Old School Gaming

Rise of the Robots

Rise of the Robots

There are times when I look back and think that maybe the 1990s were the pinnacle of video game design. Maybe it’s just because that’s when I was heavily into gaming, but it seems to me that today’s games are more derivative of the games that came out in the 1990s than anything new or creative. The first person shooter really came into its own in the 1990s. Real-time strategy games finally began living up to their hype. MMOs made me miss more than one class in college. Rise of the Robots isn’t any of those. It’s better…and worse.

Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter ruled the fighting game genre in the 1990s. Mirage Studios and Time Warner Interactive wanted to get in on the action, and take video gaming to a new level. Rather than the pixel art or digitized sprites of similar games, Rise of the Robots was to have fully rendered CGI sprites. The plot and characters were all heavily influenced by cyberpunk movies like Bladerunner, The Terminator, and RoboCop. Full motion video for the opening sequence, character introductions, and fight outcomes was promised. To top it all off, Brian May was contracted to write and perform the soundtrack. To say consumers and critics were excited is, quite possibly, an understatement.

Then the game hit shelves.

The fancy CGI graphics overwhelmed many gaming systems and made game play difficult and irritating. The full motion videos were omitted altogether on cartridge-based systems. Sega Genasis and Amiga CD32 versions had static screenshots for destruction sequences. In fact, the only version to get all of the full motion video was the 3DO. That meant that approximately 3 people actually saw the groundbreaking, full motion CGI graphics.

A short intro from The Dark was the only Brian May contribution to the soundtrack, with Mirage inserting their own music. Well, if your version had a soundtrack. If you were playing on a 3DO or Amiga CD32 version, you had no music during fight sequences. If you were playing the PC version you had no in-game music at all.

To top it all off, unlike Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter II, which had seemingly endless combinations of controls for moves, Rise of the Robots had a very limited set of moves. Many players found they could beat their opponents quite quickly with repeated use of a flying kick. It became apparent the studio put all their effort into groundbreaking graphics and forgot that people buy video games to play them. Well, that and the fact that many of the video game platforms at the time couldn’t handle both fancy graphics and multitudes of game play options.

In the end, Rise of the Robots was an utter failure both popularly and critically. However, it did set a new bar in video game graphics. One that may have been about 10 years too early.

  • Felis_Concolor

    < *¥€%ing pedant> Unless you do set aside 4 years for each play through of the battle for North Africa, there is no such thing as real time strategy.< /*¥€%ing pedant>

    "Day 631 of this infernal campaign. The latrine is still sprayed with shit. F#$&@ng dysentery."

    • Sounds about like the few times I tried to plat Axis & Allies.

      • Felis_Concolor

        Still one of my absolute favorite board games, although I do miss the surprises my esl friends in college would create.

        Having a bunch of Japanese, Korean and Chinese students taking control of the game would result in some strange endgames, such as a German carrier strike force escorting an amphibious assault on Australia where the Russian forces had retreated, while Japan's bomber bases in Brazil had pummeled the Americans back to Canada alongside the British refugees, who had succumbed to invasion from Italy via the Middle East.

  • Devin

    Surprisingly, the SNES version DID have the FMV. In a tiny window about the size of a postage stamp on even a respectable TV. And it was compressed so much it looked similar to the channels that were not part of your cable package. But it was there.

    Rented it back in the day, that was a waste of allowance money.

  • I played Myst once! Although I must have owned a computer to do that, so it was probably well after the war on terror started.

    • nanoop

      I played the Fallout games (1&2) when at university, on old hardware. For difficult opponents it was
      Save (took 45 sec deep in the game)
      shoot -miss – get shot – load the You've died screen
      load game (70sec)
      repeat until win.
      During loading and saving I managed to get a degree…

  • jeepjeff

    First person shooter I've played most in the last 5 years? Quake. The original Quake. Which is the game you are referring to with the line: The first person shooter really came into its own in the 1990s. That's the moment first person shooters got really good, and it was really the last time that format made a revolutionary leap.

    By which I mean, Doom and the many FPSes of that generation (RotT, Dark Forces, Marathon, &c.), were inherently 2D games (sometimes called 2.5D), whereas Quake was the first real 3D FPS. And they got it to run in 320×240 resolution with minimal effects on a 486 (that always impressed me). It screams on whatever hardware you can scrounge to run it today, and since they released the source code, some more modern graphics have been bolted onto the engine (it's not much better; the original art and color setup puts some limits on how good it can look). But that doesn't matter. They nailed the gameplay.

    Quake and Quake III are still the most fun FPSes I've ever played. Q1 has the best single player mode, and one of the few with a co-op mode. I got tired of online play thanks to network lag and realizing I'm near the top of the intermediates and don't have the time to invest to be able to compete with advanced players. Quakelive miscategorized me back when it first came out; I was better at solving the jumping puzzles used to sort players than I am at actually skirmishing. (And I seemed to be on a borderline anyway: not terribly fun fighting people who are little more than moving targets or getting slaughtered by people with much more seat time.)

    (The co-op mode is fun, because my wife likes to play, but she's super casual about FPS games, and doesn't have any of the multiplayer skillset. IOW, deathmatching with my wife isn't fun, and I'm guaranteed to be sleeping on the couch.)

    • Quake is exactly what I had in mind. Even some of the others (i.e. Doom) without the fancy graphics of Quake really brought the FPS into its own in the early 1990s. The gameplay really advanced while the graphics were more hindered by hardware capability than anything. That was back in the day when the game market was driving hardware innovation.

  • sawermassey

    Wait a minute! No one entered Wolfenstein 3D into this conversation. I couldn't of enjoyed a game more. I thought the graphics were great in comparison to Commander Keen (best storyline ever!). Even just the premise of wandering a castle killing nazis was awesome. I remember the first time I came upon the Gatling gun, what excitement.

  • Hi, I definitely also think that the old games had something about them which one just can't find in today's games. I've never played rise of the robots it's one old game I never knew of and never played.