The Case for a Proper “Pacific Rim” Video Game: The Reason Kinect ExistsS

Edit: Holy hell, people are actually reading this! Ignore the opening paragraph.

I doubt anyone will actually read this. You don't know me, I don't know you, and in all likelihood seeing the word "Kinect" in the header completely turned you off to the idea of continuing. I understand completely, but in case you stumbled across my ramblings by chance, are on your laptop because you are unable to fall asleep for the third night in-a-row, or perhaps I linked this to you, I have an idea that may warrant consideration.


I recently saw Guillermo Del Toro's Pacific Rim…it was fantastic. It was everything my inner 10-year-old could've ever wanted out of a movie. I don't have enough good things to say about it. Then I heard there was a video game tie-in, and like pretty much every other movie tie-in game that has ever existed, it flopped harder than a paraplegic shark. Listen, I understand why movie tie-in games exist…to exploit the gaming-ignorant. At any given time all over the country in every Toys'R'Us is a clueless single parent who spots one these titles on the store shelves and thinks to themselves "I bet if I buy this robot game for little Colton, I can get a few hours of peace and quiet to reflect on how I've never visited Paris." These games are not for you and I, little to no actual game design or thought was put into them, they exist solely to make a quick buck off the spiking popularity of a recent big-name release. But if High Moon's Transformers games were anything to go off, it shows us that games based on pre-existing licenses don't have to suck. So dear reader, here is my proposal for a proper game involving the world of Pacific Rim.

Disclaimer: There may be some references to Pacific Rim's story that could be considered minor spoilers, you have been warned.

Managing the Kaiju war

"With the emergence of the greatest threat humankind has ever faced, the countries of the world cast aside their petty differences and band together to fund an ambitious project in order combat our looming extinction against a powerful and mysterious enemy."

Sound familiar?

There's one particular game that came out recently that springs to mind when I hear that story synopsis. I'll give you a hint...it starts with an "X" and ends with a "COM: Enemy Unknown." I'd really like to believe I'm not the only one that noticed some parallels between Firaxis' masterpiece and Pacific Rim. No, really…consider Rim's first trailer. A man clad in futuristic armor that looks eerily similar to XCOM's "Titan" Armor stands above an attentive crowd waxing lyrically about "the end of our time." A powerful and strange enemy suddenly laying waste to human civilization. Human civilization rallying and fighting back against impossible odds through tireless hours of R&D. The only two, admittedly profound, details that kept Rim from being "XCOM: The Movie" were Jaegers instead of super-soldiers, and Kaiju instead of Chryssalids.

So adhering to the theory that Rim the film pulled references from XCOM, why shouldn't the game do the same thing? When you're not caving-in Kaiju skulls (more on that later), you and your R&D department are researching new weapons and armor, building better servos and utilities to make your Jaegers more maneuverable, training pilots to better "drift" with one another and yourself (again, more on that later), learning more about the Kaiju themselves and discovering weaknesses you can exploit, selling your unwanted battle spoils to Hannibal Chau on the black market, and of course, building more Jaegers (I SAID LATER!). All of this, while keeping your international backers happy by ensuring you can defend their borders. Not to mention that much like it did in XCOM this would add a deep level of strategy, forethought, and urgency to everything you do. Sure, you could heavily invest time into training only your personal co-pilot and kick some serious Kaiju ass by yourself, but that could spell disaster in the later stages of the game when those other inexperienced, "rabbit-chasing-prone" pilots you've been ignoring need to have your back when Category 4 Kaiju start flooding out during double or even triple events. Maybe you could focus all your time and resources into developing a sweet new Mark IV Jaeger off the coast of Manilla, but then a powerful Category 3 Kaiju pops up near San Francisco and the closest Jaeger available is a lowly Mark I. You've equipped a Chain Sword to each arm? That's great! Too bad your next opponent has blade-resistant armored plating, which you would've known about if you had researched that Breach Scanner Dr. Geiszler kept harping on you about. Remember, luck favors the prepared.

Jaeger Crafting

Mech games have always been about big guns, giant explosions, and gloating over the mangled remains of your opponent. But it's also equally been about customizing, outfitting, and optimizing a 200-foot tall death machine capable of leveling a small city. Yes, this is technically based on a movie, so the simple and objectively un-fun way to handle building Jaegers would be to use the ones from the film and maybe a handful of other predetermined bots we didn't get to see on screen. But much like the LEGOs (Megablocks if you were poor) of our youth, making these kinds of things yourself is always better.

Now, this is going sound weird when you consider games like Mechwarrior and Armored Core exist, but my favorite mech game of all time was Chromehounds…where are you going? No, wait! COME BACK HERE! Hear me out for a second. Sure, the gameplay was largely unbalanced and certainly catered to the niche audience of poor Steel Battalion fans, but that wasn't the best part of the game. The best part was endlessly tweaking and optimizing your very own unique mech that you literally built from scratch, and then showing it off…and by "showing it off" I mean shooting artillery rounds into the stupid robot faces of other people. It's that level of commitment and craft that should go into building Jaegers. Kind of got your ass handed to you by that Category 2 Kaiju last time? Swap out some of your lesser weapons systems for reenforced armor plating. Too much time between your punches? Upgrade your servos to make your Jaeger's limbs move faster. Like swords? Strap a Chain Sword to each arm. Furthermore, all of these pieces change the visual look and performance of your Jaeger, so that much like your little toy soldiers in XCOM, your painstakingly crafted Jaeger truly feels like it's yours to command when you finally hop into the cockpit for the first time.

You Are the Controller...

This is where I'm going to start losing some of the more hardcore among you. Since its conception, the Kinect has been little more than a slightly more convenient way to watch Netflix. The amount of quality games the Kinect has available for it can be counted on one hand. I truly regret the fact that I actually purchased one.

THAT BEING SAID!

If you don't understand why a Pacific Rim video game should…no…must be a Kinect title then you need to schedule an appointment with your optometrist because you may be blind. Sure, controlling a Jaeger with a…um...controller would also work and it would still probably be a decent if not a pretty damn good game, but with the advent of Kinect 2.0's upgraded specs and the fact that every gamer with an Xbox One will have one, it seems viable to give it another chance. One only needs to watch a trailer for the film and the game mechanics become clear. You throw a right hook. Your Jaeger throws a right hook. You stomp on a downed Kaiju's skull. Your Jaeger stomps on a downed Kaiju's skull. You brace for the impact of a Kaiju charge. Your Jaeger…okay you get the idea. Special gestures could also be applied to any special weapons or techniques you have equipped or your pilots have learned. Example, thrusting your arms out to the side with your fingers extended to activate a sword. Or they could even be activated by voice. If Dance Central (the only Kinect title that got it right) proves anything, it's that with the proper amount of development sense the Kinect can recognize a wide range of movements that aren't overly gimmicky…*cough*…hand binoculars…*cough*

…And so is Greg.

Meet Greg. Greg has been your friend since college. You've drank together, you've laughed together, he even set you up with your current significant other. Which makes it all the harder when you just found out he had feelings for them this whole time, and yesterday you caught them sleeping together. Your friendship is over, your relationship is over, and worse than all of that…you've just lost your co-pilot.

During solo play, your co-pilot is just a combination of polygons and pixels held together by lines of code. For all intents and purposes, he/she is just a sweet piece of gear that gives you stat bonuses and damage multipliers. Which is all well and good for those nights when your friends are busy…or are ignoring you…or don't exist. But a main arc of Pacific Rim's story was about two human beings sharing a bond, working together, and kicking some serious tail in the process. So too must the game reflect this. When Co-Op play has been initiated (drop-in, drop-out by the way), instead of a bunch of number crunching going on behind the scenes to determine your co-pilot's performance, your ability to execute combat maneuvers in-sync with your in-room partner directly influences your combat effectiveness. Perfectly synchronized movements could award you with critical strikes, quicker movements, and better defenses. Inversely, poorly synchronized movements could result in lesser damage, weaker defenses, or even a malfunction that leaves your Jaeger completely exposed. After all, "the closer the bond, the better you fight" and saving the world is always better if you have friend to take the journey with you.

The No-Win Scenario

Your Jaegers lie in ruins, Sydney and Hong Kong are nothing more than smoldering wastelands, the United States has long since pulled its funding and are now building a giant wall instead, the only pilots you have left are desperate rookies that have never met one another before, humanity is on brink of extinction, and all of this could've been avoided if you just spent more time researching better armor. Such is the very real possibility of your endgame.

The triumph of saving the entire world is completely wasted if the possibility of failure is not present. It forces you stop for a second and really think about the ramifications of your actions. Yes, that shiny new Plasma Cannon looks cool and it would annihilate anything in its path, but for the cost and resources of one of those you could outfit three Jaegers with faster servos, and the Kaiju have been getting a lot of hits in on you in between your attacks lately. Newton's third law states the necessity for equal and opposite reactions, so for every feeling of triumph involving an underdog Jaeger steamrolling a Category 4 Kaiju, so to must the feeling of devastation be equally experienced when your prized Jeager is unceremoniously torn apart during your first double event. The world is on the line, and it must feel that way through gameplay.

Still Getting Your Nods In

There's no Transformers without Optimus Prime, there's no Looney Toons without Bugs Bunny, and there's no Pacific Rim without Gypsy Danger. "But, you just said we're supposed to build our own Jaegers!" Yes, I did, but that doesn't mean we can't have our cake and eat it too. The Jaegers and Kaiju featured in the film can still exist in the form of special instances peppered throughout main campaign. For example, at a certain point in the campaign Stacker can inform you of a special research opportunity the R&D department has been presented with, he goes on to inform you that project comes as special request from the Russians and already have a pair of sibling pilots lined up to take the helm. Should you choose to say yes, the project is started, and once it is finished you now have "Cherno Alpha" in your hangar…waiting for you to take it for a spin. Inversely, the Kaiju featured on screen could pop up as special missions or even semi-scripted boss fights. We're happy, Del Toro is happy, and all the talented men a women who invested hours into making these characters are happy.


Whew…done. Thanks for hanging in there, and thanks for reading!