A Blind Brawler

Well, shit. I was this close to submitting this edition of Picture This, when I stumbled upon IGN’s article pertaining to a game that was planned to be pretty much exactly what I am about to rant on about, published two days before I wrote it. It’s an unfortunate situation. That being said, that game pertained to an entirely different generation, and the ideas in place can still work! I’m also not about to erase this entire article. I wrote it all before I read that report, and there’s some good shit in here, dammit!

Now, without further adieu.

Have you seen the Daredevil Netflix series? If you haven’t, you should- it’s fantastic. Also, semi-spoiler alert. There’s a moment during one of Matt Murdock’s “I am Daredevil” moments where he describes how he sees the world around him. Rather than seeing nothing, he is able to craft a world around him using his other heightened senses. This world, as he describes it, is a world on fire. Our glimpse is brief, but intense; whips of red and orange lacerate the screen, constantly peeling back layers of nothing to provide a shape to the void.

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Enter Daredevil: World on Fire.

This one moment in the show is what let to my inspiration for this game’s concept. I immediately came to understand Matt Murdock’s powers just a little bit more, better comprehending how he is able to pinpoint objects and enemies, and how he can map his environment. Knowing this, my mind went to work on how it could be adapted into a thrilling and challenging 3rd-person brawler experience.

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Essentially, the entire game would be a 3rd-person beat-‘em-up game in line with the the Arkham series. You would spend your time using simple attack and counter moves to KO your way through groups of enemies. The twist is, all of the visuals in the game come through in the form of sonar feedback.

Ever played the later Splinter Cell games? From Chaos Theory (I think) and on, there has been some form of sonar-based goggle. They worked great to mark enemies through walls, although their feedback became obscured while on the move. This sonar system idea is the centerpiece for the visual presentation in Daredevil: World on Fire.

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As you move through the game world, there will be an ever-present circle around you, illuminating your close proximity with the glow of a small fire. The game will also feature an upgradeable skill tree system; the first and most important skill is the Focus ability. During Focus, Daredevil becomes vulnerable as he drastically expands his visual proximity, illuminating entire rooms and highlighting all important objects, enemies, interactables, etc. Once pulled out of Focus, all the revealed information is still visible on the HUD. Players will have to use Focus to quickly understand their environments and prepare for how to handle the incoming threats.

Given Daredevil’s affinity for taking a beating, a Stamina gauge could also work really well with this kind of game, forcing players to use their Focus ability quickly to assess each type of threat and how best to handle them without expending all of their stamina. As the enemy type ranks up in difficulty, more stamina will be needed to take them down. A light/heavy/counter attack system could work well here, along with basic combos. There could even be certain combos designed to maximize damage and minimize stamina use against specific enemy types. The brawling needs to emphasize the on-your-feet strategy of a boxing match, true to the Murdock name.

The combat itself also needs to feel hard-hitting and weighty. Environmental interactions should be plenty; they don’t need to be excessively complex, simply using the environment if a combo finishes at the right angle for an epic, cinematic beatdown would be awesome. The camera should be in tight over Daredevil’s shoulder, so players can have more control over how they want to handle each thug. The camera will pull back as far as necessary when using skills or combos, so as never to lose sight of your immediate surroundings.

As for those skills and combos, I don’t think a class-based skill tree would be appropriate here; simply acquiring new, upgradeable equipment and new button-mash combos would suffice. The point is to feel like Daredevil, so refining the suit and enhancing his simple weapon set is all the players will need.

And yes, his fists count as part of his weapon set.

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My biggest concern, however, is whether or not the game’s presentation could become tiring after extended periods of play. Bearing that in mind, I pictured Daredevil: World on Fire to be a shorter, more personal experience. Something that’s more narrative-focused, maybe even a tie-in between seasons of the Netflix series. There’s a nice opportunity here to make a unique superhero video game experience that ties in with the MCU. The primary focus, as always, should be on the gameplay, but that’s not to say a more condensed, set-piece narrative brawler couldn’t work.

As for story structure, I think it’d be cool if players were given the possibility to fail missions. These failures would go on to influence Matt Murdock’s life as a lawyer, complicating the overarching plot and altering the narrative or final outcome. The law scenes could even be playable, employing Murdock’s senses to read people on the stand in a dialogue-based sequence, similar to what we’ve seen in Deus Ex: Human Revolution. The duality lifestyle of a superhero is, narratively-speaking, rich for conflict. Murdock himself is a hero constantly tested by the very law he fights to uphold; the successes and failures of both Murdock and Daredevil can have far-reaching effects.

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If the “world on fire” ploy works well enough, however, the game could warrant itself a full retail release. The game could become far more complex, working instead as a full-on open-world game. Yeah, it would essentially feel like Daredevil: Arkham’s Kitchen but whatever; Rocksteady made a very adaptable formula with their Arkham series! Daredevil could fly around rooftops using his wire-billybaton-nunchuck- thing, and there could be even be a focus on stealth (Murdock’s a ninja, right?).

Regardless of how it’s structured, a game like this needs to be handled with care. The combat is all-important; if players don’t come away feeling like Daredevil, then what’s the point? A big name license isn’t enough to save it from being a shit game (just look at the reviews for Mutants in Manhattan). The potential is there, however. Daredevil: World on Fire could be an awesome superhero experience, with the potential to be an actually half-way decent property tie-in. With the property having such success with the Netflix series, now is the perfect time to doing something special with it.

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