09/25/2008

Okay, Let Me Get This Straight… When The Joker Blows Batman’s Brains Out, He’s Still Not Dead, Right?

by Matthew Edward Hawkins

As previous mentioned, there’s a ton going on, video game-wise in the city. This time I’ll go backwards, starting with earlier this evening…

- So myself, Dave Mauro, and Joe Salina, finally got the chance to play Mortal Kombat vs the DC Universe since Midway was in town. And the verdict? It’s… interesting, I’ll give it that. Both guys can chime in if they wish, but I myself didn’t hate the game completely, or think it was completely retarded, like I believe those guys did. Then again, they were able to play around with it a bit more than myself, mostly because I had to leave early due to an emergency. But anyway, it?s still pretty f’n ridiculous.

The game has the standard arcade mode where you choose a character and go head to head with another person, either from your own “universe” or another. Then there’s a story mode that supposedly explains why the two worlds have collided; choose one of the factions and then play as various characters on that side. I chose the Flash, and my first opponent was another DC guy, which was fine, but afterwards I was confronted by another comic book character, so I instantly went to arcade mode. To find the answers I needed, I instead bugged the PR rep on hand with 20 questions, as well as the game’s producer, Hector Sanchez.

First things first: there’s no heart pulling or spine ripping. I think. This is the first rated PG-13 Mortal Kombat game, so the creators had to make some concessions. Yet, the Joker still blows people’s brains out with a gun. But the move doesn’t kill everyone; there are no “Fatalities” in the game, just “Brutalities” since certain characters, such as Superman, simply does not kill. Also, certain characters, again such as Superman, are not killable. So even though the Joker’s finishing move involves lodging a slug into his near dead opponent’s skull (which I’m assuming everyone has seen, via this now famous animated gif), certain folks, basically the DC crew, aren’t necessarily snuffed when all is said and done; as Sanchez noted “You’ll still see the DC characters’ legs twitch, to signify they’re not dead.” Okay. When I was first told that DC characters don’t die when they’re finished off, yet Mortal Kombat characters do, I assumed that the move itself is different, depending on the recipient. Nope. Either the fallen opponent’s leg twitches or not. Hmm. Also, regarding the Joker finisher, now there’s all these angle changes, sweeps and pans, which wasn’t there in the animated gif because it was an earlier version of the game, but myself and especially Dave kinda enjoyed the move with all the fancy camerawork. Also, just as he said he would, the instant Dave showed up, he asked how to perform the move; everyone’s move list is readily available, even during the midst of battle, but the finishing moves is something people will have to figure out on their own. Or simply consult the internet for. Actually, Midway is going reveal it over time, by passing along some Brutality info to certain blogs. I guess we’re one of the first to know how to do Joker’s! Provided Dave can remember what he did exactly…

Also, there’s only about two Brutalities per character, and forget about Babalities, Animalities, or Friendships. There’s 22 characters, with two unlockables, though there could always be more later down the road via DLC. All the standard faves on the Mortal Kombat side are present (though my personal favorites, the ketchip and mustard colored ninja robots, Cyrax and Sektor are sadly absent), as is the case for the DC side (I was quite pleased to see Shazam make the roster). Graphics were decent I guess, and I couldn’t make out much of the audio, but that guy with the booming voice is back to say who won and how is back, and that’s all that really matters in the sound department, really. The environments are kinda interesting I guess; each is divided in half, visually, with one half being the “normal” world that the DC people reside in, and the other being Outworld, or whatever the hell the Mortal Kombat people dwell in is called these days. Back to finishing moves; sadly, my favorite part of the MK series, environmental deaths (like the Pit) are not present, but there are sequences that are set off when characters end up in a certain part of the level. Like in the city, if both of you end up against a wall, one pushes the other through a bunch of them, and each person has to hit the buttons a lot to figure out who gets the upper hand in the end. It was explained to me that it’s supposed to harkens back to those mini games in the original game, where you had to hit the buttons faster than your opponent to hit all the bricks (for those who actually remember the very fist Mortal Kombat).

Gameplay-wise, it?s the basic Mortal Kombat formula. High and low punches and kicks, plus a block button. No run button… I haven’t played the series in a while, so maybe its been gone for a while? Oh, there are grab buttons, which again turns into a mode where both players have to out do each other with button presses for supremacy. The special moves is what you would expect from a Mortal Kombat game, wacky and violent. And the DC people’s move-sets, from what I saw were fairly appropriate and neat. Gotta say… it was hella cool seeing Batman do the patented Mortal Kombat uppercut! But that being said, everyone was relatively stiff and mechanical… just like Mortal Kombat.

I guess I’ll be keeping my eye out on this one. Some might be interested in knowing that the story itself was penned by some DC writers. In fact, DC Comic kept a close tab on the action; they supervised all the moves, even came up with the names itself. Oh, and the special edition of the game comes with a small comic… illustrated by John Tobias! One of the co-creators of the series… his partner Ed Boon still works at Midway and is now the sole guy in charge of the franchise. He left after the series began to start stinking and tried to create his own games… such as the now infamous Tao Feng. Since he has a background in drawing comics, Ed asked him he wanted to draw the one for the upcoming cross over game, so I guess its a reunion of sorts. I also discovered that Boon had been biting at the chomps to do a crossover game. I think most people have heard of the rumored Mortal Kombat vs Street Fighter that simply never came together.

- Earlier in the day was yet another press visit, this one from Warner Bros Interactive Entertainment. They had a pair of kids games to show off, with Guinness World Records: The Videogame being the one I was most interested in.

Long story short, this is yet another collection of wacky kids mini-games for the Wii. Yay. Though the graphics did really impress me. It was the little details, like during the cockroach eating contest, the kid whose mouth you shove bugs into, has strands of saliva in his mouth, that wave around, all gooey like. The kids are gonna LOVE IT. Anyway, each mini game is based on an actual real world record. See that pic above? It’s a video game representation of that one dude that ate an entire Boeing 747. Anyhow, players have to move the Wiimote and nunchuck around to mimic actions (somewhat) similar to real life actions. And the high score that they must attempt to best is based on the actual world record of the real thing… to a certain extent. For the cockroach eating contest, the time to virtually consume bugs is the same as it is in real life, but for plane eating… its much longer in real life.

Time for the actually interesting part! If you manage to beat the highest score possible, and your Wii is connected to the net, your score is passed along to Guinness World Records HQ, where it is verified and accounted for, to eventually be included in the next book of records! They’re apparently adding an entire section devoted to the high scores of their own game, which seems pretty pandering I know, but the idea of being included by just playing their silly waggle games is kinda neat. Though, before you get in, they will apparently fly you out to where ever the hell they are to make sure that it was indeed you and that you didn’t cheat. Crazy! I mostly wonder how the Twin Galaxies folks will react to this. Oh, and there’s a DS version too with the same set-up: do really, really good and you’ll actually be breaking a “real deal” world record!

- Okay, this isn’t exclusive to New York, but its game related and it happened earlier this week, so it counts: Mega Man 9 finally came out. Was supposed to get a “copy” for the Xbox 360 later this week, but I simply couldn’t wait, so I downloaded it for the Wii, since it makes the most sense, given how it plays old NES games, and MM9 is supposed to be one. Or so I thought…

So right off the back, time for a really geeky complaint, but it really bugs the hell out of me: as just noted, I was hoping for a game that would make it virtually indistinguishable from an old Nintendo title, and that’s just not the case. During the intro/story sequence, instead of artwork fading in and out like they did on the 8-bit console, now the transitions are super smooth. Its just one of those things that most people will completely not notice, yet 8-bit diehards (like some of you folks) will catch and be a tiny bit bummed out about.

Also, the fact that there’s DLC for it (you have to pay a few dollars to play as Proto Man) is just so God damn retarded.

Otherwise, its been mostly excellent. HARD AS FUCK. My Mega Man skills are pretty rusty (I used to be damn good… when I was like 13), plus I haven’t had much time to spare, so I haven’t gotten very far at all. I was also gonna complain that stuff like the charge shot and sliding are absent, which I’m assuming is unlocked as you progress in the game, but they aren’t deal breakers. They’re just in line with Inafune’s grand scheme; as Capcom’s PR team put it best… “Please have fun playing Mega Man 9 and when you inevitably ponder why this game is so freaking hard, please remember that Inafune-san has a decanter on his desk full of broken gamer spirits that keeps him perpetually youthful.”

BTW, the music? Pure heaven.

- On Monday was another pair of events, both brought to you by Sony. The first was at Parsons School of Design; it was the grand finale of the 24 hour game jam which this time utilized LittleBigPlanet.

Instead of reading about it here, I will have to ask everyone to check my report out over at Gamasutra! Which should go live sometime Thursday afternoon; simply check back here for the direct link. EDIT: And here we are!

Later in the evening was a Resistance 2 event at a very ritzy club near Times Square. Once again, I enlisted the help of Dave, especially since he’s so God damn terrific when it comes to first person shooter, whereas I plain suck at them (plus they make me all dizzy and shit). So I guess I should just let him do all the talking… take it away Dave!

BTW, he passed this along yesterday, but for some reason, it was lost in the abyss, so apologize for its lateness!
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PREVIEW: Resistance 2 (PS3)

by Dave Mauro

[As of this writing] It?s 12pm PST (3pm for us east coasters of course), which means that the embargo on Resistance 2 is over and I can talk about yesterday evening with the friendly and very talented folks at Insomniac and Sony. They were very hospitable and threw an event that you could almost call extravagant with passed hors d?oeuvres and open bar on a rooftop penthouse in midtown Manhattan. After a brief description of the three modes of play: singleplayer, multiplayer, and cooperative, we were left to demo each of the modes for several hours.

Multiplayer

How do you manage 60 players online in a console game? Well, the levels had better be large, and Insomniac has certainly delivered here. I played on the Chicago map, and was floored when I hit left on the d-pad to bring up the map and I saw just how large it was. The next problem is how you keep everyone from piling into one area on the map and creating a large mess, and this is where Insomniac has come up with a very elegant and clever solution. Each team is broken up into three squads of five and those squads will each have their own objectives, and each squad has a rival squad on the opposing team, which is the team that most closely matches their skill level, and they will be sent to the same objectives so that players of similar skill will be facing each other more often. Another interesting feature of the squad based play is the dynamic objectives. If a player on the opposite team is really cleaning up, he will become a priority target marked on that squad?s radar as such (the default radar shows friends and foes) and bringing down that player will net you some extra experience points. We didn?t quite get to see how these experience points are used, but it seems that the upgrades earned will be functional as well as decorative. The combination of large maps and squad play allows players to work together with large teams, but without making a huge mess of players in the center of the map.

The weapon system in the multiplayer mode isn?t a new system, you choose your weapon load while respawning, but can pick up dead players weapons to change as well, but the addition of berserk abilities adds a little more depth to the customization. I didn?t count, but there were something like ten weapon loads and as many berserk abilities to choose from as well. You might want to pair the invisibility berserk with a good melee weapon, or the speed berserk with a good blind fire weapon, but whatever you do, the chances are good that you?ll be the only player in that 60 player game with that unique combination of weapons and berserk ability.

The action is fast and messy, but it never seemed to drop below what appeared to be a steady 30 frames per second. Very impressive considering how many guys were often on the screen, and all the action that was happening. This mode is going to be a big hit for sure because it?s frenetic 60 player gibbing action (at one point I watched what must have been the brain of one of my teammates stick to the wall next to me and then slide down it) of the kind that is usually reserved for PC gamers.

Cooperative

Next I?m going to talk about my personal favorite component of the game, the cooperative mode. I was surprised to find that this was not simply the single player campaign played with a few of your friends, this is a distinct mode as different from the multiplayer and single player as they are from each other. In this mode, eight players team up to fight through levels designed specifically for this mode in terms of gameplay and story progression. Each level has a modular story arc which allows it to add a bit of depth to the Resistance lore without forcing players to leave out friends that haven?t yet reached the level they?re playing through.

The surprise of this mode is that it plays almost nothing like a first person shooter. Players choose from one of three classes, and are rewarded for how well they play with teammates rather than how dexterous their right thumb is. The first class holds the front line with a large chaingun that also projects a shield protecting them and their teammates from enemy bullets, the spec-ops class has a nice rifle and also provides ammo and grenades to other players, and the medics have a healing beam and a weaker offensive weapon. Each class? HUD reflects their role in the party: the healer?s can see other players health and the spec-ops can see other players ammo count.

The eight players face off against hordes of weenies, small groups of tougher enemies, and even the occasional Shadow of the Colossus sized enemies. I would have expected this mode to play in a top-down view and was more reminded of Alien Swarm, World of Warcraft, and Diablo than I was of Call of Duty. Staring up at a fifty-foot tall enemy as he turned toward me to punish me for all the lead I was unloading into him while preemptively calling out for a heal that would be unnecessary since I was immediately instant-kill stomped (I should have known better than to get so close) was an experience that justified the first-person view over a less personal birds-eye or third-person view.

I predict that this mode will draw in a lot of players that typically don?t player first-person shooting games. It does not require a quick thumb, players compete against the computer rather than other players so the learning curve is less daunting, and it offers an experience that typically isn?t found in first-person shooters, or even on consoles.

Single Player

The single player campaign mode appears to be right on track with nice cut scenes, the gore you would expect in such a ruthless battle, and plenty of shooting. Despite (or because of?) running into a bug that activated a one-hit kill god mode, which will certainly be gone by release, I had plenty of fun with it. First-person shooters have a lot of tough competition, and they have to do something to stand out from the rest, and Insomniac has decided to focus on the weapons. Unfortunately I didn?t get to see a lot beyond the standard fare of a shotgun, carbine, pistol, etc. But there was one weapon I had a lot of fun with. This gun can be fired normally with the primary fire, or the secondary fire can be used to mark a target that will cause all primary bullets to fly toward the target much like the gun in the movie The Fifth Element. This one is great for guys that are good at taking cover, or can even be used to shoot around the big guys with shields.

The game looks nice, runs smoothly even with tons of enemies and friendlies onscreen, but the beautiful flora of the forests in Orick, CA (the second level we were able to demo) and terrifyingly large robot in the first level come at a price: the levels are very linear. There?s just not a lot in them and there?s no exploration going on. I didn?t notice any alternate paths available. And there is no anti-aliasing (unless you count the great hit-effect that blurs the screen) so it?s not going to look quite as nice as the screenshots, but since it?s running at 720p, the jaggies are not much of an issue. So technically, what we saw of the single player campaign looked fun, but it didn?t do anything surprising or exciting like the multiplayer mode?s 60 player squad based play or the cooperative campaign?s awesome team oriented gameplay. The single player campaign will be great at introducing players to the game and developing the lore, and really getting them invested in it before they head on to the two multiplayer modes, which I suspect will be the modes the players continue playing well after release.

So just make sure to cast your ballot before going out to buy Resistance 2 on November 4, because otherwise you?ll probably get sidetracked playing the game until well after the polls close.
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Once again, thanks Dave! And yeah, I was pleasantly surprised by the game, mostly because of the cooperative mode, cuz its basically a MMO. So someone like me, who can’t aim worth a damn, can still tag along by offering medical support.

Anyhow, that’s it for games right at the moment… tomorrow (or today, depending on when you’re reading this) is the first day of the NY Games Conference. And like some folks out there, I have no idea how that’s gonna be. Only one way to find out! Though I won’t be there the whole day like originally planned; I’m way behind on various things, plus to be honest, the first day’s programming sounds ultra boring and souls sapping (well, in fairness, it is a business oriented affair). Plus, I have to meet up with Hilary to go over out anime fest plans. Who also, btw, just passed along her preliminary sketch for my zine’s centerfold, and all I can say is HOT, HOT, HOT!

Lastly, sticking with friends, here’s two different blogs about two very different things.

First there’s my pal Dave Roman, whom most might already know from his work in the field of indie comics; he’s the comics editor at Nick Mag, co-creator of Quicken Forbidden, as well as the guy behind Astronaut Elementary and Agnes Quill, the list goes on. Well the guy also likes Saturday Night Live, which I used to… it was a popular topic of conversation for us, back during “the good old days”. But I no longer watch it, and now I don’t have to! Cuz I can instead see what Dave has to say.

Next, there’s my pal Brian Liloia. Some gamer-type folks out there, ones who are into shumps, might recall his wonderful webspace called click-stick from a few years back. Well, I’ve mentioned Brian in the past, how he left gaming behind to pursue film, and how after film school he found himself living in a self-sustained ecovillage in Missouri. Well, Brian recently passed along word of what he’s been up to as of late… and I don’t care how cool you think you are, this guy has been building his own house of mud.

Oh, and kindd off-topic, but can anyone please tell me the backstory behind this…

  • Sonictail

    Thanks for the update, I didn’t realise that quote came from the PR team. But you’re supposed to put on nes style flicker from the options menu. Is it in there?

  • http://www.fort90.com Matt

    Yeah, it’s there by default, and the effect is convincing. To be honest, when you’re in the game, it totally feels like a NES title… though there are a few effects which bordline on being a bit too technical, but none of them has bothered me as much as the presentation issues I mentioned.

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