I’d never paid much attention to the whole Brianna Wu thing – just another Anita Sarkeesian clone who gets everyone to bow down to her by being oppressed, I thought. But being the masochist that I am, I decided to see what all the fuss was about once people started talking about her iOS game, Revolution 60. It was released in June 2014, but for some reason, we didn’t hear too much about it until recently.
Revolution 60 is supposed to be an action RPG with game-changing choices, strong female characters who don’t need no man, and an intense plot sure to go down in iOS gaming history. I love representation as much as the next girl, but there’s representation and then there’s pandering to a specific percentage of an audience. The result is an insipid, stumbling, humorless mess of a game that should never have left the brainstorming stage – the kind of game social justice warriors insist everyone wants to see, but in reality, the reaction seems to be put that thing back where it came from or so help me.
Story and Characters
“In the future, an American orbital weapons platform has gone adrift over China, causing an international incident. Holiday is a member of Chessboard, a special operations team led by a probability-computing AI. Her team’s mission is to rendezvous with N313 and re-establish satellite control between the station and Chessboard – but not all is as it seems.”
To be fair, the story isn’t all that bad, if not particularly original in any way. Really, you could shorten the summary to, “Emotionless badasses who don’t necessarily follow protocol end up saving the world after something got weird in their daily line of work.” Not all that problematic, and you could actually argue that it’s not the typical plot of a sci-fi game. I mean, I thought the main characters were aliens at first, but we’ll get to that in a moment.
Now, the problems start with our main characters. You play as Holiday, an assassin in a painted-on catsuit who rides a motorcycle and has no personality other than the current demands of the plot. The rest of her team consists of a handful of one-dimensional TV Tropes personalities shoved into the shells of life-sized, dead-eyed Polly Pocket dolls whose only purpose seems to be to give Holiday something to do other than be Generic Badass #624. Of course, the team’s all female – which isn’t bad, but they’re so bland that you’d think the writers were so focused on ‘revolutionizing’ video games for women that they forgot to make these characters human enough for us to relate to and have fun with.
I’ve seen some pretty shitty graphics in my time gaming, and that includes the old PS1 games where Cloud Strife’s hands looked like muffins and Lara Croft’s boobs could slice butter in July. That’s shitty by today’s standards, but back then, we didn’t know any better! This was before the days where we could see the sweat dripping from our hero’s brow, before we saw our characters getting dirty and clean at various points throughout their journey. This was before Angry Birds, for fuck’s sake. We’ve learned how to make things realistic while still keeping a particular style.
So, what does our strong female protagonist look like? Surely she’s not in any way oversexualized or drawn in a way that makes her look like an alien had a one night stand with a Blood Elf –
I’m honestly not entirely sure what Brianna’s dev team was thinking (or smoking) when they came up with these designs. It’s one of those times where you have to picture the exact moment in your mind where the team approved of this artwork. This was drawn, rendered, and approved. This shit looks like some creep from Second Life just figured out how to use the morphing tool.
Unfortunately, it gets worse.
For a game designer who’s all about making a game that’s supposed to be eliminating hypersexuality and glorifying/representing women in a mature way, Wu seems a little too comfortable putting her military soldiers into skin-tight, formfitting outfits with no armor and laughably short skirts/pants. They all have the same skin color and hourglass shape with ample boobs, long legs, perfect hair, and perpetual duckface. Seriously, if you took the tattoos, clothing, accessories, and hair off these characters, there’d be no possible way to tell them apart.
I can’t really think of a scenario in which character design has been quite this lazy, seeing as I can attribute more personality traits to the birds from Angry Birds than this bunch. The artist apparently spent a portion of the game’s $500,000 budget to use Microsoft Paint’s flood fill option for each and every texture. We thought Dragon Age: Inquisition had its problems with hairstyles, but at least those hairstyles didn’t look like turd after it was dried and left to freeze into ropes. Even the enemies – or enemy, since we’re fighting the EXACT SAME GUYS THROUGHOUT THE ENTIRE GAME – are just flat white Stormtrooper-looking guys with tribal tattoo textures painted on who attack one at a time. Sometimes you’ll get a baddie that dyed his tats a different color, but otherwise, don’t expect any diversity.
But sadly, even the background textures can’t hold up.
The landscape is flat, forgettable, and frankly just a backdrop for the rest of the game. The most you’ll ever see out of this environment is a few moving contraptions, and maybe some glowing lights. There’s no atmosphere to speak of, no props for characters to interact with, nothing on the walls or floors, and no indication that the world is anything other than a jerry-rigged sci-fi theater set relying on the characters and the action sequences to give it life instead of working with them to create a living world. This doesn’t exactly work, especially since the characters and the enemies are just as flat and over-saturated as the world around them. Color does not equal life.
“But Deb!” you exclaim. “This is an iOS game! Surely you can’t expect a portable game to have the same level of graphics as Crysis 2!”
Hey, I’m not asking for some jaw-dropping explosion of graphical quality worthy of the PS4. But…just because it’s an iOS game doesn’t mean it’s got to be made with the most godawful rendering you could possibly find. Five Nights at Freddy’s is on iOS as well, and the graphics are great. The Room 2 also has a phenomenal set of graphics, and there are plenty of indie shooters out there with near-perfect graphics (compared to today’s standards). Wu had 4 years and a $500,000 budget to make a game, and insists upon sinking to the lowest denominator of graphics she can find. Unless she was making it for the PS1, there’s no excuse for this.
I’d also like to mention that this game is 777 MB. The Walking Dead game for iOS is 346 MB with far better aesthetics and a fuck ton more content. Let that sink in.
To be honest, when I first started the game, I thought Holiday was the robot mainframe. Oh, how mistaken I was.
You see, Holiday’s voice actor has a problem I’ve always liked to call “script scanning.” She sat there with the script in her lap and read words, resulting in a passionless monotone for just about every scene. It kind of makes those dialogue choices you get pretty pointless – I mean, you only get two options, and those are “mildly snarky” and “slightly more snarky, except this time she just sounds like a cranky high school student.” For both of these choices, the actor doesn’t really change her tone all that much, and when she does, it sounds amazingly forced. The other characters tend to suffer the same fates, with the exception of that one cyborg character because at least someone sounds like what they’re supposed to.
I also hope you like Quicktime events. I hope you like them a lot, because you’ll be doing a lot of them if you intend on playing this game. And by a lot of them, I mean all the goddamn time. Wu’s reasoning is that men “want to attack as fast as possible” and subsequently “hammer the iPad so hard that they’ll break the screen.” Apparently, women don’t do this, so Wu decided to make the combat and gameplay as simplistic as possible, even if it makes things horrendously boring and unchallenging. Thanks, Wu. My delicate womanly digits will forever be safe from the tyranny of those dangerous action games.
Revolution 60 is offensive – and the worst part is that it was created to have the opposite effect. It offends me as a gamer that someone would think that this sort of crap would fly just because an all-woman team made it, and it offends me as a woman because I’m here to play games, not to be pandered to. And I’m sure as fuck not going to identify with a game meant to represent my gender when the characters have about as much personality as a piece of styrofoam. Maybe there’re a few places in gaming where female character stereotypes could use an overhaul, but this is not the way to do it.
This is something that someone threw together to make a certain group of people happy, because they knew that particular group would stick to it like bottom feeders in favor of social justice. There is no personality, nothing to make it stand out, and nothing to make people remember it. This is a game that feels like a fifth grader’s “girl power” fanfiction that everyone said was amazing, but nobody dared to actually critique it because it’d make the writer cry.
My verdict? Complete and utter shit. Get the demo if you’re curious, but this game does not deserve your money.