Still Wakes The Deep - title

I keep being drawn to games developed by the Chinese Room, despite always being disappointed by them. Their games always represent the things that people dislike most about "walking simulators". But since I don't have any inherent dislike for walking sims, I keep giving The Chinese Room another chance. Still Wakes The Deep caught my attention by being described as "John Carpenter's The Thing set on an oil rig". The Thing is a masterpiece of horror, and one of my favorite movies ever.

I had visions of Still Wakes The Deep being a story about inter-personal paranoia in the claustrophobic and isolated setting of an oil rig that is gradually being overtaken by a Lovecraftian alien threat. That's only partly true though, as Still Wakes The Deep plays up the cosmic horror element, while downplaying the paranoia element and replacing it with simpler themes about interpersonal relationships and the artificial walls that people tend to put up between themselves and the people they care about.

An oil rig is a great setting for horror, combining dark claustrophobic corridors with the terror of being stuck at sea.

Alone, together, on an oil rig

The setting of an oil rig is an interesting one for a psychological horror story or video game. The environment is completely enclosed and claustrophobic, with little-to-no escape. People are forced to live and work together in close quarters, and their survival is largely dependent on one another. Being stuck in such a setting, with people who you can't trust, would surely be terrifying.

The short length of Still Wakes The Deep does hurt it a lot. Specifically, the inciting incident happens very early and suddenly, with little-to-no build up or transition between "normal" and "everything's gone to shite". I never felt like I got a chance to really get to know any of the supporting characters, to the point that I wasn't even sure what their names were, or which character was being referred to when a name came up in a document or conversation. Similarly, when I find any given body or corpse, I have no idea who it's supposed to be. I had a brief opportunity to snoop around in a few characters' cabins at the start, but all that really told me was that the boss is a hard-ass, and there's one other character who might be a racist, neo-fascist prick. Other than that, there's like one opportunity to have a brief exchange with each of the main supporting characters, and it's all optional, and most of it is more about the state of the rig anyway.

There's hardly any time to explore the rig or get to know the crew before the inciting incident.

The brief intro, and fact that the rig goes to shite so quickly and suddenly, means that there's also never an opportunity for the player to get a feel for the setting itself. I got about 20 minutes to walk through a couple hallways, some crew cabins, the mess hall, and the main deck, and then it's right into the horror, with the rig literally falling apart around me. From here on out, it's hard to ever get a sense for where, exactly, I am on the rig, or how the different sections fit together or relate to one another. When floors and walls literally start collapsing, I can't tell one hallway from another. This is despite the fact that the game loops the player around through the same mess hall and lounge, that we saw in the intro, like 5 or 6 times throughout the game. Despite revisiting this same location multiple times, I never really recognized it until I was inside the lounge or mess hall. Every set piece just feels like a semi-random series of corridors and obstacles in which all I have to do is push forward on the analog stick to get where I need to go. There's no open-ended exploration whatsoever, no hidden secrets, and no alternate paths.

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RoboCop: Rogue City - title

If not for overall "nostalgia fatigue", I probably would have been a lot more excited about RoboCop: Rogue City. I, like every other young boy who grew up in the 80's and early 90's, loved RoboCop. But the old 8 and 16-bit games of the era didn't really do the character justice. I'm honestly surprised that it took this long to get a modern RoboCop shooter. I would have thought that such an idea would have been perfect for the PS3 and XBox 360 era of dull, brown, military shooters. Maybe there were RoboCop shooters then, and I just missed them.

In any case, I had other games that I was playing when Rogue City released, so I put it on my eBay watchlist and waited for a cheap, used copy to come available. Joke was on me, as the game went on sale and was $5 cheaper on the PSN like the day after I bought my copy. But I wanted the disc anyway, so that I could pass it around between a couple friends who were also timidly interested in playing it, but not so much as to pay full retail.

If Teyon and Nacon really wanted me to buy Rogue City, then they should have given it full VR support. The RoboCop property seems like an ideal candidate for a VR game, and this game in particular seems well-suited to the VR medium. I mean, you're playing a first-person perspective as a cyborg! Being able to simply turn your head to point your gun in different directions to take down enemies from all sides would be perfectly in-line with the source material. Heck, it would even allow for blind shots with your back turned to an enemy. The slow walking speed of the character means players would be less likely to get motion sickness from free movement controls or nauseatingly-fast motion. Eye-tracking software could have potentially been used for tagging or locking onto targets, for some of the game's detective mechanics, and maybe to assist in setting up trick shots.

RoboCop would be perfect for a VR game! Too bad this isn't a VR game.

But alas, RoboCop: Rogue City does not have VR support. The potential is squandered on a simple first-person shooting gallery, that occasionally stops to be a light RPG about narc-ing on homeless people and writing parking tickets.

Robo-Narc

Honestly, the narc-RPG was actually the stuff that I liked most about Rogue City. I was having the most fun when I was patrolling around Downtown Detroit, issuing tickets, resolving citizen complaints, rescuing cats from burning buildings, and occasionally shooting up a drug den. There's a cathartic wish-fulfillment quality to spotting someone parked like an asshole, and slapping a ticking on their windshield. I think all of us (who aren't cops) dream about doing that from time to time.

Ticketing homeless people for loitering or littering is significantly less fun, which is why I usually let them off with a warning. I mean, it's not like they can pay the fine anyway, and they have nowhere else to go. I appreciated the game for giving me the freedom to let people off with a warning, and to not punish me with poor performance reviews, or something like that. I think upholding the law grants more experience, but there's plenty of opportunity for gaining experience without feeling pressured to have to throw the book at every loitering teenager or hobo sleeping on a park bench. In fact, the game often rewarded me for letting people off with a warning, by improving my "trust" rating with the general public, which resulted in better story outcomes at the end of the game. Apparently people like cops a lot more when they aren't callously writing tickets or gunning down perps without a second's hesitation. Who would've thought?! I'm sure it also helps to be a really cool, shiny robot man.

Writing tickets for asshole drivers is so cathartic.

There was probably room for Teycon to put more pressure on the player to uphold the letter of the law. The public trust system would probably also be more interesting in a larger, more open game, in which civilians are more present, and in which civilians might help or hinder the player depending on the public perception of your actions. Maybe that's an idea for any potential future sequel?

There's even a handful of characters who have branching stories and different outcomes based on whether you throw the book at them every time, or simply play the role of good-faith friendly-neighborhood narc. There's even a set of still vignettes at the end of the game (Fallout-style), telling the player how all these side characters fared in the end, and how your decisions influenced them.

This is some genuinely good stuff. The player is free to do some open-ended policing and make moral and ethical decisions about any given suspect's specific circumstances. I wish more of the game were this!

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X-Men 97
© Walt Disney Corporation, Marvel Animation.

This wave of nostalgic reboots is becoming so overwhelmingly exhausting. I almost avoided watching X-Men '97 out of principle. I can barely remember the last TV show or movie that I watched, or last video game that I played, that wasn't based on a '90's or '80's IP. At least Shogun and Three-Body Problem are based on novels, instead of movies and TV shows that I watched in elementary school.

I'm glad I did watch X-Men '97 though. It's pretty damn good. It's also depressing though. It's a reminder of how little has changed in 30 years, and how, in some ways, things have gotten worse. There was a hopeful optimism in the '90's. But now, properties like X-Men and Star Trek are reminding us of how fragile our progress is. How quickly and easily it can all be undone.

The X-Men are just as powerful and poignant as they were in the '80's and '90's, and the metaphors still work depressingly well. I had hoped we'd be past this by now. Maybe we never will be.

Despite being a little more bleak in tone, X-Men '97 is both a pitch-perfect continuation of the X-Men: Animated Series for children, and also a new experience for a more mature audience. This show is move violent, more graphic, and people die! But it's not excessive or obscene. It's not Game Of Thrones, and I would have no problem letting any comic book-reading child watch it.

It's also bonkers! The stories here go to crazy places, and do crazy things -- crazy even for comic books. But just as with the original show, these stories (as crazy as they are) are faithfully adapted from the comic book source material -- some of the craziest comic book source material.

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The Beatles

I had wanted to write about this back when it happened in the fall of 2023, but I kept getting distracted, and never got around to it. But I still talk to people who consider themselves to be Beatles fans, but who have no idea that this happened. So, maybe it's not too late to write about this: for those of you who don't know (or those of you who do know), there is a new Beatles single that was released in 2023!

I know what you're thinking, and no, this isn't a computer-generated, A.I. deep fake. It is actual music, performed and recorded by all 4 Beatles.

The song is called "Now And Then". Basically, it is a demo tape that John Lennon recorded in 1977, before his murder in 1980. In 1994, after Lennon was inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame (as a solo artist), his widow, Yoko Ono, sent the tape to Paul McCartney. The 3 surviving Beatles, Paul, George, and Ringo, attempted to finish the song, but at the time, it proved too difficult. The quality of the recording wasn't very good, and it was too difficult to isolate John's performance from background sounds. At the time, the Beatles abandoned "Now And Then", but went ahead with production of 2 other songs on the tape, "Real Love" and "Free As A Bird", which were both released in 1996.

"Now And Then" sat dormant for decades, until the production of The Beatles: Get Back, a 2021 documentary film for Disney that was directed by Peter Jackson. Jackson employed new A.I. technologies to clean up background noise from the Beatles' practice and recording sessions for the Get Back album. During production, Jackson, Paul, and Ringo realized that this same technology could be employed to clean up the audio for "Now And Then" and isolate John's vocal and piano performances. This finally allowed Paul and Ringo to finish the song. They recorded new vocal and instrumental portions, along with an orchestra, and mixed them together with John's vocals, John's piano, and recordings of George's guitar parts from the failed 1995 recording sessions.

This finally allowed "Now And Then" to be finished and released as a new Beatles single in 2023.

"Now And Then" was released as the Beatles final single in November of 2023.
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Over the years, I have frequently recommended that people stop buying new games from AAA publishers at retail. Don't buy them at all, or if you do, wait for a sale, or buy it used. This is because the massive, international, conglomerate corporations that publish these games are sleazy, scummy, or outright evil.

They underpay their employees.

They abuse their employees with cultures of crunch.

They hang the Sword of Damacles over their employees heads with the perpetual threat of layoffs.

They report record profits to their shareholders and award billion dollar bonuses to executives on a Tuesday, and then lay off hundreds or thousands of workers on Wednesday because they "can't afford" to keep them.

Some publishers even have active cultures of sexual harassment and abuse of female employees, which their HR departments are happy to cover up or sweep under the rug.

They harass and ostracize transgender employees and hold their healthcare hostage.

They fight against unionization.

They overcharge for their products.

They sell un-regulated gambling to minors.

They sell half-baked or broken products at full price.

They cancel promising upcoming products with little-to-no rhyme or reason.

They want to take away the consumer's right to own the media that we buy.

The list goes on...

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A gamer's thoughts

Welcome to Mega Bears Fan's blog, and thanks for visiting! This blog is mostly dedicated to game reviews, strategies, and analysis of my favorite games. I also talk about my other interests, like football, science and technology, movies, and so on. Feel free to read more about the blog.

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