Tag Archive: thing


Dr. Doomed from the start

Right next to having superpowers of their own and fighting alongside their favorite characters, the next best thing for most comic-book fans would be actually assuming the role of their most beloved superheroes. Personally, I’d probably like to be one of the X-Men. Wolverine, Iceman, or Colossus, if possible—I’m not picky.

The guys and gals at Gazillion Entertainment zero in on this concept with their free-to-play PC game, Marvel Heroes. Driven by Diablo-style action-RPG mechanics, the game sees players starting off by choosing one of five heroes who most comic fans would consider B-list: Hawkeye, Storm, Scarlet Witch, Daredevil, and the Thing. By beating the game—or spending some cold, hard cash—you can unlock other heroes or purchase a variety of costumes for these characters.

Unfortunately, if you’re like me and get tempted into picking up the ’90s X-Men cartoon version of Cyclops or Wolverine after a few story chapters, you’ll soon realize that the starter characters represent core classes—and no matter what hero you choose, the powersets are basically the same, just with different animations.

Considering the differences between the heroes in the Marvel universe, this was frustrating as a fan. After all, I was willing to shell out the cash—only to find out there’s no need beyond cosmetic preferences. To add insult to injury, each purchased character starts at level 1, so if you want to immediately use them, the game recommends that you start the entire adventure over again, no matter what point you’re currently at.

A couple of saving graces here, however, are the story and comic-book-still cutscenes. Written by Marvel super-scribe Brian Michael Bendis, the tale incorporates some of Marvel’s most famous story arcs from all their major comic lines into one tidy package. The basics, though, boil down to this: Dr. Doom has a Cosmic Cube, and he feels like messing with reality, because that’s what megalomaniacal bad guys do. I’ve also got to compliment the top-notch voice acting in the cutscenes, including instantly recognizable pros like Nolan North as Deadpool, Steve Blum as Wolverine, and Keith David as Nick Fury.

After choosing your characters, it’s time to actually play the game. And by the time I got a third of the way through the campaign, I’d already grown bored. Instead of offering any kind of variety or difficulty, the game simply threw more and more enemies at me—or gave them an insane amount of health—in the hopes of slowing me down. But it’s not like I was actually doing anything. I played as Hawkeye for most of the game after wasting my money, so all I had to do was get a decent distance away, hold the Shift key in order to ground my hero, and then hold another button to attack. Sometimes two. If I played as the Hulk or Thing, the only thing that changed was my distance relative to the target. The enemy spawn times are also horribly balanced, and I’d regularly clear an area of Hand ninjas or HYDRA goons, only to have them reappear nanoseconds later.

One decent aspect of the gameplay, however, comes in the dungeons. If you turn on auto-grouping, you can enter any dungeon without the fear of being completely overwhelmed. Unlike a lot of other MMOs, when you enter a dungeon around the same time as other players, you can be automatically placed on a team with them. Of course, this can lead to the confusing dilemma of having six Hawkeyes on the same team (which happened to me a lot) and getting your particular avatar lost in the chaos, but if you’re a more introverted gamer, you don’t have to worry about pulling up an awkward chat window, begging for assistance, and dealing with complete strangers.

Normally, this is about where I’d wrap up my review, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about the most disappointing aspect of my time playing Marvel Heroes: the technical side. I purposely waited as long as I did to put up my review because I was waiting to see how the game performed after some patches. While the game has seen several small patches and one major fix in the two weeks since the game went live, I’m still experiencing many gameplay-balance problems, as well as numerous technical issues.

Every 20 to 30 minutes, my game crashes or freezes for no apparent reason, and while I’ve reported this error on the technical forums, it remains unfixed after performing the recommended actions from the support staff. I’ve made sure my drivers are up to date, I’ve uninstalled and reinstalled the game launcher, and I’ve even turned down the specs to the lowest possible setting (my PC isn’t the highest-end gaming rig, but it should handle the minimum requirements no problem).

This left the support staff confounded—and me increasingly frustrated. So, I want to warn people before they play Marvel Heroes: In my experience, it just doesn’t work as well as it should. And after perusing the forums, I found that the error I encountered is actually pretty common. Then again, you get what you pay for—and the core of the game is free, after all.

So, if the game works for you perfectly, that’s great, but at the end of the day, fewer crashes still won’t make Marvel Heroes the most worthwhile of experiences unless you fall in love with its price tag.

Developer: Gazillion Entertainment • Publisher: Gazillion Entertainment • ESRB: N/A • Release Date: 06.04.13
4.0
While Marvel Heroes does some nice things, the Marvel license isn’t enough to cover up glaring technical and design flaws. As much as I wanted to like this game, I can’t recommend something that is, at its core, broken. In the end, you get what you pay for (or less, if you actually invested in this).
The Good Story that expertly reimagines some of Marvel’s greatest moments.
The Bad Constant crashing and glitches; uninspired gameplay.
The Ugly Expecting to get something for nothing—and then being surprised when what you get just isn’t that good.
Marvel Heroes is a PC exclusive. 

Comic books fans are some of the most hardcore media consumers there are. And so when word came out that Disney and Playdom were making a “casual” Facebook game revolving around the Marvel Universe called Marvel Avengers Alliance, a collective groan could be heard coming from the comic community. But never fear fellow True Believers as it seems that our favorite heroes and villains are in good hands.

Although it may fall under the category of “casual” due to its delivery system to your computers, Marvel Avengers Alliance is shaping up to be an experience that all Marvel-ites will want to be a part of. Set up like a classic RPG, this original story (the release near the movie is a happy coincidence for the game as it has no movie tie-in) you play as your very own agent of SHIELD fresh out of boot camp and your high marks has already garnered the attention of Nick Fury. So when an intergalactic event called “The Pulse” suddenly slams the Earth, he knows just who to call to help round up the Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.

The threat of The Pulse is that super-villains from all over the world are searching for fragments of an element that the Pulse left behind called ISO-8 that can enhance their powers. Turn about is fair play though as later on during your super-heroing career, you’ll be able to use larger and more diverse fragments of ISO-8 yourself to round out your stable of heroes’ abilities or turn them into powerhouses in the areas they are already strongest. Hulk can truly be the strongest there is with an ISO-8 boost, or he can learn a little finesse and accuracy with his Thunder Clap if you so choose.

For every mission you go on, you’ll be able to take two heroes to go with your Agent character and be able to unlock up to 28 heroes overall including Iron Man, Black Widow, Thor, Black Cat, Spider-Man, Captain America, Hulk, the X-Men, and the Fantastic Four. If your favorite character is too many levels away though from being unlocked, there will also be an in-game store where you can purchase the unlock for them as well as a bevy of items to help you on your quest. What is most interesting about all these characters though is how different some of them look. In the picture above, we see more 80s era looking Kitty Pryde (Shadowcat) and Colossus, but I also saw a more modern rendition of She-Hulk and the Ultimate Universe’s version of Nick Fury in the game.

“It’s funny what people key into, but understand that it’s all very intentional and we spoke to Marvel all along the way about what era should we go for look-wise here. I mean Iron Man has 31 different suits of armor, which should we go with in the game, and then what will we have available to the players in the future? Are we going to have all 31 Iron Man suits? Obviously not on Day 1, but the intent is to speak to all the fans and give them all those options. But, it’s interesting what different Marvel fans key into and you should know it’s all not just a happy accident. We were very specific with how all the characters would lay out with their different looks,” said Michael Rubinelli, Vice President of Studio Operations for Playdom when I brought it up.

But aside from forwarding the story and playing through like a regular RPG, with leveling up, turn-based mechanics, and buffs and de-buffs depending on equipment, what makes this appeal to the “Casual” market is the fact that you can call in your friends’ heroes for help and they will receive a reward for making their hero available to you. Mind you, if your team has Captain America and Wolverine on it, you can’t call in your buddy’s Cap or Wolvie as the story won’t support mirrors. There is also PvP match-ups (where mirrors are allowed) where you can put your best team to the test and see how they fair against friends and foes alike, helping to expand on the game experience even further and giving this just as long a life as any other “casual” game.

“You’ve got a game that basically can play out infinitely, and that we’re going to support by continuing to release new content, we’re going to continue adding new features, and there’s no level cap. This game doesn’t ever have to end and so by interacting and people continuing to invest in their characters, those characters can continue to grow indefinitely. And that’s part of the beauty of the Marvel franchise as things change and develop in the comics, we can add things to reflect that in the game as time goes on,” said Robert Reichner, COO and co-founder of Offbeat Creations, who helped work on the game.

And the best part is the investment doesn’t have to be as time-consuming as many other RPGs and MMOs out there (hence the “casual” nature) as you can take heroes you aren’t playing with and send them on missions by themselves to level them up and have them learn new moves before calling on them later (think of the Assassin Recruits in Assassin’s Creed: Revelations). Even when you leave Facebook, the character growth continues, encouraging you that just by putting a few minutes into the game each day can have profound affects on your characters later on.

All in all, Marvel Avengers Alliance looks to be a “casual” game that will finally appeal to that “hardcore” comic book fan. An original story, a deep RPG leveling up system, and all our favorite characters with hopes for more down the road, has me ready to shout Excelsior!

What do you folks think? Are you going to play this casual title? Do you think the Marvel characters will translate well to Facebook? Let us know your thoughts with comments below!

New Avengers #12 Review

Originally Published: May 11, 2011, on Comicvine.com

Mockingbird continues to fight for her life in an operating room while a flashback of Nick Fury’s first Avengers in 1959 continues where they are in the process of hunting down the Red Skull.

The Good

The different art styles between Deodato and Chaykin really do a nice job of making a pointed difference between the two time periods this book takes place in, especially since this is the fourth issue in a row where they’ve been going back and forth with these flashbacks to Fury’s 1959 Avengers.

It was also great to see Hawkeye get mad again. When Hawkeye gets mad and he rushes headlong into a conflict, you tend to get some great action sequences and that has me looking forward to some issues down the road.

The Bad

The worst part about this issue is that we are now four issues in and we still haven’t the slightest idea what the point of these Nick Fury flashbacks are, especially since he doesn’t have anything to do right now with the current New Avengers.

On top of this, the flashbacks comprise most of the book, with only seven pages taking place in current times, two of those have Mockingbird on an emergency surgery table and Hawkeye vowing vengeance. At this point, if the Nick Fury flashbacks do not have some earth shattering reveal that saves Mockingbird when all is said and done, this could be the most drawn out waste of time way to kill a character and could be the most pointless story arc I’ve read in quite some time.

Then combine all this with the fact that we’ve seen this flashback story happen before a million times, just not with these characters. How many times has Captain America, Nick Fury, or some other patriot gone after the Red Skull for it simply to be a clone, a body double, or a robot? It’s not special now that Sabretooth has joined that crowd of not finding the real Skull.

The Verdict

I was really excited at first bouncing back and forth between flashbacks of Fury’s 1959 Avengers and the current New Avengers, especially when Mockingbird got shot. Lots of action coupled with a plot that was clearly laying the groundwork for something big for these characters. Four issues into this though and things have come to a grinding, mind-numbing halt and whatever originality we were hoping for seems to be getting thrown out the window.

At this point we’ve seen all the double crosses and triple crosses and the Red Skull Herrings and for it to drag on over four issues is becoming borderline tortuous and definitely tedious. If things don’t come to a head in the next issue with something unexpected, there is a good chance I’m kicking this from my pull box. Only pick up this issue of New Avengers if you have been reading it to this point, otherwise steer clear.

1.5/5 Stars

Originally Published: February 1, 2011, on youtube.com/CGRUndertow

As a part of CGR Undertow, I reviewed Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 for the Xbox 360.