Should the Cleveland Browns focus on inventing time travel?

Should the Cleveland Browns focus on inventing time travel?

For those of you who don’t follow American Football, the Cleveland Browns are very bad. They haven’t had a winning season since 2007 and they haven’t reached the post-season playoffs since 2002. The Browns are so bad that telling your child “you’ll end up playing for the Browns if you don’t eat your vegetables” is probably precedent for a visit from child protective services.

They have suffered nearly decades of mismanagement- whether it was moving the team to Baltimore in the middle of the night; an inability to actually make a first round draft pick who turns out well or the string of injuries, bad trades and just generally cellar dwelling the team seems so fond of.

2016 marked the worst season for Cleveland since 1999. They finished 1-15 (which is the worst finish for any NFL team since 2008). Granted, a promising 2017 draft has given hope to a rebuilding of the team but for now, they are still the laughing-stock of the NFL.

So this got me thinking. What could actually help the Browns? And being a sci-fi nerd, the answer was clear- time travel. Could the Browns actually improve their standing if they used time travel to kidnap some of history’s best NFL players during the best seasons of their career? Well, I ran the maths and here’s what I found out.

1. Who do the Browns use time travel to bring to the team?

Using data from a number of different sources, I came to the conclusion (using an aggregated scoring system) that the three best quarterbacks of all time were Joe Montana, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning; the three best running backs were Barry Sanders, Walter Payton and Jim Brown and that the three best wide receivers were Jerry Rice, Randy Moss and Terrell Owens.

2. How do the Browns utilize these new players?

So the rule I went with is that the player gains the same stats with the Browns in 2016 as they did in their best career season (with at least 8 game played). Essentially, they played their best season but with the 2016 Browns. Each football legend replaced the best player on the Cleveland roster in their respective position and their stats added to Brown’s stats. Touchdowns scored by the new additions to the team were distributed evenly across Cleveland’s 16 regular season games and any remaining touchdowns were assigned to games by a random number generator.

3. Anything else we need to know about your method?

Any tied games at the end of regulation were left as ties as I have no way of predicting how overtime would go. If a player managed to get Cleveland into playoff contention, Cleveland would replace the appropriate seed and then play their respective playoff matches using the specific player’s postseason stats for their best season.

4. So, what did you find?

Joe Montana (Best season: 1989)

JM89

Despite winning four Super Bowls with the San Francisco 49ers and amassing 29 touchdowns during his best season, Montana was let down by the failings in the rushing and receiving cores of the Browns. Most games in 2016 were lost by more than 14 points, meaning that Montana’s two extra touchdowns per game only made the games a little closer, and flipped two losses to ties.

Result: 7-7-2, 3rd in the AFC North

Certainly better than the 1-15 actual season and they do rise above Cincinnati, who finished on 6-9-1. With Montana at the helm, the Browns would record their best season since 2007 and technically finish with a winning season (.500). However, it is nothing particularly special.

Tom Brady (Best season: 2007)

TB07

The Patriots went 18-0 in the 2007 season before losing the Super Bowl and in large part, the success of the regular season is due to the sheer cyborg-like nature of quarterback Tom Brady. He threw 50 touchdowns and was just generally a beast.

Result: 14-1-1, 1st in the AFC North, #1 seed in the AFC, loses to Houston in the division playoff

Brady gives the Browns three extra touchdowns a game, plus a fourth in four of the  games. The only loss comes from the inability to overcome the 10-35 loss to the Dallas Cowboys in week 9, which became a 31-35 game. However, Brady’s numbers plummeted during the ’07 postseason, meaning at the was only able to put two touchdowns a game and so the Browns go out to the Texans 14-16. Still, best season since 1994 for the Browns and a number #1 playoff seeding is nothing to turn your nose up at.

Peyton Manning (Best season: 2013)

PM13

And here comes Peyton Manning, giving the Browns an even four extra touchdowns per game. Say what you will about Manning, when he was good, he was good.

Result: 16-0, 1st in the AFC North, #1 seed in the AFC, loses to Houston in the division playoff

Unsurprisingly, with Manning at the helm, the Browns are unstoppable and record the second ever perfect season in the NFL. Four extra touchdowns a game is enough to wipe out any real life deficit and turns the Browns into an unstoppable force of nature. Their undoing is once again Manning’s post-season performance. He recorded less TDs in the playoffs than Brady and this time can only manage to take the Browns to 7-16 against the Texans.

Barry Sanders (Best season: 1991) and Randy Moss (Best season: 2003)

1991 NFC Divisional Playoff Game - Dallas Cowboys vs Detroit Lions - January 5, 1992        RM03

The big problem that comes with using the Browns patented time travel to collected running backs and wide receivers is that you quarterbacks are still bad, as are the rest of your running backs and wide receivers. Just because you have a legend like Randy Moss doesn’t mean you are going to do any better. The other problem is that these players can’t be solely relied on to put points on the scoreboard. Not every play can be planned to have them take the ball as soon enough, your opponents with just smother them in coverage.

Result: 7-9, 3rd in the AFC North

Both Sanders and Moss give the Browns six victories more than the 2016 but due to the low numbers across the team, even their best seasons aren’t good enough to push the Browns to lower-middle wild card standings.

Walter Payton (Best season: 1977), Jerry Rice (Best season: 1993) and Jim Brown (Best season: 1963)

WALTER PAYTON   JR93        JB63

As I said with Sanders and Moss, even a legendary player’s best season may not be good enough to help the Browns do anymore than post a half-decent season. Most of the receivers for the Browns in 2016 scored 1 or 2 touchdowns apiece and the rushing core was not much better.

Result: 6-10, 4th in the AFC North

5 wins above the actual 2016 season. Here, have a tiny firework.

Party popper

and finally…

Terrell Owens (Best season: 2000)

TO00

Owens was a good, if controversial, player. However, he is largely remembered for his career records and so in his best season, he only recorded 13 receiving touchdowns. This means that for the Browns, he only added an extra touchdown for 13 of 16 games. At this point I should also note that of the three categories, wide receivers was the hardest to aggregate as almost every site had a different list or opinion.

Result: 4-12, 4th in the AFC North

Well, that’s three more wins than they actually got and one more than the got in 2015. Still, I don’t Terrell Owens circa. 2000 is particularly high on the Browns list of time-travel transfer targets.

—-

So in conclusion, taking on the more legendary quarterbacks is probably the best way to go for the Browns, maybe add in a running back or two. However, in all seriousness, the Browns surprised everyone at the 2017 draft with a well-rounded and well-structured draft selection so maybe 2017 will truly see the start of the Cleveland rebuilding effort.

Johnny Bright

Johnny Bright

JB

Let me tell you about Johnny Bright.

Bright grew up in an African-American neighbourhood in Fort Wayne, Indiana with his mom, step-dad and a few siblings. He was a talented sportsman; playing football, basketball and track for his high school and leading the school teams to either local championships or state finals in football and basketball.

When Johnny graduated in 1947, he accepted a scholarship at Michigan State to play football, who were one of the giants of college football at the time. However, unhappy with the direction of the program, he transferred to Drake University, a small private college in Des Moines Iowa. After being redshirted during his freshman, Bright began his college football career as a quarterback/halfback in 1949. He passed for 975 yards and rushed for a further 975, leading Drake to a 6-2-1 season. To put this in perspective, his passing yardage is about a quarter of an NFL quarterback’s season passing yards while his rushing yards, thanks to his experience at halfback, are better than the first NFL season of all 32 current starting NFL quarterbacks (there are maybe 3 quarterbacks who even come close to Bright’s stat). He only got better in the 1950 season, setting an NCAA record for total offensive yards and again leading Drake to a 6-2-1 season. Johnny Bright was a legend in the making.

Then came the 1951 season. Things started well- Bright was considered a surefire candidate for the Heisman Trophy during the pre-season and cemented these feelings by leading Drake on an unbeaten streak in the first five weeks of the season. Saturday, October 20th rolled around and the Drake team travelled the 513 miles from Des Moines to Stillwater, Oklahoma for their match against Oklahoma A&M (Now Oklahoma State). A&M were 1-3 going into the game and would go on to finish the season 3-7. Bright had become the first African–American player to play at A&M’s stadium, Lewis Field, during the 1949 match between the teams. But things were different this time, A&M’s The Daily O’Collegian and Stillwater’s The News Press both described Bright as being a marked man and many A&M students were openly claiming that Bright “would not be around at the end of the game” while students interviewed after the game said they had overheard coaches yelling “get that nigger” when the A&M practice squad ran Drake plays in the week before the game.

The game was horrific- Oklahoma DT Wilbanks Smith knocked Bright unconscious three times in the opening seven minutes, breaking the QB’s jaw on the third occasion. Bright still managed to complete a 61-yard touchdown pass a few plays later before he had to leave the field due to the injury. The final score? Oklahoma 24, Drake 17.

JB handoff
Johnny Bright (circled) hands the ball to FB Gene Macomber
JB Tackle
Johnny Bright is tackled by Smith. Macomber can clearly be seen with the ball towards the bottom of the photo

This story of how racism fuelled a shocking display of football may never have come to light, however, if it wasn’t for Bob Spiegel and Don Ultang. They worked as cameramen for the Des Moines Register and had a camera focused on Bright once the threats of him being a marked man became too large to ignore. The two photos you can see above are part of a sequence published 10 days after the incident. The article also included the “get that nigger” story from A&M students as well as a member of the practice squad showing a local businessman, sat in front of Spiegel, a facial injury he claimed was from Smith practicing his jaw-breaking tackle. The photographic sequence would go on to win the 1952 Pulitzer Prize.

Oklahoma A&M adopted a total denial attitude about the incident and continued to suppress the story, from their end at least, for the next 50 years. Drake University would later pull out of the Missouri Valley Conference in protest of the lack of reprimand for Smith and would not return to the Conference until 1971, Bradley University, who quit in solidarity, would never return to football in the conference. But this isn’t about Oklahoma A&M, this is about Johnny Bright. Despite having his jaw broken, Bright earned 70% of Drake’s yardage for the season and scored 70% of their points. He came fifth in the Heisman ballots.

At the 1952 NFL Draft, Bright was picked as the 5th overall pick of the draft by the Philadelphia Eagles. Due to the influx of southern educated players to the NFL and worries about how he would be treated, Bright declined and instead went to Calgary to play in the precursor to the CFL. However, it would be at the Edmonton Eskimos that Bright enjoyed the most success, joining midway through the 1954 season, he would go on to win three consecutive Grey Cups. He also worked as a teacher in Edmonton to provide for his family, as CFL salaries are not what they are today. Bright played 13 seasons of professional football, retiring in 1964 with a heap of records under his belt. After football, Bright continued to teach and was eventually principal of two junior highs in Edmonton.

Johnny Bright died in December 1983 and was buried in Edmonton, survived by his wife and four children.

Epilogue

-Oklahoma State University formally apologised for the Johnny Bright incident in September 2005, fifty-four years after the incident and twenty-two years after Bright’s death.

-The football field at Drake Stadium was named after Bright following renovations in 2006.

-During a 2006 interview, Wilbanks Smith, the DT who made the infamous tackles, maintained that he didn’t see the targeting of Bright as racially motivated.

-Canadian sports network, TSN, ranked Bright as the 19th best CFL player of the modern era in a November 2006 poll.

Blue Dragon: How Wales could define the 2017 General Election

Blue Dragon: How Wales could define the 2017 General Election

Wales is divided into 40 constituencies for representation in the House of Commons. The Labour Party currently holds 25 of those seats with the Conservatives in second with 11; social-democratic Welsh nationalist party Plaid Cymru holding 3 and the Liberal Democrats holding a single seat. Labour has been the dominant political force in the nation since the 1929 election, holding at least 37.5% of the constituencies since that time. June 8th’s snap election is already being called ‘the election made in Wales’ in reference to Prime Minister Theresa May’s comment that she made the decision to call an early election while on a walking holiday in Snowdonia. However could this also be the election decided in Wales? Here are four reasons why this might be the case.

1. Wales’ slow blue shift: Over the course of the last three elections (2005, 2010 and 2015), the Conservative party has slowly been increasing their share of Welsh seats, moving from 3 to 8 to 11 with their 2015 result marking a 32 year high. Two of the three seats won in 2015 were taken from Labour, albeit with the slimmest majority of the election with 27 in Gower and a meagre 237 in the Vale of Clwyd. However, Gower had been held continuously by Labour since 1910, with an average majority of 10,220. And the loss of Gower in 2015 may have been a sign of things to come. Theresa May has visited Wales five times in three months, suggesting serious Conservative ambition in the country and a recent article from the BBC showed some of the thoughts of Welsh voters, many of whom were lifelong Labour voters considering the shift to Conservative for one reason or another. It is still too early to tell what will happen but if polls hold and the trends of the last few elections are anything to go by, a blue shift in the west might be the Tory’s saving grace.

Byron Davies
Bryon Davies, MP for Gower, will be hoping to push his majority to a more stable figure

2. Seeing red over Brexit: Wales voted in favour of leaving the European Union and this has put the voters at odds with their Labour MPs, 21 (out of the 25 in Wales) of whom had said they backed the Remain campaign. In contrast, only 3 of the 11 Conservatives in Wales publicly backed remaining in the European Union. While the decision over Brexit was largely seen as a personal decision, one to be made by each voting individual, it does show a lack of local representation if you vote one way and your MP backs the other. This could be especially dangerous for Labour, given the wave of calls for voters to oust Leave supporting MPs. While the party leaders seek to show that this is not simply an election about Brexit, it is definitely a factor considered by many voters, especially young and first time voters, the people who the ramifications of Brexit will affect.

Wales Brexit
Welsh support for Brexit could be a fatal thorn in Labour’s side

3. High stakes: The 2017 election is not exactly a safe one for either of the main two parties (Labour and Conservative). While the polls have the Tories far out in front, they are going into the election defending a majority of 17. While this does give them the advantage, it does mean that the other contesting parties (Labour, Liberal Democrat, UKIP, Green and Plaid Cymru (I would include the SNP but there is only one Conservative seat in Scotland)) only need to take 18 seats from the Conservatives across all 650 constituencies to create a minority government. However, this does mean that Labour especially need to be on the defensive. If the Tories were to win, say, four seats in Wales, that is four seats that Labour would need to make up elsewhere in the country. And while calls have been to unify in order to strategically beat the Tories, a united front is yet to appear, meaning Labour needs to keep its seats, meaning Labour needs to keep Wales.

Bad Poker Hand
Labour has not been dealt with best hand at this point in the campaign

4. The potential inverse: Polls can be wrong- they certainly were in 2015 and while unlikely, Wales could be the starting point for the Labour comeback. An outright Labour victory is very unlikely, as they would need to turn 97 seats plus any additional seats needed in the event that they lose seats. However, Wales is still red for the time being- Labour is currently the polling favourite in local elections, due to take place on May 4th, and it isn’t a simple thing for a lifelong Labour supporter to suddenly cross the aisle. If Labour can defy the polls, the 15 seats held by other parties in Wales may help, at the least very, force Theresa May and the Conservatives into a minority government. While it’s not the Labour government Corbyn dreams of, a minority government would certainly be a victory for the parties opposed to the current government.

Jeremy Corbyn
Corbyn defied expectations once, can he do it again?

The election is still 42 days away and a lot can happen in that time but Wales is already shaping up to be a battleground without precedent. For the Conservatives, gains in Wales will help ease them into a comfortable majority while Labour will need to hold firm or make gains or their own if they want any chance to make their opponents in blue sweat on the night of June 8th.

Overwatch: Uprising- Please sir, can we have some more?

Overwatch: Uprising- Please sir, can we have some more?

Blizzard’s massively popular first person team-based shooter, Overwatch, received a new patch last night. This is nothing new, the Overwatch team is very keen on keeping the game fresh and provide regular updates. These updates are typically known as ‘events’ and are usually based around a seasonal theme- 2016 ‘Summer Games’, Halloween, Christmas, Lunar New Year. They are all to be ‘expected’- new skins for the characters, maybe a fun seasonal game mode. However, Overwatch: Uprising  is different, very different. Here are 5 reasons why it is and why what I hope this is a promising glimpse of the future.

1. Uprising is completely different to the other game modes that previous updates that provided: The Summer Games had a variety of sports;  Halloween had a four player co-op horde mode; Christmas had a snowball fight and Lunar New Year introduced Capture the Flag (which has since been reintroduced as a main game staple). These are usually fun and cutesy. Uprising is not that- the game mode introduced is a four player gauntlet run that combines the point capture and payload escort of the regular game. It is the first lore based game mode, centred around four members of the Overwatch roster (Tracer, Torbjorn, Reinhardt and Mercy) fighting their way across the London-based King’s Row map against waves of AI-controlled Omnics, the lore’s big bad robots. You capture three control points dotted across the map; defend a payload for four minutes, escort said payload and then eliminate four mini-boss enemies. While the humour remains in the scripted interactions between the characters, the experience is a lot more gritty and tense, especially when the game mode opens with Tracer, Overwatch‘s hella gay poster girl, cheerfully explaining in her cockney accent how robot terrorists killed hundreds of people in the Whitehall area. The combination of the multiple segments, PvE set-up and general foreboding tone finally bring something unique to Overwatch.

2. The story mode option gives a perfect team balance: There are two ways to play Uprising- story mode and all heroes. As previously mentioned, story mode only gives you access to four characters, each one representing one of the four hero classes.  The good thing is that they have purposefully gone for non-specialised heroes. Granted, Tracer needs a little time investment to be able to play effectively but the team composition of Tracer, Torbjorn, Reinhardt and Mercy gives a good balance of abilities, strengths and weaknesses as well as being accessible for a majority of players. And once you grow tired or tiring to master that, Uprising is available with all twenty-four Overwatch heroes.

3. New cosmetic content that isn’t trash: Go to any Blizzard forum or talk to anyone in team chat and you’ll soon realize that a lot of the fan base isn’t exactly fond of some of the skins released for the characters of Overwatch. Often these skins are tacky seasonal garb, a little too out-there or just plain ugly. However Uprising, which provides seven characters with new skins in the blue of the original Overwatch uniforms, are largely very pleasing (I’m a little miffed that my main, Mercy, has something of goofy nurse look (It’s the hat and having her hair down that does it) but you can’t have everything). Uprising also provides a large number of emotes, victory poses, sprays, highlight intros and voice lines for most characters. It seems that Blizzard really have gone all out with these update in terms of cosmetics, rather than the somewhat phoned in efforts of previous events.

4. Uprising is a lesson in teamwork (for those who may have forgotten): For a game whose premise is 6v6 multiplayer, people sure do forget about teamwork. 6 times out of 10, you lose a match due to not working as team (the other four times are a combination of people quitting partway through, poor team composition, trolls etc.). However, if you don’t work together in Uprising, you will lose. I haven’t played a lot of games in Uprising yet but so far, I have only lost once and that was due to the team fanning out across the map in order to collect the time bonuses or whatever. The healer (me) couldn’t heal and so the team was picked off one by one. Teamwork is essential to success in the new game mode, especially at the horde mode and control point sections. Blizzard and Overwatch creative director Jeff Kaplan know that players have a lot of issues with teamwork so I like to think that Uprising is a subtle reminder of the importance of teamwork.

5. Unfortunately, once you’ve played it, you’ve played it: During the Summer Games event, the specific event was changed up once a week to maintain flavour and so it managed to stay fresh, as was the case with the old weekly brawl system before the development team cleaned it up and turned it into a fully fledged arcade mode and custom game server. The Lunar New Year Capture the Flag had similar longevity as it complemented the full roster of characters and played like the other game modes of the regular game. However, as with the Halloween Horde and the Christmas Snowball Fight, the only real variation the mode offers is the difficulty of the AI. While the novelty of the shiny new game mode is going to last for a while, it might not be retained in any real sense after the end of the Uprising event (May 1st). However…

What does Uprising mean for the future of Overwatch? Uprising and its associated game mode are the first real lore-based game modes, the first thing vaguely resembling a story mode/campaign. Its release has me very excited as, while Kaplan and the dev team have expressed an objection to building a full-blown story mode, more co-op extended missions like Uprising, that either tell stories from the past or do push the present lore forwards (mission that ends with a Doomfist boss fight anyone?) would be a great addition to the game, as well as beginning to truly justify the Triple A price tag.

Are you enjoying Uprising? How do you think it compares to events of the past? What are you hoping it means for the future of the game? Let me know in the comments!

More angry Overwatch advice from an angry healer

More angry Overwatch advice from an angry healer

Overwatch competitive season 4 is upon us and let’s just say that I’m not enjoying it. A combination of bad teams and the unilateral ranking system during placement meant that I ended up far below my potential. However, working my way to more fulfilling games has let me see the dark underbelly of the Overwatch competitive scene and so I am back with more advice for any players willing to listen.

1. Provide cover for your healers. Your healers are a collection of DJs, doctors, snipers and monks. They may have potent healing abilities but they are squishy and fragile, with around 200 hit points each. This means that your healers can’t take a lot of damage before they die or have to retreat. So maybe, as a big, buff tank or high damage offence character, you could maybe take that damage for us? Tanks should be intercepting Reinhardt charges instead of jumping out of the way to maintain their precious KDR and offence characters should be sticking to their healers so the team can actually get heals. Ensuring that your healer is still alive is the best way to win a match.

2. Learn the abilities of the characters you don’t play as. Right before I began to write this piece, I was in a competitive match (we lost). At one point, the team’s Reinhardt was screaming at me via voice chat for me to heal him (I was Lucio). Funny thing was that I was stood right behind him, providing Lucio’s AoE healing abilities. Sadly, Lucio only heals 12.5 points of health per second so to a 500 hit point character like Reinhardt, it can seem like Lucio is slacking off. Players should also remember that characters like Ana and Lucio have heal boosting abilities with substantial cooldowns. Take the time to learn what characters can and can’t do so that you don’t have to waste your time berating a healer for doing their job.

3. Accept the fact that healers aren’t gods. Healers can’t keep you alive in a firefight, it’s part of Blizzard’s checks and balances in the game to ensure balance. To emphasize that, let’s do some math, using the Reinhardt scenario from the previous point:

Reinhardt has a base health of 500 (300 health and 200 armour) as well as a 2000 hit point strong shield. In this scenario he is defending against an attack from Soldier 76, whose primary weapon does 20 damage at the distance he is from Reinhardt, as well as an attack from Hanzo, whose primary weapon at full charge is doing 125 damage. Reinhardt is being supported by Lucio, who has just used his healing boost and is current doing 12.5 points of AoE healing. However, Lucio cannot heal damage to Reinhardt’s shield, only Reinhardt himself.

Reinhardt is a large stationary target, meaning that Hanzo and 76 aren’t missing him. This means that Reinhardt’s shield, something that can’t be healed unless he stops using it, is going to last around 15 to 20 seconds when reload times are factored into the equation as Hanzo and 76 pump 262.5 points of damage a second into it. This has been something of a protracted fight so Reinhardt it already injured at the start of the scenario, sitting at 312 health. This is when he starts demanding to be healed. With Lucio stuck in the 12 second cooldown for his amplification ability, he is stuck doing 12.5 of healing per second.  Reinhardt is calling for healing because shield is at about 400 health, and will last another second and a half.

Here’s the problem- it’s going to take Lucio 15.04 uninterupted seconds to fully heal his teammate and he only has 1.5. Once the shield goes down and the 76/Hanzo combo press the advantage, not only does Lucio come under the threat of fire, at the very most he can only reduce the damage to Reinhardt to between 250 and 226.5 per second. Reinhardt is either going to die or have to retreat to a health pack, as the rest of the team is frantically defending the point.

And substituting any other healing in the scenario doesn’t help. Mercy only need 3.3 seconds to fully heal Reinhardt but that’s still double the amount of time his shield can hold for and once that’s down, Mercy can only reduce the damage to 202.5 per second. Ana needs 3.3 seconds to fully heal Reinhardt and even with perfect aim, she only reduces the damage to 206.25. Finally, Zenyatta would need 6.2 seconds for a full heal and then can only reduce the damage to 232.5 per second.

What all of this shows is that if you are under fire, your healer can’t keep you alive, especially if you there is not one returning fire on your attackers. Please accept this.

4. Don’t insult your healers. In another match I played today,  the team’s Soldier 76 boldly proclaimed ‘No Heals’ at the end of a lost round, suggesting that he had not received adequate healing from the team’s healers. My fellow healer and I were understandingly confused, having done a combined total of 17,000 healing across the round. If you aren’t near the healers,we can’t heal you. This isn’t Call of Duty or Battlefield with healers, it you aren’t at the objectives, you’re not getting healed. The player proceeded to get increasingly abusive towards the team healers until, as he had said, we gave him no heals.

Remember this: If you are going to give your healers shit, your healers aren’t going to be nice to you. We own your ass because we’re the only ones who will keep you alive.

What advice do you have for Overwatch players? If you haven’t check out my previous instalment of angry healer advice, click here!

Prey: What I want

Prey: What I want

Prey is an upcoming FPS survival horror game from Arkane Studios and Bethesda Softworks, the development-publisher combination behind 2012’s DishonoredPrey is a re-imagining of a 2006 game of the same name but only really takes the name and concept of ‘survive being the prey of an aggressive alien enemy’ from this game.

What we know so far from teasers, trailers and reviewers being given is the first hour or so to play is that you play as Morgan Yu (with both male and female models available) who appears to live in 2032 San Francisco. However, this takes place in a timeline were JFK survives assassination, the US and USSR work together to defeat an alien force known as the Typhon, who are attracted to Earth by their space technology and thus, we have a future with much more advanced space technology. However, this reality comes crumbling down in the first ten minutes or so as it is revealed you are actually on Talos I, a space station orbiting Earth, and you have been the subject of repetitive neural modification testing, with the removal of mods wiping the memories of their implant time, meaning that you as Morgan have been experiencing the worst Groundhog Day ever. In the only testing time you see, it all ends abruptly as you watch a researcher get attacked by a shape-shifting monster known as a Mimic. It is then revealed very quickly that you are essentially alone on Talos I with the mimics and their ‘evolutions’, with only an AI called January for company.

From what we’ve seen, Prey looks to be a tense blend of Alien: Isolation open-world survival horror with the smooth, fluid combat of Dishonored and Bioshock, with the powers and uneasy atmosphere of both those games also added to the mix. Prey is out worldwide on the of May but before then, here are 4 things I want from the game.

1. It stays scary. Horror can be one of the hardest elements to maintain in a game. Sometimes a game can just run out of steam and the horror/scare elements just don’t spike the player’s heart rate towards the end of the game. Or the introduction of a security weapon mean that I don’t have to be scared because look at my awesome gun.

It seems there is no end to what the mimic class enemies in Prey can shape-shift into- coffee cups, bins, even discarded guns lying beside corpses. However, the game needs to be careful that we go into every room so terrified that we miss the third shoe in a pair or waste an entire clip of ammo because a basketball lazily rolls across our line of sight and that we don’t go into every room, ready to sigh at a cheap mimic jump scare.

Towards end of the reviewer played content (Here are a few videos if you want to watch some of that or hear people who play video games for a living talk about the game), you are teased with the sight of a Phantom through a window. This enemy class is bipedal and distinctly humanoid, rather than the four-legged, spider-like mimics. Trailers for the game also tease gargantuan, presumably boss-fight creatures that, personally, give off a definite Cthulhu vibe. Only time will tell if the proper introduction of these enemies diminishes the horror and suspense of the game.

2. Tools are sparse but useful. Prey will feature degrading weapons and a crafting system, requiring you to build new tools and weapons to replace your equipment. From gameplay, your main weapon appears to be a hefty wrench but pistols and shotguns also feature, as does the Gloo Cannon, a gun that fires a quick hardening expanding foam that can be used to freeze enemies, create alternate paths through the game’s various sections and can even put out fires if needs be. However, there are two things that will destroy this game- durability on your tools is too high due to the tools being too sparse, making the crafting system useless, or the inverse and having weak tools in plentiful supply. Bioshock and Bioshock Infinite are two examples of perfect balance for this, with new powers being introduced at a nice pace and ammunition for your various firearms being in good supply but not in enough abundance to allow you to shoot your way through every mission objective. And speaking of powers…

3. Balance across Neuromod trees. For players of Dishonored and/or Bioshock, neuromods will be the games version of Outsider powers and plasmids. For everyone else, neuromods will be the skill trees of the game. You find neuromods lying around Talos I and they give you upgrades to your skills in a variety of areas such as security and physical attributes. These mods will not only aid your game, but also give you access to specific areas and alternate paths through the game,. For example, a terminal that allows a route around an area that looks like it could be crawling with mimics may only be usable with a specific neruomod installed. However, for the game to deliver on this, there needs to be balance- if I’m shoving my mods into A and neglected B, I shouldn’t have to miss out on everything because a majority of the off the path content is unlockable by B.

4. The multiple endings can’t be a cop-out. Lead designer Ricardo Bare has stated that the ending of the game falls into one of two major narratives depending on how you as Morgan interact with the world and the surviving humans along the way. Now, multiple endings can be very hard to pull off. A good example of this is the recently released Resident Evil 7: Biohazard (Spoilers ahead for that game). At the end of the game’s second act, you have a choice of who to administer the last syringe of mind-control mold counter-acting serum to- your wife Mia, who has been missing for three years and is visibly affected by the mold (she cuts off your hand with a chainsaw in the first twenty minutes of the game) OR Zoe, the enigmatic stranger and black sheep of the Baker family, who has been infected along with the rest of her family but has not actually succumb to the crazy. If you choose Mia, the two of you get on a boat and speed off towards the tanker that was carrying Evie, a supernatural little girl who is the cause of the mind-control mold. Evie crashes your boat and then you play as Mia for a little bit before you jump back to main protagonist Ethan just in time for a tearful goodbye from Mia, who pushes you out of a door and seals you off from her so that she won’t hurt you any more (again, she did cut off your hand). However, if you choose Zoe, the two of you get on the boat, go towards the tanker and then Evie just straight up kills Zoe and crashes your boast before you then wake up as Mia, who is now just there at the tanker. After some more Ethaning around, you defeat Evie and are rescued by Blue Umbrella (another blog post for another time) and fly away with a now fully cured Mia. But that’s if you cured Mia, if you used your cure on Zoe, you get saved by Blue Umbrella, rewatch a video message Mia made you before her disappearance, toss your phone out of the helicopter and then fly away. While Resident Evil games have always had a good ending and a bad ending, this seemed less like that and more like Capcom having the game as having a right ending and a wrong ending.

This is what Prey needs to avoid. If multiple endings are going to be part of the game, then they should be equally satisfying and serve as a reflection of how I played the game, rather than as a ‘punishment’ for picking a choice that the developers deemed to be ‘wrong’.

Are you looking forward to Prey? What are you looking for in the final game? Let me know in the comments below and if you’ve got some time, why don’t you have a look at some of the other things I’ve written?

An angry healer’s guide to Overwatch

An angry healer’s guide to Overwatch

Hi, I play a healer in Overwatch and let me start by saying “F**********k yooooooooooou”. While most healers in the game are not ranked very highly in terms of difficulty to play, being a healer in Overwatch is a harrowing experience and 95% of this trauma will stem from the actions of your five team mates. And so, allow me to give you a whistle-stop tour to playing Overwatch, from the perspective of an angry healer.

1. No, we didn’t lose because of my actions: Overwatch is a game of winners and loser, every match has got to have one (except in competitive mode but that is more of a points based league so it makes sense to have ties in that area of the game). However, I will guarantee you now, even before we get into the match itself, the team healer will not be the reason we lose. You see, unless your healer AFKs or spends all their time trying to get the gold medal in eliminations for some reason, we spend the game frantically running around the map trying to keep five people alive. Please consider the following reasons why we might have lost:

  • Everyone ran around merrily engaging in 1v1, off the objective battles and so we either failed to defend effectively or never launched coherent group attacks
  • You, in your lofty role of offense or tank, negated the healer of your beleaguered Mercy,  Zenyatta, Lucio or Ana by continuing to engage in heavy firefights will being healed. Remember, your healer is not a god who can keep you alive, most characters will deal more damage than the continuous healing a healer can provide.
  • Team composition was wrong. I’ll come back to this later but maybe the structure of the team was wrong? Think about it, did we really need a Widowmaker in the battle of Illios: Lighthouse?

It’s very simple, your healer was doing the best they could and there are very few viable scenarios in which your healer will be at fault for a defeat. And speaking of how you treat your healer…

2. Healer etiquette: So, you’ve found yourself pinned down with the edges of your screen going red, your character breathing raggedly and your bottom-left health bar in low double digits. With panicked motions, you select a message and I need healing! rings out across the map. Nothing happens, no Brazilian DJ, Egyptian sniper, Nepalese cyborg monk or Swiss healthcare professional appears to bring you back to full health so you can maintain those four gold medals you’ve got going for you. You hit ‘I need healing’ again. And again. And again and again and again until Blizzard times you out for tripping the spam filter. For the love of God, please don’t do this. I heard you, alright? I know that you need healing but newsflash, there are a number of reasons why I’m not attending to you:

  • Most healers use a triage system, like a real hospital. This means we attend to injuries based on severity and in a combat situation, such as an Overwatch match, we also need to factor in strategic value. You might be the best goddamn Reaper in the world but in terms of the game, but I’m going to prioritize this half-health Reinhardt.
  • You may be in an area that I’ve deemed too dangerous to get to. Most healers have low base health and so if there a Widowmaker or high damage offense character near where you are, it’s unlikely I’m going to reach you without dying.
  • If you are engaged in a firefight and calling for healing, no. Like I said in point one, the healers of Overwatch can’t keep you alive. Our healing abilities heal over time and don’t give you a health dump like the health packs, so if you’re engaging members of the enemy team, I’m can’t do much for you.

Furthermore, if you have backed off from the fighting for healers to reach, stand still and get healed. Please Tracer, don’t run around me in circles spamming I need healing, I will just leave you alone. And speaking of annoying things people choose to do…

3. Team composition and character play styles: There is no golden rule to team composition it depends on the map, whether you’re on attack or defend, the game mode and even the composition of the enemy team. However, there are definitely some things that can be said to avoid when it comes to team composition- two to three varied offensive characters is usually a good call, a tank or two never hurts, don’t play snipers on payload attacks, Torbjorn will never be effective on attack period and of course, despite her character overhaul, Symmetra is not a substitute for an attack or a high damage offense character. Once again, a healer can only do so much if team composition is bad enough to mean that you are respawning every three or four kills. As for character play styles, most characters can be utilised in more than one way. Mercy, my main character, can be a straight up healer or more of a battle angel, helping pick off low-health enemies and providing damage boosts while providing healing when necessary. Mercy cannot be your personal health pack, dealing death in 1v1 battles and sticking to a single character as the run around the map. When you pick a main, find the best ways to play that character- for example, Reinhardts who only use charge  and constantly over-extend themselves deserve the terrible KDR that approach brings with it. As a healer, I can’t do much for you if you aren’t utilising your character.

4. I see your medals and raise you actually winning the game Overwatch awards gold, silver and bronze medals for number of eliminations, number of eliminations on the map’s objective, time spent on the map’s objective, amount of damage done and the amount of healing done. I’m sorry to tell you Mr. Four Golds, but these medals don’t actually mean anything. You see, medals don’t actually reflect how the game went and more reflect your play style and class preference sure you got gold eliminations but your team was shut out on Oasis because you never once stepped on the point. Let’s take me as an example in the most recent competitive season- I played 48 matches and from those 48 matches, I won 61 medals, 44.3% (27) of which were gold. However, my actual record was 15 wins, 29 losses and 4 draws, which is not fantastic. There are also 48 matches in 3 regular seasons of the NFL so I crunched the numbers for the last three seasons of pro football (splitting the ties and adding two to both the win and loss totals because ties are uncommon in American Football) and found that I am the St. Louis/LA Rams of Overwatch (they’re not very good if don’t follow football). The thing is that, as I mentioned before, medals are weighted towards certain classes- eliminations go to offense and tanks, damage goes to offence, defence and tanks, objective time is weighted towards defence and tanks and healing is almost exclusively for the supports (unless your supports really really suck or your Roadhog spams his health canister). And so, if your team is screaming for you to switch from Symmetra and play someone else, don’t argue that you shouldn’t be the one to change because you have two golds and a silver at the moment.

5. Let’s be nice to one another (to an extent): Peer interaction is an integral part of human life. However, when you lose (or are losing) at Overwatch, you might be tempted to scream at the other players on your team. But here’s a quick guide to how to do this:

  • If your automatic response is to tell someone ‘KYS’ or something as horrific as telling someone to kill themselves, log off Overwatch and go rethink your entire life outlook because why in God’s name do you think that is even a vaguely acceptable thing to say someone?
  • ‘It’s just a game, why are y’all getting so salty?’ is the gamer version of ‘We have to respect a Nazi’s right to believe what they want’. It doesn’t help anyone and in case, it’s just a game is correct but I come to enjoy myself on Overwatch, not slogging through the chore of bad game after bad game. I have a right to get angry if people aren’t pulling their weight, impacting on my enjoyment of how I choose to spend my free time.
  • Don’t belittle the other team by saying they won by carry (one player did all the work). They won, suck it up.
  • Don’t blame your healers

Anyway, that’s pretty much all I have to say, I guess I should put some cliché Overwatch rant trash at the end of this to drive up views so here goes ohmyfinggodsymmetraisobrokenandneedstobenerfedandwhiletheynerfhertheyshouldmakeTracercannonstraightbecauseitspoilsmyheadcanonalsothepayloadshouldmovefasterandIshouldnthavetopointmygunatpeoplebecauseaimingishard (Note: This is parody and does not reflect the viewpoint of the author). But yeah, I can hear Genji screaming for healing so I better go devote all my attention to ignoring that. Thanks for reading, what advice do you have to Overwatch players, are you also an angry healer? Let me know in the comments!