When I was growing up, the Empire's mighty AT-AT Walker would routinely crush the shit out of the little pussy ass dinosaurs from Jurassic Park.
Alright, so the T-Rex was pretty badass, he had a battle-damage ribcage and jaws that could hold a G.I Joe on their own (Gung Ho, it was always Gung Ho in his ridiculous dress blues), so he was cool. But the Dilophosaurus? With that big stupid frill? SQUISH. Robots always beat lizard monsters (and Jedi beat giant robots - circle of life young padawan).
So I thought Pacific Rim was great. My affection for giant stompy robots is well known, so this shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone, but I thought I should let you all know anyway. This is a movie that promises giant robots beating up on Godzilla-esq monsters and it does not disappoint.
The giant brawls are definitely the highlight of the movie. I absolutely loved the pacing and direction of the combat. It was exciting and brutal, but managed to avoid the typical super in-close, spastic blurry-cam non-sense that has defined a lot of recent action cinema. You get a sense for where the Jagers and Kaiju are, what they are trying to do, and what exactly is going on. It would have been real easy for director Del Toro to cheat and make everything too crazy to follow, but the dude put in the work to do it right.
There are legitimate criticisms to make. The plot relies on some decent, but expedient, exposition-dumping here and there with the typical dash of techno-babble to move things along. Although I have to say I find that infinitely more palatable in a sci-fi giant-robo movie than something like Man of Steel. The characters are fairly shallow. The main characters working some well worn tropes and the secondary pilot teams being, I suspect, tongue-in-cheek cliche. But how can you not love a pair of stereotypical super-stoic Russians piloting the biggest and dumbest mech!?
- I love that the Russian mech has a giant nuclear cooling tower for a head, turbine flame throwers, and telsa-coil powered piston fists. Every part of that sentence makes me smile.
That isn't to say there isn't any emotional depth. Call me a sucker, but I was genuinely moved by a scene mid-way in the film where a lone four year old girl runs through the empty and dead streets of Tokyo, only to be specifically menaced by one of the towering Kaiju monsters. Manipulative heat-string tugging? Maybe, but it worked.
Maybe I was just overwhelmed. Me and my lovely girlfriend Kass saw it in an IMAX because she routinely has great ideas. I don't normally go to IMAX theatres, but in this case it was definitely worth the extra few bucks and the drive. This is a big spectacle of a movie so you might as well see it on the biggest screen with the most intense sound possible. Plus, the 3D goggles at the IMAX made me feel like a back up synth-player for Devo.
While watching I couldn't help but think the franchise could be made into a fantastic game. Not in the obvious "giant-monster beat down a la' Godzilla: Destroy All Monsters" vein (like I understand the XBL game supposedly is). I think it would work really well using the same formula as XCOM.
The parallels are hard to miss. Both titles feature humanity coming together through nations, military, corporations, and even the black market to rapidly sling-shot their technological might forward to defend against an alien/monster menace. A big sub-plot of Pacific Rim is the research team dissecting and studying the remains of the Kaiju from different angles and disciplines to find the best way to combat them. All the while the doomsday clock ticks down as the frequency and intensity of the attacks ramp up. Members of the shadow council grow paranoid and antsy, nation pull their support and funding, everything is going to shit and it's up to the protagonists to snatch humanity away from the edge.
It would translate into a very similar gameplay loop. Select your research projects, toss funding at the strategies and tech you think are important, expand your Shatterdome (yes, they call the Jagger bases "Shatterdomes"), train up your pilots, and outfit your Jaggers with the kind of tech and weapons you feel work best. Toss in some more inter-personal goings on and make the combat more actiony and I think you have a recipe for success. I'd play it at least.
- Some amazing fanart making MWO look cooler than it has any right to.
In other stompy robot news, if Pacific Rim has you all worked up and you really want to play a giant robot game, Mechwarrior Online had a fairly substantial and important update today.
Yes, I know, more MWO. I'm not happy about it either.
I more or less kicked the habit back in late-April, early-May. The "labour of love" of playing MWO became way too much labour for too little love. Bugs, performance issues, and horrid balancing issues sucked every drop of fun out of what was already a C-Minus of a game.
But they've had a few decent patches since moving the game in the right direction. The one that came out with today though is a major watershed moment.
I won't get into too much nerdish detail, but they have finally curtailed the proliferation of extremely potent pin-point sniper weapons and added some MUCH needed punch back to the close range weapons. After many long months of waiting behind a ridge only to be obliterated in one shot when you eventually stick your head out, we can finally get back to playing proper Mechwarrior – a game where giant robots duke it out, peeling layers of armour off each other in protracted battles and ripping enemies apart one piece at a time.
The way they did it was super inelegant and laughably difficult to explain to players who don't traffic the forums and related wiki sites on a regular basis. Developer PGI is still so bad at communicating information to the player base that it boarders on satire, like if the Onion did a bit about an inept development house. But the important part is that it worked.
MWO is the most fun it has been in months. It still has tons of issues, but if you love giant robots (like me), got super excited watching Pacific Rim (like me), and want SOMETHING to replicate the sensation of piloting a building sized weapon of doom – MWO is free to play and available.
If that isn't the damnation of faint praise, I don't know what is.