Who am I? I'm a guy who plays video games, talks way too much about comics and movies, likes Godzilla and Robocop, and lives up in Wisconsin. And yes. We get that much snow. Why should you read my blog? Because when I write I have fun, make up bullshit lists, and when I do get a little serious with some blogs I try to be insightful and use resources and facts to try and back up my opinion as much as I can. And if you don't follow my blog, I'll send you a picture of a sad kitten who wants some love.
Also, I tend to debate a lot and get up on a soapbox a bit from time to time. I like to debate for the sake of debating and I tend to find it fun to get other peoples perspectives on things, and sometimes I like to play devil's advocate a bit just for the sake of it. Basically, don't take me so serious sometimes even if it seems like I am being serious.
Keiji Inafune's latest game, Mighty No. 9 definitely has a lot of hype following it. The internet video game community has seemingly appointed it as the successor of Mega Man, which I feel is a bit premature, and Inafune has been put on a pedestal for giving us a Mega Man game when Capcom has seemingly shunned him. While I hope that Mighty No. 9 does well enough to hopefully shake Capcom up a little and remind them that the Blue Bomber is a profitable franchise, there's voices in my head that are preventing me from jumping on the same hype train that everybody else is on.
4- Capcom could still shove their nose into this
Let's be honest here, Mighty No. 9 should really be named Copyright Infringement No. 9. This is a Mega Man game with a slightly different paint job on it in order to try and sneak one by on Capcom. I'm excited for a new Mega Man game as much as the next person, but when I first heard about this and saw some stuff about it my first thought was "Holy fuck, Inafune is really pushing his luck here".
It's another robot built by a professor (who likely will have either a big bushy beard or white hair) who's considerably more human in design compared to some of his peers, instead of Rock & Roll it's now Beck & Call, even the Mets now have traffic cones on them instead of hard hats. If Beck in Mighty No. 9 doesn't get a red-colored ally who uses a green laser sword, I will be legitimately surprised. Inafune is trying really hard here to make it obvious that this is a Mega Man game, and that's obviously the point.
And I'm okay with him trying to stick it to Capcom. However this is also one of the reasons I'm trying to not get excited about Mighty No. 9 just yet, because who's to say that Capcom might not try to metaphorically give a "fuck you too" to Inafune and try to take this to court for copyright infringement? I'm no lawyer and I'm not what you'd call familiar with copyright law, let alone Japan's versions of them, but I can't believe that nobody over at Capcom isn't even looking into what their legal options are. I'd rather get excited about this new game when I have a little more concrete knowledge that Capcom won't be able to shut this game down.
3- Keiji Inafune
This one will probably raise a few eyebrows since Inafune is one of the, if not only, biggest reasons Capcom became so awesome for a couple of decades stretching all the way back to the NES era to the late PS2 era. That being said, Inafune could also be pinned down as one of the biggest reasons Capcom has stunk it up this generation.
Remember when Capcom was fresh of off the heels of the very un-Resident Evil like Resident Evil 5, announcing DmC, and laying the seeds for Resident Evil 6 and Lost Planet 3? Take a guess at who one of the big shot decision makers for Capcom when all of these were in their early stages. You guessed it, Keiji Inafune.
Does it really come as a surprise? Keiji “West is Best” Inafune had a ton of power at Capcom just as Capcom is announcing a bunch of games that seemed to be chasing the tail of the west, games that ultimately soured a lot of Capcom's once pretty loyal and dedicated fanbase. And I didn't even mention the aborted Mega Man X third person shooter where X was redesigned to look unquestionably similar to Iron Man not long after Iron Man fucking exploded in popularity in America.
Point is, I'm not entirely keen on trusting a person who thought completely revamping the Devil May Cry franchise at the peak of its popularity was a good idea. Inafune has a storied history in video games, but I'm starting to think he's been swapped with a Mirror Universe duplicate who's more concerned about chasing the all-powerful American dollar. Inafune without any kind of overhead control makes me a bit nervous, which leads to my next point.
2- The George Lucas / Vince Russo Syndrome
Most great creative minds are that, great creative minds. However, lots of those creative thinkers or entertainers tend of have some outside force to act as a filter, so that the best ideas reach the public while preventing worse ideas from fostering. I'll bring forth two examples that best exemplify this.
The first is George Lucas, the man who gave us Star Wars and Indiana Jones. This man has pretty directly touched uncountable numbers of people spanning multiple generations and has guaranteed us that plastic swords and fedoras will always stay at least somewhat relevant in society. What helped make him great with his original projects were others around him who kept him on the right path both as a writer and director. Lucas had people around him who would call him out on something that looked pretty clearly stupid.. This is why, for example, Han Solo is Harrison Ford instead of some crazy space lizard man.
However after Star Wars had exploded into the worldwide phenomenon, eventually Lucas decided to make the prequel trilogy. Along with that, he removed most of the original people who conflicted with him when making the original movies in order to let him fully make “his movie”. The end result speaks for itself, when Lucas had full control over his own production he delivered a series of movies that were substantially below his original works and were generally poorly constructed movies overall. The same result happened with the fourth Indiana Jones movie as well.
If you're a fan of professional wrestling, you most likely know who Vince Russo is and will immediately understand what I mean. Vince Russo is the man who made professional wrestling cool in the mid to late 1990s. He is what led us to things like Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, and “the Attitude Era”. He was one of the behind the curtain guys who kept WWF alive when WCW was beating them in weekly ratings, and eventually pushed them back to the top.
When Vince Russo left WWF for WCW, he no longer had Vince McMahon (WWF/WWE owner) above him to filter out his ideas. The end result was that he became one of the cancers that led to WCW's demise, leading to such ridiculous wrestling story lines as David Arquette and himself as WCW World Champions. Long story short, Vince Russo was the George Lucas of professional wrestling.
I'm worried that Inafune could potentially go down the same path without having Capcom or some larger company overhead pushing back at him and keeping him in check. His history near the end with Capcom speaks for itself, when he finally got a lot of say there he planted the seeds for what many will say were a line of pretty boneheaded decisions for that company. Hell, part of me wonders if one of the reasons he left Capcom was because someone finally told him to shut the fuck up.
1- I'd just like to see the game, first
I don't think this is exactly a bad thing to list for why I'm not excited yet. Obviously the idea of a new Capcom-free Mega Man is appealing, but I'd rather see some of the game before getting sky high with hype levels for it. I'd rather see the game in action before I say that Mega Man's spirit lives on. By the way, am I the only one who thinks it's a little premature to pass the torch from Mega Man to Beck?
Plus given my two previous reservations about Mighty No. 9 listed above, just seeing the game in action will help alleviate those two earlier fears that are holding me back. After that, I'll probably be there on the hype train just like everyone else because I fucking love Mega Man games and consider Mega Man X the best designed video game in history.
So yes, I still have reservations about Mighty No. 9. I really do hope I'm wrong, but there's enough evidence on the table for me to look at this game and be a tad pessimistic.
Anyone who follows professional wrestling is most likely aware of something simply called "The Streak". It's in direct reference to The Undertaker's undefeated streak at WrestleMania, the Super Bowl of professional wrestling. As the wrestler who portrays The Undertaker has gotten older Undertaker has reduced his wrestling schedule to more or less only be his big match at WrestleMania, essentially turning his already supernatural character into pretty much the "end boss" of wrestling's biggest event of the year. Numerous legends of wrestling have taken their shot at defeating Undertaker at WrestleMania and all have failed, including notables such as CM Punk, Jake "The Snake" Roberts, Shawn Michaels, and Ric Flair.
WWE 2K14 features a mode in the game where you can challenge The Undertaker and take your own shot at making WrestleMania history. Remember how I said that Undertaker was pretty much the final boss of real-life WrestleMania? Yeah, he's pretty much the end boss of WWE 2K14 as well. Snapping the streak is pretty damn hard, it's something even I've only managed to do a couple of times and from what I've heard from others it sounds like its still a challenge to many. So I thought I'd assemble a few quick tips when it comes to challenging The Phenom and making sure you don't end up on the wrong end of a Tombstone Piledriver.
1) Pick a wrestler you're comfortable with
WWE 2K14 has a few wrestlers on the roster I'd definitely consider "over powered", particularly John Cena, Randy Orton, and Hulk Hogan, so obviously your knee-jerk reaction might be to pick one of these superstars in order to give yourself a fighting chance. My advice would be to forgo picking someone who on-paper looks like a good choice and instead just pick a wrestler whom you're most comfortable with. In my experience being familiar with a wrestlers move set outweighs the raw statistical advantages of picking a different wrestler.
You can also pick custom wrestlers when squaring off against Undertaker as well. If you're one of those players who spends hours customizing every move on your dream version of yourself, then this will most likely be your go-to option. Plus, wouldn't you rather see yourself beat Undertaker?
2) Pick a wrestler whom has the "Resiliency" ability
If you don't have a wrestler you're totally comfortable with, or perhaps you have multiple wrestlers you feel safe picking, I'd put preference over any wrestler who carries the "resiliency" ability. Resiliency acts like a quick burst of adrenaline for your wrestler which gives you either a bigger window of opportunity to kick out of pinning attempts or increases your chance of breaking out of submission holds. Used ideally, it's the perfect thing to get you out of a situation you otherwise wouldn't be able to escape from (like trying to kick out of a second or third Tombstone Piledriver).
It should be noted though that you get a score bonus if you defeat Undertaker without using resiliency (yeah, you get a score after the match, but it only matters if you win). However, if your objective is simply to win the match then do not worry about losing out on some potential points. Save the fancy stuff for when you're trying for your second or third victory.
3) Keep the fight outside of the ring
When fighting Undertaker in the ring, he will pull a few creative tricks out of his hat in order to keep the momentum in his favor. If you hit a finishing move on him he'll occasionally make the lights in the stadium go out for a split second, and then when the lights come back he'll be standing right behind you and promptly deliver his finisher onto you. He has a couple of other tricks like this that will result in you taking a lot of damage... so long as you're actually in the ring.
The match against Undertaker is a no-holds-barred hardcore match. This means that you can leave the ring freely and fight outside of the ring or on the ramp area without running the risk of count-out or other forms of disqualification. However the match can only end with a pin fall or submission inside of the ring, which means that you are safe from all of Undertaker's tricks so long as he can't actually pin you or make you tap out. This is the only aspect of this match that is noticeably in favor of the player, so make use of it.
4) ECW! ECW! ECW!
Like I said this is a no disqualification match which means anything is legal, including weapons. You can get a weapon from under the right by going up to the center of the apron and holding L1/LB, there's one weapon under each side of the ring. The bottom, right, and top areas will give you a steel chair while the left side of the ring will give you Triple H's sledgehammer. Along with those items, you can use either of the steel steps that are at ringside or grab the ring bell that's over near the announcer's table. Speaking of the announcer's table, it's also free to destroy at your convenience.
Make good use of these weapons as it's a great way to quickly deal damage as well as keep The Deadman on his back. Every foreign object in the game can be used four times before it is either too damaged to continue using, or your wrestler simply discards it. Chairs will break after four hits and can no longer be used, however the steps, ring bell, and sledgehammer can all be picked up again after the fourth hit. Undertaker rarely has gone for weapons in my fights against him, so this is another advantage you can potentially use. Just be careful though, Taker will occasionally try to grab those weapons from out of your hands.
5) Practice your reversals
If you are not very familiar with the timing of reversals in WWE 2K14, your match against Undertaker is going to most likely be a short one. You need to at least become component at reversing moves in this game because of Undertaker's relentless offense, and because he will be reversing a lot of your moves as well.
Pretty much every move in the game has a window of opportunity to pull off a reversal, including finishing moves. Obviously some moves have bigger windows than others, but the reward for reversals become greater the bigger the move you reverse. The key thing I would focus on is learning how to reverse attempted Irish Whips. If you're going to be focusing on keeping the fight outside of the ring, like I suggested, then Undertaker will make multiple attempts to throw you back into the ring. Timing a reversal for these isn't very tough, and it can easily keep you in a match and keep everything in your favor.
6) Be extra careful when Undertaker has a finisher
Undertaker is devastating enough in this match, when he has a finisher stored and ready to go things tend to go downhill in a hurry for you. Having a finisher available opens up even more tricks for Undertaker that will, obviously, end in you receiving one of his multiple finishing maneuvers. If Taker has a finisher ready to go, don't even think about attempting any kind of aerial move on him. Doing so will result in Taker snatching you out of the air and promptly reversing whatever you were going to do into a Tombstone Piledriver, reminiscent of how the Undertaker/Shawn Micheals WrestleMania 25 match ended.
If Undertaker has a finisher available, see tip #3 and immediately get out of the ring as fast as you can. Taking a finisher from Undertaker while in the ring will almost certainly result in the match being over, especially if you've already used your resiliency buff. Take the fight to the outside and get in as much damage as you can. Taking a finisher on the outside of the ring is bad, but it's better than watching it happen while in the ring. Since Undertaker needs you in the ring to pin you, he has to throw you back into the ring, which means you'll get a free opportunity to reverse his Irish whip attempt and save yourself.
7) Don't taunt, ever
Normally in WWE 2K14 if you have a finisher ready to go and your opponent is on the ground, you can perform a special "wake-up" taunt that will cause your opponent to groggily return to his feet and easily set up your finishing move. Do not attempt a wake-up taunt against The Undertaker in this match. Attempting to do this will cause Undertaker to do his patented "zombie sit-up", return to his feet immediately, and deliver a Tombstone Piledriver to you. And since wake-up taunts are noticeably longer than your traditional taunts, there's no way you can avoid this from happening.
This scenario doesn't always happen to me, however it happens about nine out of ten times, so it happens often enough that I'd discourage you from attempting wake-up taunts in any capacity as it's just too risky. On top of that, I'd simply say just do not taunt Undertaker ever unless there's a very sizable amount of space between you and him. I have no evidence to support this, but Undertaker seems to get a bit more aggressive if he's taunted. Along with that, taunt's cannot be interrupted in WWE 2K14, so you effectively become a sitting duck until your taunt is over.
8) Want a potentially easier fight? Take on retro Undertaker
After you pick your wrestler you get an option to fight present day Undertaker or retro Undertaker. Modern Undertaker is bald and comes to the ring in a cloak that makes you think he just returned from winning the Mortal Kombat tournament. Retro Undertaker is the 90's purple & black version who looks like an old western mortician, and has significantly fewer tattoos (personally, I think retro Undertaker looks substantially more badass). Apparently you can also fight the American Bad-Ass biker Undertaker, but that's only if you have the pre-order DLC for him (which I currently do not have).
Personally, I find retro Undertaker to be a slightly easier challenge than modern Undertaker. Modern Undertaker has a larger move set than retro Undertaker, obviously because he learned more moves in the last fifteen years, and a couple of his newer moves are pretty devastating - primarily his Last Ride power bomb and his Hell's Gate submission hold (yes, Undertaker has a submission hold, and you never want to be caught in it). The Hell's Gate submission hold is a particular tricky thing to fight against when taking on modern Undertaker because it's a move that he'll pull out of nowhere at very unexpected times, such as when you're about to attempt a pin or to try and pick him up off the ground. If you're using a wrestler who is especially susceptible to submissions, then modern Undertaker is going to give you problems. Saying that retro Undertaker is "easier" feels like a half truth considering he can destroy you at the drop of a hat, but he at least doesn't have a trick or two that his present day version will not have.
Snapping Undertaker's undefeated streak is by far the hardest thing to do in WWE 2K14. This game mode is very unfair in its own ways. Undertaker will be reversing you a ton, his moves do a ton of damage, he pulls finishers out of seemingly thin air, and you will get frustrated at some point. Hopefully a few of my tips here help make things easier for you.
Now go make us proud all of you little Hulkamaniacs.
It's been a while since I've done any kind of NVGR blog, but elder Destructoiders will know that I have a penchant for talking about movies. Most of you also know that I'm a pretty huge fan of RoboCop, if my avatar didn't already give that away. So why am I writing this blog? The trailer for the remake of RoboCop just came out and, well, let me just post the video here first for you watch in case you haven't seen it already.
So yeah, here's what I think about this. First off, I kind of think the whole idea of remaking RoboCop is completely unnecessary. The original 1980's movie still holds up pretty well even today, yeah some of the special effects are a bit dated but what do you expect form a quarter-century old movie, and some of the movies themes such as greedy overzealous big business still ring pretty true today. Hell, RoboCop even predicted the bankruptcy of Detroit by 26 years. Take that fact and how the Starship Troopers movie oddly foreshadows America's war on terrorism and I'm pretty sure that Paul Verhoeven is actually a time traveler from the future. In short, I think if RoboCop was released in 2013 instead of 1987 I think it would still be a pretty relevant movie.
Beyond being a fairly unnecessary remake, lets talk about the new RoboCop suit since that's the most prominent thing in the trailer. I don't really like it. Specifically, I really don't like the all-black final version of the new suit. They quickly show some earlier versions of the suit during the trailer (including the classic suit) that all retain the classic RoboCop color scheme and I think all of those look much better, because they all still look like RoboCop. Over on Dtoid's forums, I was talking to Trev about this and he said "Black with glowing red eyes so edgy. I bet his XBL name is XxSnIpErHeLlDeMoN666xX."
The all black suit in my opinion really makes the suit look fake and un-robotic, especially when compared to the classic suit or even the more 'metallic' suits found in the trailer. It looks like an unfinished movie prop or some lame Halloween costume. Plus given the success of the Chris Nolan Batman movies and the cult following of Dredd you can clearly see that they're being influenced by the current trends instead of just doing a more faithful recreation of RoboCop. When they're talking about making the suit black in the trailer, I wish they would have actually said "Does it come in black?" since they were pretty clearly trying to steal the same line from Batman Begins.
What I really liked about the classic RoboCop suit was that it looked industrialized and was something that looked like it could easily be mass produced. It had parts of that were sleek looking such as the helmet or the chest piece, but other parts of it were still kept fairly practical and robotic looking. Such as having the joints on the body exposed or having the piston behind his leg visible, it gave the impression that it was set up this way for quick maintenance and repair. Functionality and practicality over style and flash, right? The old RoboCop suit reminds me of a car, it's got flashy cosmetic parts where it can afford to have them but beyond that everything is still kept pretty practical under the hood where it counts. The new suit looks like the polar opposite of that, which makes it look like an unbelievable robot and more like a glorified guy in a rubber suit.
From what the trailer gives away of the story (which, honestly, seems like a lot), it seems like it's missing a ton of the spark of the original movie and is opting for a very "play it safe" version of RoboCop. In the original movie he's murdered by gangsters after being gunned down to the point where he's a pile of shotgun tenderized meat, so there's absolutely no way Murphy is ever able to exist again. In the new movie he's never actually killed, and technically could still live a life as a crippled human (akin to a badly scarred war veteran).
The plot of the movie still seems to involve Murphy regaining his humanity, even though he never really loses it this time. In the original after he dies his mind is (mostly) erased and loses most of his body during the transformation into RoboCop. He's stripped of as much humanity as possible, has no family to comfort him, very faint echos of his past, and all he knows are his prime directives. His programming isn't necessarily 'evil' (well, except for Prime Directive 4), but rather just an obstacle he needs to overcome in order to regain his self identity. The whole payoff of the movie was to see RoboCop call himself "Murphy" again.
Meanwhile this new movie seems to have him never lose his sense of identity, still constantly has his wife and son near him, and is in general a lot more human. He never ceases being Alex Murphy, and the only thing really preventing him from being human again is some programming that is pretty blatantly made out to be "evil" by way of giving false self control. It seems like the writers don't want their audience to feel so down about watching Murphy come so close to the abyss of non-humanity, that they made him as human as possible in order to coddle the audience and go "See guys, he's going to be okay. He just needs to stop the bad guys."
Which gets me to my next point. The OCP guys in this movie seem to be pretty cut and dry bad guys this time around. I know, right now you're going "but the OCP bad guys in the original were pretty evil too". Yeah, you're right. But the thing about the original movie was that the bad guys in it (aside from Clarence Boddicker) all had their own motives that could be interpreted as noble. Dick Jones wanted to bring in money for his company and secure OCP's standing, and The Old Man wanted to destroy Detroit and build Delta City partially because Detroit was a dying shit hole. Bob Morton built RoboCop simply to get a promotion and piss off his boss, but at the same time knew the RoboCop program was an overall better idea for law enforcement.
In this trailer we see Michael Keaton's character talk about how they need something for the American people to rally behind, and later on we hear Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) talking about how human emotions simply get into the way. This makes it seem pretty obvious that RoboCop this time around is only built for OCP propaganda reasons and that if they could get away with a fully robotic soldier instead of a cyborg, the would. I imagine the movie will have some sort of plot moment where citizens are uncomfortable being defended by fully autonomous machines, which is what will prompt the "put a man in the machine" scene we see early in the trailer.
They're cutting out any of the slightly redeeming aspects and making everyone a more cut-and-dry bad guy. Again, stripping away the plot and making it simpler so that they can make sure even the most simplest of minds can figure out what's going on. I'm really getting the impression the new RoboCop movie in general missed a big part of the original movie's point, and the rest of it is simply being dumbed-down for all of the people who were too stupid to figure out what the original movie was about.
And then there's a few minor things that bug me. The trailer has just enough CG in it to bug me, especially in comparison to the practical-effects heavy original movie. I kind of figured ED-209 would be CG this time around since he was mostly stop-motion in the original movie, but his new look isn't entirely meshing with me. I think I like new ED-209 more than new-RoboCop though.
Also, what's up with that silly space-SMG RoboCop seems to carry around now instead of his over-sized hand gun? I don't know many "cops" that carry around fully auto assault rifles, they tend to carry around hand guns. This isn't named RoboSWAT, it's RoboCop. This is another one of those "I think they missed the point" moments. RoboCop was designed to resemble a regular police officer on steroids, his "armor" was set around resembling the typical Detroit police armor in the movie and he still carried around a handgun like a normal cop, just everything was cranked up a little bit because he was a super cop. Hell, the little ventilation window on RoboCop's chest was even shaped like and placed in the same spot as a normal cop's badge would be. I also miss the more slow-paced walk RoboCop had, it was pretty much one of the trademarks of the character, now he resembles a Terminator in his movements more than RoboCop.
On a positive note, I do enjoy most of the cast in this movie. I'm also actually okay with the person they picked to play RoboCop and I'm always good for more Gary Oldman and Michael Keaton. I just think the script and tone of the movie is all sorts of off. But, while I like Samuel L. Jackson, does this guy really need to be in everything these days?
I'll probably still go see RoboCop just in case I end up getting proven wrong, but this trailer seems to display a lot of what I didn't want to see in a RoboCop movie. If this was its own standalone sci-fi action flick and wasn't named RoboCop it would probably look a little better since it wouldn't have the expectations I have with that movie, but alas that is not the case.
MMORPGs are a genre I've dabbled in bunch of times over my gamer lifetime. It's a genre of video game that I think is an awesome concept, at least on paper, and it seems like something tailor made for this multiplayer-focused everyone-has-an-internet-connection era of video gaming. Yet, at least for me, it seems like my interest in MMOs has fizzled out in recent years. There seem to be issues with MMOs that, to a certain degree, I'm not sure the genre can get around and I wonder if it will eventually lead to the downfall of MMOs in general.
No, I'm not prophesying some doom-and-gloom scenario where MMORPGs are gone forever. That's obviously never going to happen, especially if you look at the recent hype regarding EverQuest. However, I have a feeling the MMO genre is going to see substantial downsizing. World of Warcraft's numbers have been on a steady decline for a while now, The Old Republic's numbers completely plummeted a few months after release, and (recent EverQuest news being the exception) when was the last time you heard really huge news or hype coming out of the MMO world? The last time I can personally remember a ton of chatter in the larger gaming world that revolved around an MMORPG was Guild Wars 2.
I'm kind of concerned that there's an issue regarding the entire process of building an MMO, or basically what developers think makes up an MMO. The easy cop-out way of saying it is "they need to stop copying WoW", but I think it's slightly more than that. There seems to be a bit of a group-think that goes into an MMO and what people apparently think needs to be in one to make it an MMORPG or some MMO variation. This is a cruel way to word it, but I can't think of any other way to - it seems like almost every MMO these days is simply just no fun to play.
I know that "fun" is a completely subjective thing and that what people enjoy differs greatly from person to person, but please just hear me out on this. I'm pretty tired of MMOs that revolve around you running up to enemies, hitting a certain sequence of buttons to activate abilities X/Y/Z, and watching two characters stand still swinging wildly until one of the two health bars reaches zero, and during the entire "battle" neither person shows any direct effects of the fight. Shit like that pulls me out of a game fast because I don't feel invested in the battle, I feel out of control, I find it boring. I'm a guy who likes games like Devil May Cry, Ace Combat, or Halo. I need to feel involved in the action, I like feeling as if there's some sort of inherent skill needed beyond basic mathematics. I need to feel like I'm actually involved in something besides a glorified war of attrition.
I guess first let me explain a little bit of my MMO background, just so you can get some more of my perspective. Firstly, I've dipped my toes into the pool that is World of Warcraft. I didn't stick around long because I didn't find it especially fun to play, and I didn't like it for the same reason I don't enjoy Coors Light - it feels too watered down and built around appealing towards as many people as possible. I've also sampled Champions Online and City of Heroes, both of which fell to the wayside for me for similar reasons of drab combat. I'll even say that I liked the Guild Wars games a lot, because they do a lot of things very well, but even those games eventually fell out of favor with me as I eventually got bored of doing the boring combat over and over.
There have been some MMOs that have slightly tickled my fancy in terms of MMOs I didn't find painfully boring. Star Trek Online appealed to me firstly because I'm a bit of a Trekkie, and secondly because it has some pretty fun starship combat. Ship combat in Star Trek Online revolves around positioning your ship in order to get maximum firepower out of your arsenal, keeping an eye on your shields to make sure you don't have any holes an enemy can exploit, trying to pound through an enemy's shields in order to torpedo the crap out of them, and also watching your ships energy levels so that you don't lose efficiency in your weapons by firing too many weapons at once. On top of those aspects of ship combat there were also your typical abilities that you could do for offensive or defensive buffs, and the need for all of this attention rises exponentially the larger the battle.
Obviously I'm going to be a little generous due to being a Trek fan, but still, that shit was fun. I was involved, it required more paying attention, more attention to detail, more instinct and reaction. STO's ship combat is close to what I'd want out of a different space-themed MMO I'm going to mention later. The only reasons I ever stopped playing STO were because the ground based combat in the game was your typical MMO bore-fest and the game as a whole was too fucking easy.
Another MMO near and dear to my heart was The Matrix Online (rest in peace, MxO). It was a game that had flaws but also had some pretty great ideas in places. Close quarters combat in that game revolved around what was effectively a super stylish version of rock-paper-scissors. There were three types of attacks, each of which could trump another, and on top of that there were character classes and stats that affected this system as well. It wasn't the most amazing thing at the world, but it was different enough from the typical MMO dirge.
The big problem with this combat system was that characters who were not CQC types could basically pot-shot you while you were kung-fu'ing someone else, which completely broke things. It wasn't perfect but I still give it points for trying. Unfortunately once Sony Online Entertainment got a hold of MxO they revamped the entire combat system into a poor mans version of Star Wars Galaxies, which started the beginning of the end for that game.
Why do MMOs have to revolve around some outdated RPG trope of "watch two people stand there and hack away at each other"? Can't any MMO attempt to be more of an action-RPG like a Dark Souls or perhaps just attempt to be something that's more of a straight up action title? Or how about this question, can MMOs even break out of this funk if they wanted to? Would things like server lag kill a more ambitious MMO?
EVE Online is my favorite game that I don't play. In fact, it pains me that I don't play EVE because it has a ton of things in it that I think are super cool. I like that you can still learn skills when you're not playing EVE, I like that space in that game is large and that it can take a long time to travel from one point to another, I like that players can actually make a huge impact on the game's universe, and since I've always been more of a sci-fi over fantasy type guy it's just the type of thing for me. In a lot of ways EVE Online is the realization of what an MMORPG is actually supposed to be.
The Achilles heel that keeps me out of EVE is that it has some of the most boring fucking gameplay I've ever seen. Most of what I liked about Star Trek Online's ship based gameplay is completely absent when it comes to combat in EVE. If EVE had combat more like STO or lets even go one step further and wish it had gameplay akin to a Rogue Squadron game, I would be in heaven and wouldn't be writing this blog.
The reason I brought up EVE is because it's the perfect example to my question of whether or not a more ambitious "action oriented" MMO can truly exist. Even with EVE's stale ship combat, there's a ton of calculations that are going on behind the scenes. If battles get bigger and bigger, those calculations can slow down the servers themselves to the point where EVE is playing at 10% of real-time in order to keep up. (Ugh, being stuck in bullet-time with EVE's combat is a nightmare idea to me). Can you imagine how much rougher it would be on servers if you introduced a more reactionary type combat system into something like that? Servers would melt, people would rage, ISK would be lost, the internet would explode, dogs and cats would live together, there would be mass hysteria.
Yes, I know Defiance exists and I know it's supposed to be a bit more action-ish than your typical MMO. I'm not talking about it because, truthfully, I haven't played it myself and I've heard mixed things about the game as a whole. If you have anything worth inputting regarding it, feel free to leave a comment.
Getting away from talking about combat, there are a couple of other things that I feel are causing MMOs to be stuck in a rut. The first revolves around the player's actual impact on the world they inhabit. With what feels like 99% of all MMOs, you're just an avatar running through quests and they only things that change during your entire game are the gear you're carrying and the little number that indicates your level. The actual world itself stays completely static unless a pre-scripted event says so. If "role playing" is supposed to make up two parts of the MMORPG acronym, shouldn't people be able to actually play a role?
Jumping back to EVE, this is one of the reasons I love the game. EVE is the source for a ton of the best player-based stories in gaming, because players actually matter in that game. I'm always a big fan of the story about a guy who started up his own investment agency within EVE and then eventually ran off with the money, built the best ship he could, and challenged anyone to chase him down. Or the recent story about the huge war-ending battle that just took place in EVE that ended with ships going down in blazes of glory that would make a Klingon proud.
The Matrix Online was going to attempt something kind of similar in terms of "player influence" by actually letting players have impact in certain events and actually have them interact with key story members and get mentioned in the overall narrative of the story. It's obviously nowhere near the scale of EVE player-involvement, but it was at least an attempt. (Note: this was again before MxO got torpedoed into another bland MMO).
If the player feels like what he or she is doing actually has an impact on the greater world around them, whether big or small, I think it would go a long ways towards keeping people around. If there's no sense of that, I imagine a ton of people would get the feeling that they're just playing a really drab RPG with bad combat.
Another issue that I think hurts MMOs these days involves the monetary investments that go into MMOs. Pay-to-play can scare off people because they feel like they "need" to play it in order to justify the $15 a month. Pay-to-play structures are going the way of the dinosaur, however two of the biggest MMO players still use the model (WoW and EVE).
The problem is, the main alternative to pay-to-play isn't exactly much better to a lot of gamers. I'm talking about the "free-to-pay" structure, or as some more appropriately call it "play-to-win", the new model of MMO pricing. Yeah, you're free of the burden of a subscription, but now you're in a world where anything you want that's actually worth a damn is stuck behind a microtransaction pay wall. Welcome to the future, the shark still looks fake.
Guild Wars is the only title I can think of at the moment that bucks the either of these payment structures. I honestly don't know why more games don't adopt the Guild Wars style of paying an up front fee for the game, and then you're free from there. Oh wait, I know the reason, it's called the other ways give out more money. I'd probably test out a bunch of other MMOs if it was a one-time fee and then I'm free to wander the playground instead of worrying about a "pay $2 for the Sword of a Thousand Truths" prompt showing up the moment I found something cool. I'm sure I'm not the only person who thinks this.
Hell, if more MMOs adopted the "up front fee" style I'd probably even be okay paying a little extra for an MMO title versus a traditional game (like paying $70 instead of $60), since these games do have additional costs on the development end.
The easy way out is just to say "maybe MMOs just aren't for you". But I don't want to accept that because there are a lot of ideas that go into the whole MMO/MMORPG world that I do find fascinating and want to be a part of. The problem is just that it seems like every MMO follows the same path as the predecessor nowadays, and there's not much in the genre as a whole that leaps out as something new and refreshing. Stuff like this is what's going to eventually cause even die-hard MMO fans to grow tired and leave the genre, and it's stuff like this that keeps a lot of other people out of the genre as a whole. I'm not sure if it's possible truly build a better MMO, but I'd like to see more people try.
I recently purchased Aliens: Colonial Marines for twelve bucks on Steam during the Summer Sale, I figured my admiration of the franchise was enough to warrant twelve bucks. I’ve heard the game had some bug fixes that made the game a tad more respectable, so I’m coming into this game with low expectations knowing most people thought this game was horrible. I figured, for something a bit on the fun side, I would do a little bit of a “live blog” chronicle of my journey through this bargain bin video game.
The very first thing that irked me wasn’t even within the game itself, it was the goddamn desktop icon. The icon is some red, white, and blue military logo which I’m assuming is the symbol for the Colonial Marine Corps in this game’s universe. Still, it’s a bright & colorful logo, doesn’t that seem pretty out of place for an Aliens game? Shit, if something like that can bug me I don’t know if I’ll survive this.
Okay, so, starting up the game. *Gulp*.
Hey, the game opens up with Corporal Hicks! And he’s voiced by Michael Biehn, sweet! Wait a minute, he’s got the bandages and stuff that he had at the very end of Aliens. Wasn’t he unconscious by this point in the story, how could he have gone and sent off a distress message when Bishop drugged him unconscious? Maybe he woke up inside the dropship and sent the message from in there? If so, what a dick, he could have grabbed a pulse rifle and helped Ripley fight the queen! Jerkface!
Anyways, after the Hicks segment I’m treated to the most bland intro to an action game I’ve ever seen. I noticed how all of the opening “credits” were all done in what looks like a bolded Impact font, couldn’t they even bother to use the proper “Aliens” font? There’s not even a buildup to the title reveal like how the movies did it, the title just kind of pops up with barely a musical queue.
That’s when it sinks in… oh god, I’m doing this.
I saw a couple of marine dropships flying around what looks like the USS Sulaco and then some guy named Cruz starts talking, but I immediately tune him out because holy shit his voice actor is bad. But I can’t even marvel at the beauty of the Sulaco mainly because I’m distracted by a close up shot of a dropship and immediately notice that the texture on the dropships hull is horrible even by Xbox 360 standards. I try to focus back in on that Cruz fellow because he’ll probably have something important to say I guess. But really, his voice actor is horrible, it seems like he’s trying to be some really bad hybrid of Sgt. Apone from Aliens and Col. Quaritch from Avatar.
My attention to the actual plot is distracted again because I immediately guffaw at something else that I don’t think should have happened.
Why the fuck do Ashly Burch, Derek Phillips, and company all have higher billing than Lance Henriksen and Michael fucking Biehn?! With all due respect, why do they get higher billing than two people who were stars of the original fucking movie this game is following up on? ARGH THIS FUCKING GAME!
Alright, so I haven’t been totally paying attention to what this Cruz guy is saying. Apparently some rhinos or something are on board the Sulaco? That doesn’t make any fucking sense, so I’m just going to assume I missed something. Oh, by the way, so far every voice actor has been pretty much awful.
Oh, and the ship you arrive on is called the USS Sephora. Okay, so we have the Sulaco and the Sephora. Both ships are near identical, begin with the letter “s”, have three syllable names, and end with vowels. Man, I wonder if the writers could have done any more to make it plainly obvious that this ship is pretty much their fan-fiction version of the Sulaco. It kind of reminds me of that one episode of Star Trek: Voyager where The Doctor was writing his own sci-fi story about the “USS Vortex” which was totally not supposed to be Voyager.
Sweet buttery Christ, my word doc for this blog is already into its second page and I haven’t even gotten to actual gameplay yet! This is just delightful.
Alright, gameplay finally! Everything seems like a typical first person shooter affair, all of the button mappings make sense for a first person shooter. Oh, I’m using my 360 controller for this game by the way. Yeah, I know, I’m playing a first person shooter on PC with a gamepad. You Master Race purists can go suck it, I like my controller more.
Okay, so, walking through the space hallway into the Sulaco now. There’s an explosion which makes everything shake and starts breaking the glass of the hallway I’m in. I’m told to head into the Sulaco, but they can’t use the umbilical anymore because it’s damaged. Whatever, plot device I guess.
I stumble upon a few downed marines. Man, I have no idea what could have done this, maybe it was… I dunno, some aliens. Anyways, I’m told to go find the other rhino people because they’re elsewhere on the Sulaco. (At this point I remembered that “Rhino” was the squad name or something along those lines, but for the sake of comedy I’m going to pretend that I’m finding rhinoceros marines on the Sulaco).
Oh, hey look, it’s the hanger room from Aliens where Ripley fought the Queen! Hey, look, Bishop’s legs are still lying there! I bet those smell nice and ripe right about now. This room actually looks decently faithful to what I remember from the movie. My only minor gripes are that not nearly enough of those floor grates are pulled off from the floor (from when the Queen was chasing Newt), and why are there acid burns in the floor when the Queen never bled?
I think right now is a good time to point out that so far I have not been impressed with this game at all graphically. It’s serviceable, yeah, but nothing to call home about. Some of the details in the environments look good, but then there are other things (particularly the humans) that all look like they were pulled from an early 2006 Xbox 360 game. The 2010 Aliens vs Predator game looks noticeably better than this.
So, I’m exploring the Sulaco a little more (at least what they’ll let me explore, there’s been a painful amount of linearity so far), and then I stumble into a xenomorph nest on board the Sulaco.
When did the Alien Queen have time to set up all of this? She was the only xenomorph that got on board the Sulaco during Aliens (by factor of no other aliens came out of the fucking dropship to help fight Ripley), and even if she planted some eggs in the dropship it wouldn’t have meant jack shit because there would have been no other creatures to impregnate and make more xenomorphs. The only remaining explanation is that there were a bunch of eggs left behind by the Queen, the marines that just arrived on the ship all got impregnated in a hurry, xenomorphs shot out of their chest already in adult form, and built all of this within an hour. Damn. Well, the whole “The Queen left eggs behind” thing at least makes sense given how Ripley gets facehugged in the opening moments of Alien 3, but Alien 3 was a shit movie so basing anything off of Alien 3 is instantly a bad thing.
Jesus fucking Christ, I’m not even 15 minutes into this damn game and I’ve already found one major issue with the story.
I’m apparently near the Rhino Marine I need to find, because I got an objective indicator on my screen that says “Cut down Keyes”. I’m just going to pretend that I’m playing Halo and that I’m trying to locate Captain Keyes, because I’m already thinking about other better video games I could be playing. I don’t free Keyes immediately though, because I’m too distracted by the fact that every other marine currently stuck to the alien walls all look identical to each other. Fucking really, Gearbox?
I finally go to free Captain Keyes, and BAM suddenly an alien shows up to drool and hiss at me. Okay, that’s it, the big fucking reveal of the xenomorphs is done like this? Really? That was a terrible build up! No tension or anything to it! AvP2 strung you along for an entire fucking mission making you think an alien was around the corner for a half a goddamn hour making you jumpy as fuck by the time one actually shows up, and even AvP 2010 did a better job than this. Also, I’m confused as to why there’s only one xenomorph in what appears to be the hive.
*Grumble* Anyways, I go and gun down the xenomorph because I enjoy not having my face eaten off and then go and actually free Captain Keyes. Commander Stereotype chimes in on our walkie-talkies telling us to get back to the USS Fan-Fiction. However, Captain Keyes instead wants us to get the flight recorder so that we can detonate the Pillar of Autumn… I mean, er… sorry, wrong game… so we can find out what happened to the Sulaco and her crew.
Keyes and I make our way through the Sulaco fighting through a couple of rooms of xenomorphs. I’ve noticed that Keyes has a really bad habit of standing completely still and blankly staring at me with his gun at his side while xenomorphs leap over his head directly at me. He even let one alien punch him in the shoulder before he even realized he should be firing his gun…. Man, the entry levels for the Colonial Marine Corps sure have gone down in recent years.
It was right about now that I realized I was also carrying a shotgun, due to the fact that the game at no other point in time gave me any kind of prompt letting me know “hey, fuck-face, you have a shotgun on your back!”. I found the shotgun far more effective in my xenomorph murdering agenda, because the pulse rifle apparently shoots gummy bears considering it takes that gun a little too long to kill things.
Eventually we find the flight recorder and then get back to the hanger room I mentioned earlier. Captain Keyes sees an alien standing on the dropship, so he immediately decides to throw a grenade right at the dropship causing a bunch of warheads sitting next to the ship to all explode (all for just one alien). I also take note that the explosion for this is far too small given everything that exploded.
We make our way towards the hanger room door and two other marines are there waiting for us, their last names are Pulaski and O’Neal, if I remember right. Because I’d rather them not be mindless automatons, I immediately pretend that I’m fighting xenomorphs alongside Captain Keyes from Halo, Shaquille O’Neal from the epic superhero movie Steel, and Dr. Pulaski from the second season of Star Trek: The Next Generation.
Because of Keyes’ stupid grenade stunt, the door behind us is locked and now we have to protect Keyes as he unlocks the door. So myself, Dr. Pulaski, and Shaq-Fu promptly invite all of the incoming aliens to shut up and slam and welcome to the jam.
Unfortunately, I got stuck in a Groundhog Day time-loop where I had to repeat this segment multiple times for a myriad of different bullshit reasons. My primary cause of death kept being due to the xenomorphs ignoring everyone else and focusing primarily on me. Now I know that the aliens’ primary battle tactic is to fucking Zerg rush everyone, but in this scenario it doesn’t exactly translate to “fun” due to the fact that it’s just literally impossible for my marine to grow a couple extra appendages in order to shoot three targets simultaneously.
Another cause of death was a result of Dr. Pulaski getting right in the way of me and my target, causing me to again get Zerg rushed. I’m glad Dr. Pulaski is as useful here as she was during Star Trek.
The most awkward and hilarious cause of death for me though was due to the fact that I leveled up midway through this firefight. The big bright “Master Sergeant Shooter Sergeant” prompt obscured my screen just enough to make me lose track of my target and promptly miss two or three shotgun shots.
I decided to summon my inner Owen Hart and declare that enough was enough and it was time for a change, and decided that the corner of the room nearest to all of my buddies was the best “no bullshit zone” possible. I take no pride in the fact that I simply sat in a corner and shot at anything that moved, but sometimes the best solution to a nasty shit is to take an even nastier shit on top of it.
Eventually Keyes opened up the door and we retreated back through the door. Commander Cruz chimed in again telling us we needed to get back through the umbilical (the cracked up space hallway from before) and get back on the Sephora. Wait a minute, so the thing I was told couldn’t be used anymore is totally about to be used again? Oh great, that’s just fucking great!
We’re heading down the space-hallway back towards the Sephora when Captain Keyes suddenly falls down to his knees, perhaps at the realization that he’s in a terrible video game instead of Halo, and immediately reaches to his belt for an explosive. A chestburster blows through his chest (and marine armor), and Keyes blows himself up to kill the alien also causing the space hallway to blow apart which also causes Pulaski to fly out into space.
What made this moment completely stupid was the fact that the marines have no knowledge of the xenomorphs and there’s no way Keyes could know he was impregnated with a chestburster. Yet, the moment he feels even a slight twinge of pain in his chest he immediately knows what’s going on and decides it’s time to recreate that moment from Aliens where Gorman and Vasquez blow themselves up. What if he was just having really bad heartburn and just needed a glass of milk?
But really, it was a really bad ripoff of a scene from the movie and it was done in the stupidest and hammiest way possible. In fact, everything so far has been one really bad fucking fan-fiction. Who fucking wrote this shit?
It wouldn’t surprise me if that vapid hack was behind this, I’m 45 minutes into this game and already it’s giving DmC a run for its money in the horrible writing department. Look at him in that picture, probably all happy over the script he shit out while Andy Serkis is praying to God that Peter Jackson finds some long-lost Tolkien Gollum story so that he can find something better to do with his talents instead of wasting them making video games that less people will see than The Lone Ranger.
It’s at this point in time that I paused Colonial Marines and told my girlfriend that I loved her very much, because I swear the mediocrity of this game could in fact be the end of me.
Shaquille O’Neal & myself manage to drag ourselves back into the Sulaco. After we take a second to re-gather ourselves, Shaq (who, for the record, looks nothing like the real Shaq, but he’s going to be called that anyway) tells me with the stiffest character animations he could muster that something wasn’t right here.
I realized what wasn’t right, it was the fact that I was playing Colonial Marines when I could be playing Strike Suit Zero or Dishonored. I promptly closed out of Colonial Marines, vowing to return to help Mr. O’Neal a different day.