Binge-Nerding

So, here’s the trailer for the upcoming game, Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2: Fusion (which by the by, sounds more like a concept restaurant that serves Cherry Spidey-tini’s, than a game).

Being a nerd who loves both comic books and video games can be rough psychologically. We overlook gameplay mediocrity in favor of embodying our favorite licensed characters and utilizing their trademark super-powers. It’s Stockholm Syndrome for geeks, as we sympathize with our abusers/exploiters by accepting a substandard product (at premium prices), and just shrug at generic gameplay and nonsensical plots that are underdeveloped by even the hackiest of standards. And the latter is important, because we generally read comics for the stories they tell.

We accept mediocrity, because the union of comics and video games often present a sort of nerd-buffet overgorged with all the characters, powers, and bits of storylines we desire– but with none of the individual voices, quirks and character-defining moments that make us fans of the original work. Sure we’ll get a Spidey one-liner or two, but a few offhand puns don’t define a character and hardly distract from how arbitrary these games often feel. A lobster and steak buffet is great in theory, but it’s usually a vacuum of dread and existential despair in reality.

Basically what I’d like to see is a comic book game that doesn’t feel generic. A lot of the joy of having so many playable characters in the last Marvel Ultimate Alliance game was deflated by the fact that so many characters special powers did the same thing. And while it wasn’t spectacular, one of Justice League Heroes‘ assets was its fairer differentiation between characters moves and relative strengths (although maybe Green Arrow was just a little too useless). The best games of last year (Grand Theft Auto 4 and Fallout 3 imho) engaged and immersed their players into complex stories rich with idiosyncratic characters and sideplots. The gameplay served the story-telling, rather than being an end in and of itself.

With the mediocre Civil War storyline as its basis, all the recent commentary on event fatigue seems relevant, becasuse many of the same issues with characters getting short shrift to serve a particular product are present (though for the record, I enjoyed Final Crisis throughout its run). In general, my hopes aren’t high for MUA 2. (Although in hindsight, Civil War at least had some interesting moments compared to the ambivalence I felt towards Secret Invasion, which will probably be greater than Dark Reign…. et cetera. ) At best, one hopes that there may be multiple storylines/endings based on the different factions involved, and at worst we’ll get the same old crap w/ some next-gen console lighting effects. And unfortunately for many, the same old crap will suffice.

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