pitch drives home the fact that we shouldn’t take things too seriously.

“For us, Recoil is delivering on a promise that the future would deliver a realistic version of cops and robbers from our youth,” Khosid says.

Fair enough, but some might deride the approach as a further assault of violent ideas and imagery on our senses, served up in true Hollywood style by an aging action-movie actor—on Universal’s old Desperate Housewives set, no less. It portrays warfare as a great way to while away an afternoon, rather than the unmitigated hell it really is.

With tensions rising on the world stage and continued concerns about guns at home, isn’t this an awkward time to launch such a game and campaign?

“I think this is a great time for a product like Recoil,” says Craig Mitchell, senior marketing director of Skyrocket. “We’re seeing more and more kids turn to screen time for their social interaction. What they see every day, the anonymity of it all, is twisting reality. We want to change that. Recoil is taking one of the oldest and most beloved play patterns and using technology to bring real face-to-face human interaction between friends, while offering a fun, safe and active experience.”

Client: Skyrocket
CEO & Co-Founder: Nelo Lucich
CMO & Co-Founder: John Ardell
Creative Director & Co-Founder: Jon Proudfit
Senior Marketing Director: Craig Mitchell
Executive Producer: Cory Ledesma
Lead Producer – Gaming, Interactive & Consumer Products: Curtis Barnes

Agency: Battery
CEO/Co-Founder: Anson Sowby
CCO/Co-Founder: Phil Khosid
VP/Creative Director: Raymond Hwang
VP/Creative Director: Scott Brown
Brand Director: Maximilian Kislevtiz
Executive Producer: Kristine Ling
Producer: Mackenzie Busch

Production Company: Bob Industries
Director: Alan White
Director of Photography: Ken Seng
Line Producer: Brian Etting
Executive Producer: John O’Grady

Editorial/VFX: NO.6 Editorial & No.7 VFX
Managing Partner: Carr Schilling
Editor: Graham Turner
Assistant Editor: Connie Chuang
Producer: Michelle Dorsch
Flame Artist: Verdi Sevenhuysen

Color: The Mill
Colorists: Adam Scott
Executive Producer: Thatcher Peterson
Producer: Diane Velara

Music & Sound Design: WOLF AT THE DOOR
Partner/Creative Director: Alexander Kemp
Director/Producer: Thomas Leistenschneider

Audio: Formosa
Mix Engineer: John Bolen
Executive Producer: Lauren Cascio