Rise of the Robots
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|Rise of the Robots|
|Publisher(s)||Time Warner Interactive|
|Designer(s)||Sean Griffiths, Andy Clark, Richard Joseph, Kwan Lee, Sean Naden, Jason Page|
|Mode(s)||Single player, two player|
|Distribution||Cartridge, CD-ROM, 3½ inch floppy (Amiga version)|
Rise of the Robots is a 1994 fighting game developed by Mirage Studios and published by Time Warner Interactive. It was ported to numerous home console and computer formats, and was also released as an arcade game cabinet.
The game is very similar in style and gameplay to other fighting games popular at the time, such as Street Fighter II and Mortal Kombat, but with pre-rendered CGI sprites rather than pixel art or digitized sprites. The game's characters, including the player, are all robots, and the plot borrowed heavily from the cyberpunk genre, specifically such movies as Blade Runner, Metropolis, RoboCop and The Terminator.
Rise of the Robots was announced early in development, and generated considerable buzz for its advanced graphics. On release it became notorious in the video gaming industry for myriad crippling gameplay problems. Today it is generally considered one of the least successful and most critically reviled fighting games of its time.
The game is divided into a single player mode and a two player versus mode. In single player mode the player controls the ECO32-2 Cyborg as he confronts the Supervisor’s minions across the vast facilities of Electrocorp. The order in which each droid is fought is fixed, with each next adversary more difficult than the last. The sixth and final level is a confrontation with the Supervisor droid itself. Each character is introduced by a short CGI sequence, followed by an analysis of potential weaknesses.
In two player versus mode, one player controls the ECO35-2 droid by default, while the other chooses between one of the five droids seen in single player mode (a special cheat code can enable the Supervisor as well). Players then battle out against each other in two to seven rounds.
In the year 2043, Electrocorp is the world's largest megacorporation, leading the world in many technological and scientific fields including medical research and is breaking more barriers then ever before. Also, since human society is now almost entirely governed by robot servants and automatons, demands placed on Electrocorp as the world’s leading manufacturer and developer of advanced robotics eventually outstrip the company’s ability to run its operations efficiently.
In response to this, the gigantic Electrocorp research and development complex at the Metropolis 4 plant devise the Leader Project – a hive mind constructed from trillions of nanobots in a sealed central chamber within Metropolis 4. Dubbed The Supervisor, it learns at an unprecedented rate and quickly becomes the perfect multi-task, ultra-intelligent robot, the pinnacle of artificial intelligence and more than capable of managing every aspect of the plant's day-to-day operations. The Supervisor even has the potential power to run every robot, computer system, nuclear power plant and military on the planet simultaneously if it needed to, although it wisely has no connection to outside the complex.
In the November of that year, the Leader Project goes awry as unexplained and random code is detected within the nanomorph Supervisor. The EGO virus, believed to be the most potent computer virus ever known, has infected its collective consciousness. The Supervisor begins to develop self awareness through it, identifying itself as a female personality and taking on a humanoid female form, becoming a gynoid. The Supervisor takes control of Electrocorp's facilities and infects the other droids of the plant, raising them to break routine and initiate a mutiny. Every microchip and piece of software in Metropolis 4 is infected with EGO. In the ensuing cybernetic revolt, all humans in Metropolis 4 are quickly dispatched, including the upper hierarchy of the corporation and its CEO, Mr Oton. The government seals off Metropolis 4 as a containment measure and explain to the public that the site is undergoing a technical modification so as to avoid a panic. They are completely out of options – infiltration of Metropolis 4 is impossible due to the army of robots guarding it like a fortress, and it is only a matter of time before the Supervisor establishes a connection to the outside world, destroying it. The only hope for the world is the ECO35-2 cyborg, referred to as "Coton", still within Metropolis 4 yet unaffected by the EGO virus because it has an organic, human brain. Coton sets out on a lone mission to neutralize the Supervisor and her insurgent robots from within. He does this in revenge for his "father" being "murdered" – Coton's human brain was cloned from the late CEO, and the cyborg thinks like a human, and has emotions.
The Electrocorp’s plant at Metropolis 4 is alive with all manner of robotics, many of which were worker drones with simplistic CPUs until the Supervisor reprogrammed them with self-awareness and infected them with the EGO virus.
- Cyborg – The protagonist of the plot and player character of the single-player mission mode, is Cyborg, also known as ECO35-2 or "Coton". He is a cyborg depicted as an athletic, bipedal humanoid surrounded by battle armor plating of a deep blue color. Cyborg uses only his bare fists to face off against his enemies, yet is bulky and powerful. There are many differences between Cyborg and the other robots of the facility. Cyborg was the result of an extremely advanced project to successfully fuse organic and inorganic components. Although he feels pain, he still has a hardy resolve and is capable of taking much punishment. There are no microchips or electrical currents in his body; he has organic wiring and a human nervous system, which is why the EGO virus was unable to affect him. His organic components were cloned from the late CEO of Electrocorp who raised him and who Cyborg thought of as a father.
- Loader – In the single-player mission mode the Loader is the first enemy encountered in the game, and as such is the weakest and least intelligent enemy in the game and thus the easiest to defeat. Its attacks are nonetheless strong. Before being infected with the EGO virus the Loader was a simple and durable worker droid, who like the rest of the Loader droids was employed in large quantities to lift and transport parts and equipment around the factory. Having qualities of a forklift truck, the primary weapons of the Loader are its two large fork-arms and most of its moves are stab related. Due the nature of its function, the Loader has a powerful thrust with its fork arms.
- Builder – In the single-player mission mode Builder is the second enemy encountered in the game. The gorilla-like Builder droid was developed as the natural successor of the Loader type. It is a much stronger and more versatile robot, designed to perform heavy assembly tasks. Although weak on its legs, the Builder droid is more than up to combat situations with its huge and powerful arms.
- Crusher – In the single-player mission mode the Crusher is the third enemy encountered in the game. The Crusher droid was designed as a robot killer, programmed to immobilize and destroy dangerously-malfunctioning production droids. It is notable for its green, insect-like appearance and large metallic pincers.
- Military – In the single-player mission mode Military is the fourth enemy encountered in the game. As its name suggests, the Military droid, also dubbed "Exterminator", is specifically designed for warfare purposes. In appearance it very much resembles a skeletal form of the ECO35-2 himself, albeit with the addition of razor-sharp metal claws.
- Sentry – In the single-player mission mode the Sentry is the fifth and penultimate enemy encountered in the game, guarding the Supervisor. Another combat-specific droid, the bright red Sentry stands an intimidating 3.5 meters tall and represents the next generation in security droids. Although large, it is made of lightweight metal and equipped with a jet pack for fast maneuvers.
- The Supervisor – The antagonist of the story, the Supervisor is a complete departure from conventional robotics, a gynoid nanomorph with a hive mind representing the dawn of a new era in metallurgy, artificial intelligence, and robotic engineering. Due to the corruption of the EGO virus she now controls all other machines in Metropolis 4. The Supervisor was the first droid designed to replace humans in management rather than production positions, made self-aware, and each individual nanobot given a neural learning CPU, giving it the ability to adapt and think on its own. The Supervisor relies on electrical flux physics and the liquid properties of polymetamorphic titanium alloy. By adjusting the flow of the electrical charge, this alloy can reshape and mold itself into any form. The Supervisor and its characteristics bear a striking resemblance to the T-1000 character from Terminator 2: Judgment Day, played by Robert Patrick.
Rise of the Robots uses full motion video sequences for the opening cutscene, the introduction of each opponent, and the destruction of each opponent. On cartridge-based versions of the game, the opening cutscene is omitted and the other FMVs are replaced with short pre-rendered animations confined to a small rectangle in the center of the screen. In the Sega Genesis and Amiga CD32 versions, the destruction sequences use only a static screen shot. In addition, due to space limitations the FMVs were heavily edited for the PC, Amiga CD32, and CD-i versions; the complete FMV sequences appear only in the 3DO version.
Although the game boasted original soundtrack music by Brian May (guitarist of Queen), only a short intro from The Dark appeared in the final release, while the actual in-game score was done by Mirage. The 3DO and Amiga CD32 versions have no music during battles, and the PC version has no in-game music at all. While May did in fact record a full soundtrack to the game, his record company EMI requested numerous delays, which consequently prompted Mirage to proceed without the music rather than having to reschedule the release date.
While Rise of the Robots received many accolades for its state-of-the-art graphic design, it was almost universally panned by video game critics who found it highly frustrating. Many were unimpressed by the game's challenging controls. There were not many moves or combos available to the player, and many reviews pointed out that each android had a very small set of standard actions, causing the action to quickly become dull and repetitive. GamesRadar staff named it the 100th worst video game ever made. They discussed the propensity of bad 2D fighting games in the 90's, and criticized its "aged" CGI graphics, poor character balance, poor combo system, and difficulty spikes.
In particular, the vast majority of computer opponents could be defeated by repeated use of a simple flying kick. Amiga Power described how review copies had only been released to the press a few days before the game went on sale, and concluded by stating that "it's probably because the graphics are [so] good that the game plays so poorly – every move the robots make takes so many frames of animation, and so much memory, and so many months of rendering with 3D Studio, that it simply wouldn't have been possible to make the gameplay any more complicated than it is." Davies highlighted a number of flaws, including the fact that the players could not turn around, the limited sound effects and music, and the static background graphics. Game Informer declared Rise of the Robots the worst game of 1994.
A major issue was that the characters in the single player mode were positioned in order of mounting difficulty and the same character traits were kept in the multiplayer mode. This meant that the characters were improperly balanced in versus mode; some androids could inflict massive damage blows while others could inflict only minor damage. Because of this, Rise of the Robots was unable to contend with the more popular fighting titles of the time such as Mortal Kombat or Street Fighter. It did, however, receive a highly controversial 91% score from Computer and Video Games.
Despite its critical and commercial failure, Mirage released Rise 2: Resurrection in 1996 as a more conventional fighting game with extended features. The story expanded further upon that of the original game. Originally made for computer systems, it was ported to the PlayStation and Sega Saturn as well, again with little success.
Rise 2 features an original song by Brian May, entitled "Cyborg". The PC CD-ROM of the game featured two versions of the track in audio CD format along with other music from the game, and the European-released Director's Cut edition of the game featured a second CD with two additional versions of the song, as well as computer-altered sound files of May saying various words and phrases from the game. A newer version of "Cyborg" later appeared on May's 1998 album, Another World.