Updated Tue, May 15, 2012 by Sardu
Even though it won’t technically be summer for another month, we’ve already born witness to the first true summer blockbuster of the season. And while it is indeed of the super hero variety, it isn’t about a merry band of Marvel misfits that collectively aren’t cool enough to have an X in their name. Nor is it about a brooding DC detective with a smug American Psycho simile.
In fact, this particular Summer Blockbuster won’t be found in theaters at all. Well, at least not in your local multiplex.
Instead, MMO gamers will want to head into the City of Heroes for its newest, and dare we say most inventive seasonal update yet. While the usual fare of holiday themed in-game events can be a great way of keeping players in the spirit of various real world holidays while playing, it seems incredibly fitting that for its summer event, Paragon chose to live the American dream of big action on the big screen.
As Matt “Positron” Miller explained during our hands-on walkthrough of the new update, “We wanted an event for the summertime. We have our Halloween event, and we’ve got our stuff for the springtime, but what we don’t have is a summer event. We sat down to brainstorm some ideas, and I came up with the idea of capitalizing on our modern day society game, and the biggest thing that happens in the summer for a lot of people is going to the movies. I thought this was a natural fit, and that we could tie this into the City of Heroes.“
It’s a great premise for a game update, made even greater as soon as you enter the theater lobby created specifically for experience. Back in March, Paragon had announced its Create a Blockbuster Movie Poster contest, and based on the ones in display in the lobby there were obviously some great entries submitted by players. They run the entire gambit from the super powered to the surreal, but could you imagine how awesome it would be if there were actually an in-game event for one of my favorites, Magical Dream Unicorns – The Movie? Maybe next summer!
The lobby also boasts all of the usual suspects that you’d find in your home town theater, right down to a concession stand and popcorn vendor. Only, instead of selling you overpriced popcorn with enough butter to paint the entire eastern seaboard yellow, players will be able to purchase inspirations here instead.
From here, players will be able to access two new missions: Time Gladiator and Casino Heist. According to Matt, “We came up with the ideas for Time Gladiator and Casino Heist based on cool ideas that we actually wanted to make, and we also wanted something that was a little bit heroic in nature and one that was a bit villainous in nature since we do cater to both player types.”
To avoid a situation where players might favor one of the two “movies” over the other and quit the mission until getting the one you wanted, it’s random which one you’re going to get first. But even though you’re going to end up playing through both movies every time you run through the content, Matt explained that they were aiming to keep them both short and sweet.
For our run through, we ended up getting Time Gladiator first. As the name suggests, the action takes place in a massive gladiatorial arena, an all-new environment created specifically for the update. Within moments our group was swept into the action, facing off against a pair of handmaidens and a badass minotaur.
With our first round completed, a group of ninjas appeared. Yes, ninjas. The idea with this round is to see how many of them you can defeat in the allotted time, with 75 being the target goal. In another of these intermission rounds, players will want to aim to defeat up to 100 monkeys. As a combined goal between the two, players will be able to earn the Ninja Monkey badge based on how many ninjas and monkeys they're able to defeat.
Another twist that’s been added to the mix is a UI element that players can use to gain favor with the crowd. If you can get it up high enough, you have a chance at a bonus boss appearing. To do so, players will want to be sure to use the Incite the Crowd power each time it comes up.
As noted, the mission itself was indeed somewhat on the short side, but offered plenty of interesting moments for a small group of players. Beyond the new environment and the ability to gain favor with the crowd, the cinematic opening sequence certainly lends itself to the whole summer blockbuster vibe of the update.
With Time Gladiator wrapped up, our group immediately dove directly into Casino Heist, another short event that Miller described as “Oceans 4”. Given the obvious point of reference, players will be able to assume one of four roles: the Hitter, the Hacker, the Grifter, or the Thief. Clicking on one of the glowing standees back in the theater lobby will assign that role to your character. Once you’ve learned your role, you’ll get one or two APB powers that will explain the basics of that particular role, and what your role in the heist is.
The overarching plan is to steal the money out of the casino’s vault, and to do so you’ll need to first go in and install some outdated software on their computers to make them think that Daylight Savings Time is one week off from what it actually is. This will make it so that the time lock on the safe can be opened an hour before they think it actually is.
Meanwhile, your group will also need to complete other objectives, such as obtaining voice samples to use a specific pass phrase on the voice print of the safe. You’ll also need to disable some of the force fields protecting the safe, as well as making sure you have a solid escape plan.
The mission itself cuts back and forth between flashbacks for the heist itself, and the warehouse you’ll eventually be tracked back to afterwards. The latter is where things begin to be much more combat intensive, but this will also be controlled somewhat based directly on how well your group fulfills your chosen roles in the flashback scenes.
Since our group did fairly well in our roles, we only had to face around 20 enemies during the first shift back to the present, for example. This can scale up to around 45 enemies, so players will really want to try to focus on their roles during the heist sequences, or else face the consequences of their inaction.
Overall, Casino Heist proved to be both inventive and entertaining, and will no doubt offer players plenty of replayability thanks to the ability to assume one of the four different roles each time. And while Time Gladiator may be a bit more straightforward, it was still incredibly fun, especially during the intermission rounds when it was all about putting the smackdown on piles of ninjas and monkeys.
The Summer Blockbuster update will be hitting the City of Heroes beta server today, so current players will definitely want to dive in and check it out!