Tuesday, June 14, 2011

SC On Rogue Trooper: Quartz Zone Massacre (Wii)

 Oh dear...

Ho boy, where to start with this one.  Let's get a few things out of the way:

-The game is based on a British comic strip series called Rogue Trooper which has been around since the early 80s.
-Quartz Zone Massacre is one of the novels based on Rogue Trooper, released in 2006.  Good luck finding information on it.
-This is the third game made around Rogue Trooper.  The first two were an 8-bit PC game and an Amiga title.  This specific version is actually a port of the Rogue Trooper game on PS2, XBox, and PC from 2006, updated with Wii controls.
-It's apparently popular enough to warrant having a Rogue Trooper skin in Little Big Planet 2.
 -It's an over-the-shoulder shooter.  The last one of those I played was RE5 and I've skipped most of them, including Gears of War (yeah, blasphemy, whatever).
-This song has been stuck in my head since I first played it.

Hey wait a minute...

Everybody got that?  Good.

Rogue Trooper (the game and the comic) centers around the planet Nu Earth where two groups, the Norts and the Southers are in conflict.  They're fighting because... uh... 

WAR IS ETERNAL... I guess?

Actually I think it's because of some "strategic point in the universe" bullshit.  Whatever.  The planet becomes so polluted from all the chemical warfare between the two sides that the Norts have to wear a special breathing apparatus and chem suit to go outside, while the Southers develop G.I.s, or Genetic Infantrymen.  These guys (and girls) are specifically designed to be able to survive in Nu Earth's environment, resist a myriad of toxins, and be able to cosplay Dr. Manhattan with relative ease.  How have the Southers not completely and utterly dominated the Norts with these guys?  Well...

1. The game starts with someone betraying the Southers, resulting in most of the G.I.s being destroyed as they try to land on the planet, and
2. None of the G.I.s wear armor.  Apparently they forgot that the Norts' guns fire, you know, bullets.

Guns?  Bullets?!  IN A WAR?!  Since when?

So after several more parallels between the Civil/Second World/Almost Every War, Rogue lands with his friends Gunnar, Bagman, and Helm.  They all die and their brain-chip-things get attached to his gun, bag, and helmet where they stay alive and serve their own special uses, like acting as a sentry gun, hacking computers or generating ammo.

Yes, they're actually named Gunnar, Bagman, and Helm when they're alive.  They might as well be named Dead, Dead, and Dead.

To the game's credit, it handles decently.  Running, climbing, aiming, scoping enemies, and even getting into and out of cover all work well.  The parts where it gets bogged down in the Wii release are turning, weapon switching, and grenade use.

Turning is done the usual way in Wii games like this; by pointing to the sides of the screen.  This works okay most of the time, but sometimes going to the corners of the screen to look up and to the side or down and to the side are extremely sensitive, to the point where Rogue ends up spinning in a circle for a moment or two.

Will it go 'round in circles?

Weapon switching is done with the D-pad.  Specifically, switching guns is done by hitting up, and grenades are switched with left.  This is an awkward trade-off made during the porting process because down on the D-pad is for switching to the sniper scope.

Why couldn't they make it slightly less awkward by having gun switching be right instead of up?  Because... uh...


Throwing grenades is, by far, the most awkward thing to do.  While you can easily throw a grenade in front of you or blindly from cover by flicking the nunchuk, To aim a grenade throw you need to hold the nunchuck "vertically" until a throwing line appears, aim with a combination of tilting the wiimote and using the joystick, and flick the nunchuk forward.

I've had just about everything go wrong trying to do this, from badly overshooting a target to lobbing the grenade a whole foot in front of Rogue and having to dive away from the explosion.

Thankfully the other abilities are much easier to use (and abuse).  Gunnar can create a silencer for the rifle or turn it into an automated turret while Rogue runs around with his infinite-ammo pistol.  Helm can hack computers and create a visual decoy of Rogue.  Bagman is a nigh-endless supply of ammo and health packs and can also create new weapons and grenade types as the game progresses, such as shotguns, rocket launchers, chaff grenades and proximity explosives.

These are created using salvage, which can be picked up from damn near everything that dies or is already dead.  Nort soldiers of all types, disabled turrets, dead Southers, and even abandoned droids which are (sort of but not really because you can see them on the radar) hidden away.  The grunts and Souther units don't count for as much, but are still worth picking up for the long run, especially on the two higher difficulties.

Speaking of which, "Normal" is the easy difficulty.  I feel like I've been lied to.

I can explain only about 2% of this image and why it's here.

There are a few sequences where Rogue is either protecting a train or flying around in a ship and trying to keep it intact until it reaches a certain point.  Like anything involving a protection mission, this is a pain in the ass.  There are checkpoints, but they save both progress AND the current condition of whatever you're trying to protect.  If you hit the first checkpoint and the train you're on is about to explode, you need to either be flawless the rest of the way or start the whole mission over.
Oh, and the train blew up and/or crashed once the mission was finished anyway.  What was the point of doing that mission again?

 I swear to God if you do that one more time...

One more thing I should add before I forget is that the storytelling is all over the place.  Like I said, I've never read any of the comic and am not familiar with the story beyond what's in this game.  That being said, the characters that aren't Rogue or the traitor general might as well just not exist.  Gunner, Bagman and Helm are given next to no build-up before there are unceremoniously killed.  

Hell, Helm was captured and poisoned to death by a Nort officer with a Russian accent, (whose name escapes me right now) but she is killed off-screen by Rogue before anything is established about her other than what side she fights for.  The storytelling is single-minded and incapable of building up anyone other than Rogue and the traitor general, and even then I'd say Rogue is an overly-simplistic personality that we're supposed to sympathize with simply because we're forced to follow him for the whole game, kind of like that one other guy...


The biggest issue I have with the game, though, is that it's buggy.  Very buggy.  While I haven't experienced any game-killing glitches or freezes, I have seen the following:

-Being able to shoot through parts of the environment you shouldn't be able to, e.g. solid steel doors.

-Audio for cutscenes getting out of sync to the point where it looks like Steve Oedekerk hijacked Rogue Trooper to make another Kung Pow movie (which I'd be okay with).

-Getting stuck while crouching near cover, causing Rogue's legs to flail around like he's Russian dancing backwards.  Actually, Rogue will do this just about any time he's near any sort of wall or obstacle.

-Having Rogue shake uncontrollably while looking around in cover.  Sometimes it's so bad I want to find him a blanket and some hot cocoa.

-Dead enemies getting stuck in mid-air.

I'm the only person who knows what the music is, aren't I?

This, to me, is one of those games that's just sort of there.  It's not bad, it's not good, it's just sort of there.  It feels like there could have been a lot more done with the source material than what was done here.  There had to be more for the comic to run as long as it did.  The excessive linearity (even by shooter standards) and blandness of the environments, except for places like the petrified forest and the piers, are really underwhelming, even for the time it originally came out.  It was, unfortunately, pretty forgettable.

How do you manage that with what is otherwise a pretty interesting concept?

You're dead!