You probably know, dear reader, that I love the John Wick movies. Well, what if I was a cool assassin working at the Continental? What would I request from the sommelier for three-gun the movie all kinds of crazy Hollywood shootouts?
As ever, let’s define some rules to keep us honest. And so that you can play along at home if you like.
1) Your loadout must include a pistol, a shotgun, and a carbine. 2) Carbines may be of pistol or rifle caliber. 3) You may include (1) backup pistol if you wish. 4) You may include (1) knife if you wish. 5) No custom weapons. As in no full house custom builds; nothing with some giant option list. Semi-custom is permitted. E.g. an Atlas Custom Pistol build is not allowed, but an Atlas Titan would be permissible. 6) The Sommelier won’t build you anything. He has better things to do. 7) You may add whatever sights you like, given that the appropriate mount is there from the factory (e.g. sight dovetails, Picatinny rail) or is being added by your specified semi-custom modder (e.g. you’ve opted for a TTI Combat Master with red dot cut for your specified sight) 8) Everything must be currently in production.
Note that I haven’t defined what constitutes a backup gun. To paraphrase Potter Stewart, I know one when I see one, and so do you. Don’t try to slip in a Glock 17 as your backup–because I’ll know.
Some bonus achievements for you to unlock: (probably more to come) (Note that for the firearms set achievements, these only apply to your three principal weapons, not your backup gun or knife) HIPSTER: No standard competition choices (So no Glocks, 2011s, AR-15s, Benelli shotguns) EUROTRASH: All guns made in Europe BEHIND THE IRON CURTAIN: All guns made in former Soviet Bloc countries REAL AMERICAN: All guns made in USA IRONS DEFICIENCY: All firearms have electronic sights with no backup irons on any of them ONLY SHOOT OPEN: All firearms are only allowed in Open/Unlimited Division competition LEATHERSLAP: All firearms have iron sights only. HEAVY METAL: Pistol caliber: .45 ACP, carbine caliber: .308 or similar, 12 gauge pump shotgun. PINCHING KRUGERRANDS: Total MSRP of weapons and sights does not exceed $2,000. THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUNS: Total MSRP of weapons and sights exceeds $25,000.
I thought I’d pull this out for reference/expansion. Original data courtesy of Fishbreath’s great post on his P-09 Carry Optics Build. It’s still sorted by mm height/$100, but it’s also a handy reference of window sizes. I’m adding data as we get some new sights available like the Trijicon SRO and (soon) the SIG Romeo 3MAX.
For the area column, the sights are assumed to be rectangular (except for the C-More SlideRide, which is circular), which is an invalid assumption, but you get what you pay for.
Inspired by a post by TTI over on Instagram, let’s look at the guns of the John Wick movies. All three of them. We’re going to compare (primary) pistols, carbines, and shotguns across all three movies. We’ll pick best by category and best movie set overall.
First, let’s talk through our ground rules. We’ll be picking as if we work at The Continental. Therefore these guns are chosen for “assassinations” (read: epic, awesome movie gunfights) and not to fit in any particular competition ruleset. Also, we pay in Magic Assassin Gold Coins, so we don’t really care what the list prices are. We also don’t get to make any changes to the guns as we see them in the movies. What the sommelier has is what we can pick from.
Second, let’s review our weapons. In the first movie, Mr. Wick is armed with an HK P30L with compensator as his primary handgun, an HK 416 clone with EoTech sight as his carbine, and a Kel-Tec KSG with EoTech sight as his shotgun. In John Wick 2, our hero has a Glock 34 that’s been tricked out by TTI as his main pistol, a TTI built custom AR-15 carbine (the TR-1) with a Trijicon Accupoint 1-6x scope and offset RMR, and a TTI customized Benelli M4 as his shotgun. His arsenal in John Wick 3 is an STI 2011 pistol that’s been customized by TTI, a SIG MPX that’s been tricked out by TTI with a Trijicon MRO red dot sight, and a Benelli M2 that (you guessed it) has been customized by TTI.
Carbine We’ll start with carbines because that’s the easiest, and because I’m quite fond of carbines. First, we can rule out the MPX. It’s a pistol-caliber carbine, which is great for USPSA’s PCC division, but much less so combatively. 9mm is less potent than 5.56mm, and will have much more trouble dealing with armor. The MPX also has a long, NFA-compliant barrel, so we can’t even take advantage of the pistol caliber to get us something PDW-sized. Plus, the MPX has a reputation for eating parts and needing frequent cleaning. It’s in its third revision from SIG, and I don’t trust them to not beta test things on their customers. We’re left with a pair of carbines in 5.56mm. We can eliminate the HK 416 clone, because it’s got lame old quadrails, is entirely too heavy for what it is (since it has a piston and the aforementioned fat quadrails), and has the least nice sights of the three. EoTechs have that annoying tendancy to shift zero in the heat. The piston does literally nothing for us in the current configuration, and it’s probably got some stock, untuned, garbage trigger. Lame. That leaves us with the TR-1, which is also my favorite configuration of the three. It’s got a low-power variable, is reasonably light, comes in 5.56mm, and has a tuned trigger (and probably gas system/bolt carrier too).
Winner: TTI TR-1
Shotgun The KSG is a pretty easy out, because I don’t like it, because it’s the only non-autoloader, and because Benelli’s QC and reliability are light years better than that of Kel-Tec. Also, no tuned trigger and reloads are a pain. After that, we’re looking at a tuned Benelli M4 v. a tuned Benelli M2. Were I buying the guns stock, the Benelli M2 would be the clear winner since it’s way cheaper and has a much larger aftermarket. In this case, we have them already customized. The big advantage to the M2 is some very long magazine tube extensions, but those haven’t been mounted here. Given similar capacities (and our payment in Killer Krugerrands), the differences are going to be that the M2 is somewhat lighter, being recoil operated, and that the M4 is going to be softer shooting, being gas operated (and heavier). I’m not much of a shotgun guy, so this is a toss-up. I’ll take the M4 because I’ve always wanted one and because it should shoot softer.
Winner: TTI Benelli M4
Pistol The P30L is another easy out, because it’s got the lowest capacity and worst trigger by far of the bunch, though I do like the compensator. After that, it gets tricky because neither the TTI Combat Master Glock 34 nor the TTI Combat Master 2011 are customized in the way I’d like. But you do your job with the weapons the sommelier has. Of the two, the 2011 will have the better trigger, and will probably be a little more pleasant to shoot. So we’ll go with that. We shouldn’t really be in a position to take advantage of the Glock’s famous reliability, to the extend that it hasn’t been compromised by modifications.
Winner: TTI Combat Master 2011
Movie Winner While we could do this as a “total up the wins” exercise, it’s more interesting to look at the weapons sets as a whole and compare them. I trust my readers can add. In terms of weapons sets, the original doesn’t have much in the way of cool custom stuff. Between the sequels, I think the shotguns are a toss up, the TR-1 is better than the MPX and the 2011 is better than the Glock. All that said, I think you’re getting more if you go with the TR-1 over the MPX than you lose with taking the custom Glock instead of the custom 2011. So my overall choice is the arsenal from John Wick 2.
Winner: John Wick 2
Honorable Mention: Backup Glock 26 No word yet on whether or not the Glock 26 backup gun has made it into John Wick 3. But it’s been his backup for two movies, with some slide work done for John Wick 2. I like when a character like John Wick actually goes to the trouble of carrying a backup gun, and the Glock 26 is an excellent choice.
Britain to upgrade only 148 Challenger 2s – The Royal Brigade Combat Team! The Times of London reckons that makes them the world’s 56th-largest tank operator. I’ve finally started reading Britain’s Future Navy, which parvusimperator loaned me a while back, and it’s similarly depressing—not only because of the Magic Shrinking Armed Services, but also because the Queen Elizabeths were supposed to carry F-35Cs when the book was written.
Preparing for a digital Pearl Harbor – The most important point out of this one is that we should be training sailors, aviators, tankers, and others who interact directly with combat technology the casualty drills for computer system failures, not just physical world failures.
The Invention of the Salvator Mundi – On the history behind the most contentious painting attributed to da Vinci. The art world remains divided on its legitimacy, but private buyers certainly don’t—it recently went at auction for a few hundred million dollars.
Notre Dame burns – This link isn’t a great story. I was hoping for something with more detail on the progress of the fire and its causes. It doesn’t really count as news, either, since I’m sure you’ve heard about it already, but it was a sad day for European history1 and one worth noting.
There was a secret private server for the late lamented MMO City of Heroes – I was more of a City of Villains man, myself. It stayed secret for six years—that is, from about 2013 to just recently, and was run by a group calling itself the Secret Cabal of Reverse Engineers (SCORE for short). It’s hard to imagine a much more on-brand news story. In other lamented MMO news, I discovered that Pirates of the Burning Sea is still online and still active. That was one of my all-time favorites—enough depth to the sailing and combat models to appeal to me, while still being accessible enough to appeal to the average pirate fan.
The US Army has decided that they might could replace the M249 with something. Possibly. Or maybe it’s just Lucy Van Pelt with her football. Anyway, the US Army claims it wants “Overmatch”. Or something.
The fear is, of course, Russians (or Chinese or whoever) with level IV-equivalent body armor. Let’s think about this for a minute. Level IV hard plates are rated to stop the .30-06 M2 AP round, which is a pretty darn good steel-core AP round. And no existing round short of .50 BMG is significantly better at penetrating armor than .30-06 M2 AP; it’s actually better at penetration than both Russian 7.62x54mmR B-32 API and 7.62x51mm M61. I’m not sure how a new 6.8 mm cased telescoped round is supposed to be massively better at armor penetration than .30-06 M2 AP, unless it’s supposed to use a tungsten core. Tungsten becomes problematic once you look at the cost and where most of the world’s tungsten is mined.
It could also be some sort of Magnum 6.8mm CT round with tons of velocity, but then managing recoil becomes a huge problem. After all, steel core .30-06 is not enough, so we need more energy. More energy means more recoil, because physics is a real jerk sometimes.
Let’s also recall my usual criticisms of some sort of radically new and unproven small arms technology, which is exactly polymer-cased telescoped ammo is. We’re talking about completely new ammunition manufacturing techniques, completely new cartridges, plus massive changes in how a firearm operates. We’ll let the US Army put up and prove the stuff or shut up. Come back and talk to us in five to seven years, and then we’ll know if it’s more than the next SPIW.
Okay, so that should deal with all the WONDERCALIBER advocates. Don’t trust Big Army to buy crazy new stuff. Wait for ambitious programs to come to a conclusion. Don’t be a beta tester. Wait for bugs to get worked out. And there will be bugs.
If we’re sticking with conventional calibers and known solutions, that makes our lives a lot easier. Let’s take a brief look at squads to see how we might use the LMG. I’ve been on record before that I don’t think squad size matters too much, and I still don’t. Picking the Namer as our (Heavy) IFV of choice lets me have a nice big dismount element of nine, which makes life easy. Nine men is a pretty classical dismounted infantry squad size. Squad leader, two fireteams of four men, and one LMG per fireteam. Two LMGs in the squad is a lot of firepower, and lets either team cover the other for fire and movement if desired.
Had we gone with a smaller, more conventional IFV with a dismount team of six or seven men, I would have copied the Australians and gone with two fireteams of three men each (plus a leader in the seven-man case) and kept the two LMGs per squad. Again, fire and movement. Also, it allows for better implementation of parapet foxholes.
And now, a brief word on command. In general we’d expect the IFV commander to be in overall command, and to remain in the vehicle when the troops get out. The vehicle commander would be senior to the dismount commander.
There is the pressing matter of caliber, configuration (i.e. mag fed or belt fed), and model. Let’s take those in order. Caliber is pretty easy. It should be our usual 5.56mm to maximize bullets per pound of loadout and (therefore) volume of fire capability. It’s also a lot easier to carry, since most GPMGs aren’t workable with a single gunner (i.e. without an assistant gunner).1
And we’re going belt-fed, because we want that big ammo reserve for suppression and sustained rates of fire. Large capacity drums are bulky, heavy, annoying, and generally unreliable. They also usually have to be stowed when empty. Screw that. Belts it is, by God and John Rambo!
Belt-fed 5.56mm light machine guns. They’re super fun to shoot. We just have to pick one. For the most part, they’re all pretty similar. The one that stands out weight-wise is Knight’s LAMG, which is significantly lighter than all the rest. Which should make it a slam dunk, except that no one else has bought them. And such a massive weight savings has me nervous, since there’s no such thing as a free lunch. I have some concerns about durability, and since no one has issued them on a wide scale, no one has worked the bugs out. Again, we don’t do beta tests. So we’ll pass too. Which basically leaves a whole bunch of equivalents in FN’s Minimi/M249, HK’s MG4, IWI’s Negev, and some others that I’m forgetting. They’re all pretty much the same, and I don’t think you can go wrong. Of course, this also means that there’s not much of a reason to switch, unless you wanted to beef up your local firearms industry. Since I hate wishy-washy conclusions, I’ll go with the proven M249, mostly because it’s the only one I have any time on. It’s also been licensed to a number of other countries.
I’m sure the Wondercaliber advocates are going to ask about body armor. Well, okay. Fine. Shoot them more. It’s a belt fed. Ceramic plates are only good for a few hits. Even the multihit rated ones. You have 200 rounds in the belt. Use ’em. Also, the real killer is and always has been high explosives. 40mm grenade launchers, rocket launchers, recoilless rifles, mortars, and especially artillery. More on that in a few days.
I think this might be a change from the last time I wrote on squad support weapons. It happens. ↩
Per the WWRW report this week, the Chinese have made a sailless submarine prototype. This is not a new idea; the United States, the Soviet Union, and France have kicked this idea around in the past. Let’s look into why one might want to delete the sail, and what tradeoffs that brings.
Why would one want to delete a sail? That’s simple: speed. US Navy sub designers reckoned that deleting the sail (and the drag from it) would gain you about 1.5 knots of speed, all other things being equal. It also removes the problem of inducing a snap roll tendency in turns.
Like everything else, it’s not without its tradeoffs. Clearly, we still need masts and some way for the crew to enter and leave the submarine. We also are going to need some sort of conning tower facility to steer the sub when it’s surfaced. Prior designs tend to accomplish the first by folding masts and periscopes down into a fairing, and having a retractable conning tower for steering and crew access, retracting again into a fairing. That fairing will add some drag back. Bureau of Ships actually figured that a fairing capable of handling all of the relevant systems would be about as draggy as a well-designed, small sail.
Having a sail allows the submarine to be a bit deeper at periscope depth, which helps with stability in rougher sea states. The sail itself is also an aid to stability, and means that the rear fins don’t have to be as large.
The US Navy actually gave serious consideration to the sailless concept twice, going as far as to make some models of the concept when designing what would become the Los Angeles-class. However, this ran into opposition from Hyman Rickover, who wanted fast submarines now, and did not want to do a bunch of hullform comparisons when he could simply design aroudn a larger reactor and call it a day. Rickover managed to kill the concept, and the Los Angeles boats all had a traditional (albeit small) sail.
As you might have noticed, we’re taking Holy Week a bit easier than usual—parvusimperator is traveling for Easter; I’m in the church choir, have had spring yard work to do, and am preparing for the first USPSA match of the season on Saturday.
Happily, there’s been a lot going on in the world, so we have a longer-than-usual WWRW (unless I miss my guess, the longest ever, in fact) to tide you over until we return to our usual pace.
China releases pictures of a sailless submarine – Which buys you one or two knots of speed in exchange for a whole host of technical problems. This one’s about 150 meters long by 15 across the beam, which is small for anything beyond a technical demonstrator, but proportioned the same as e.g. the Virginias.
Book review review: The Hundred-Year Marathon – The book lays out a theory that China has a long-term plan to build itself up to a global hegemon. I don’t think this is all that controversial. The controversial parts, per the reviewer, are that 1) the book suggests that China’s long-term plan can be discerned by diving deep into Chinese history and legend, and 2) that it’s written like a Dan Brown thriller, with the author searching hidden archives for ‘secrets’ which turn out to be readily available in translated-to-English form in university libraries across the country. 2) is a valid critique. I’m not so sure about 1)—one or two thousand years ago, China already was a global superpower, for its definition of global at the time, and was dealing with similar problems to a modern superpower, and the ancient Chinese outlook on life is nearer the modern Chinese outlook than, say, the Roman and European outlooks. Chinese folklore from the Han dynasty bears more directly on modern Chinese problems than either Caesar’s Commentaries or Arthurian legend does on, say, England.
Counterpoint to an article from last week: the USAF should not buy F-15EX – My counterarguments: 1) 22 AMRAAMs. 2) The most important form of stealth in the mid-21st century is going to be EW, not shaping, because it’s only a matter of time before someone works out the math for getting targeting-quality information out of a few long-wave radars working in concert. The fact that the F-35 is stealth-shaped and the F-15EX is not will matter less than the relative qualities of their EW fits.
If USAF retires B-1s, give them to the Navy – A supersonic bomber with room for 24 LRASMs? Yes. Yes, I think that will do nicely. Parvusimperator says you could fit more if it weren’t for “some dumbass treaty”, too. Also, he’s written on LRASM before, too.
Amazon contractors listen to Alexa conversations – Feeling real good about my lack of smart home technology right about now. Until I can run my smart home entirely on a server in my basement under my direct control, we’ll get up and turn lights on and off with switches, like cavemen.
Intelsat 29e exploded? – It’s a geostationary communication satellite, which looks to have flared up on telescope views, then shed a bunch of debris. Also, evidently there’s a company out there which points telescopes at objects in geostationary orbit. Also also, the comments mention a Russian accusation of an American satellite which roams geostationary orbit, photographing things there. Not necessarily implausible—such a thing would be easy to build, and a cell phone camera at 1km has better resolving power than a 10-meter telescope peering from ground level to geostationary orbit, so it would have its uses, too.
SpaceX sticks the Falcon Heavy landing, but loses a booster to the sea – The barges have grabbers which can snag the booster by the ‘octaweb’, the bit of framework which holds all the engine nozzles in their appropriate places, but the Falcon Heavy center core has a different octaweb, so the grabbers can’t get a good grip. The barge encountered 10-foot swells on the way back home, and the center core went over the side.
Don’t call it PlayStation 5 yet, but Sony releases details on their next console – The spec list may look like an ordinary gaming computer, but remember that one of the huge advantages with console hardware is the integrated memory architecture—there’s no conception of separate graphics memory like there is on your average computer, so you don’t have to worry about getting something from system memory to video memory like you do on a PC. (That’s why bus width is so important on computers and not really mentioned for consoles; it isn’t really a concept worth bringing up for the latter.)
Google Fiber’s divorce from Louisville is complete – In other words, don’t trust Google with your stuff in the long term, because they don’t care enough about marginal products to bother keeping them around. I read a good article on that subject this week, but didn’t stick it in our WWRW chat, so I can’t link it here.
Stratolaunch takes flight – We have a new record-holder for ‘largest wingspan on an airplane’! I would even go so far as to say that it’s not useless, either, which is a bit of a spicy take. There are two main arguments against the flying-booster-launcher: 1) it doesn’t save you much fuel; 2) reusable rockets make it moot. In re 1), the bit which takes the most fuel is precisely getting off the ground and to altitude, because your rocket is the heaviest and you’re moving through the densest atmosphere. Skipping the densest atmosphere lets you design your first-stage nozzles for more nearly vacuum conditions, which means your first stage can burn effectively for longer. In re 2), reusable rockets still require a lot of launch infrastructure, whereas a plane-launched rocket can dodge weather and get you on track for nearly any orbital direction or inclination with minimal steering losses.
Baseball should end service time manipulation – Unfortunately, doing so would require both the players and the teams to sacrifice something for the benefit of Baseball As A Whole, which is not the typical aim in CBA negotiations.
Sports leagues embrace gambling – It’s fan engagement! Pennsylvania is one of the states which legalized sports betting; the local sports talk hosts have lately been singing the praises of the sports book at the local casino. A showdown between the gambling operators and the leagues is brewing; the NBA, MLB, and the PGA Tour want a percentage fee on every bet placed on their games—initially, they said 1%; lately, they’ve said 0.25%. Of course, illegal sports gambling was recently estimated as a $150 billion industry, so…
Restaurants are too loud – As it turns out, the modern industrial-chic style absorbs zero sound, which is unpleasant. There’s a sushi joint near my mother’s house that has some sort of magical sound-dampening technology—every seat can be full, and yet it’s never loud enough to disrupt conversation at your table, and it’s one of the most pleasant dining experiences in the area.
USAF accelerating B-21 buys – I’ll believe it when I see it. “Let’s build a bunch of B-2s, but cheaper!” seems to be the rallying cry here, and I’m not sure how that’s going to work. Anyway, we’ll get them delivered just in time for Russia to announce some kind of synthetic aperture longwave radar that renders shape-based stealth obsolete.
Sea Stallion-K deficiencies are fixable, say Marines – parvusimperator observes that almost every deficiency is technically fixable. The two big ones called out in the article are exhaust gas ingestion, which is not great for helicopters, and not having enough airframes to do testing, which doesn’t bode well for future availability.
USAF working on a gender-neutral physical assessment – There’s no way to do that which doesn’t either let in wimpy men or exclude fit women, but I suspect 1) they’ll err in the former direction, and 2) nobody will notice, because most Air Force jobs aren’t especially physically demanding.
Congress should fund another National Security Cutter – As we discussed in the comments a week or two ago, there’s nothing wrong with the idea of a cheap hull you can pack a bunch of technology into later. The Legend class is a good candidate, as is the other modern Coast Guard cutter project, whose name escapes me right now. Medium something or another.
Virginia procurement plans change – Rather than buying 9 of the next 10 with the extra Tomahawk VLS section, we’re buying 8 of the next 11 that way. It’s funny that we ended up with the same pattern as the 688s: “Ooh, land attack missiles are great; let’s add more.”
Lake City ammo plant prepares to make 6.8 – parvusimperator observed over coffee that this is most likely just calling up Union Lead Castings Co. and Consolidated Swage Products LLC to make sure they have the right stuff on hand or in stock.
More on Textron’s cased-telescoped ammunition – It’s basically a sales brochure, but cool to see nevertheless. Is that the 6.8 that the ammo plant is gearing up for? In thirty years, will all the cool kids be building the civilian version of the 6.8 cased-telescoped rifle?
The USMC’s aviation plans – The SHORAD section is nifty. They’ve got a Leonardo/MOOG Stinger/gun system on a JLTV, and they’re buying Iron Dome. Evidently the Marines get all the best toys. Except the cased-telescoped squad machine gun, that is.
Teach the controversy: don’t retire Truman, mothball her! – The author references Ian Toll’s excellent Six Frigates in support of reviving the ‘laid up in ordinary’ status, to include building a new laid-up-in-ordinary drydock for Truman. Easier said than done, I say, especially since (as a nuclear-powered vessel) Truman‘s skeleton crew requirements are probably larger than, say, Constellation‘s were.
Does Google forget old websites? – No, but you could be forgiven for thinking so. They just have a very strong recency bias in search results, except in cases where you’re literally the only substantial Internet source. (Thanks, 50mm Supershot article.)
Arizona Cardinals: revolutionizing the draft? – Taking a page from baseball’s book, the Cardinals seem to be of the opinion that players on rookie contracts are better than expensive players at the same position, which seems sensible. They’re stockpiling draft picks and aiming to take some players in high-impact positions even if they don’t need them, on the theory that they’re either trade bait or the next man up when the current guy hits free agency.
Grammatically, Russians refer to ships by the gender of their name. Kuznetsov is a he, Moskva is a she. The myth that Russians use male pronouns for all ships stems from the fact that most Russian naval vessels have male names. ↩
I am sick to the back teeth of giant ensemble cast superhero movies, and I’ve played a ton of bad superhero games in my youth. For a game to stand out, it needs to be amazing. Spectacular, even. Insomniac Games has stepped up with their take on everyone’s favorite web-slinging hero in Marvel’s Spider-Man.
Things the game does right: damn near everything. First, pitfalls avoided. It’s not a rehash of the origin story, thank God and Stan Lee. We’ve got a somewhat-experienced Peter Parker here who doesn’t have to “learn how to be Spider-Man” for the millionth time. It’s not a redo of any other story either. They’ve gone and made their own story for you to enjoy.
Let’s talk about that story some more. It is brand new, but it checks all of the boxes that you would expect from a Spider-Man story. We’ve got complications. We’ve got good characters who are going to TURN BAD. We’ve got touching moments with MJ. We’ve got financial woes. We’ve got perpetual tardiness. We’ve got Spidey Quips. We’ve got famous villains that you know and love to hate. We’ve got J. Jonah Jameson (now with a radio show) calling you a MENACE and accusing you of being in cahoots with various evildoers. We even have a cameo appearance from the late Stan Lee himself. And there’s a brassy, awesome soundtrack that feels very ‘comic book movie’.
Being a Spider-Man game, this is set in New York City, and the devs at Insomniac did a great job of giving you a lovingly recreated Manhattan to play in. Thanks to modern processing power, you can web swing from Harlem to Wall Street without any loading screens. There are tons of recognizable New York City landmarks for you to see, plus a whole bunch of appropriate Marvel landmarks, like Avengers Tower. And you get around via web-swinging, which is the right mix of simple controls, dynamism, and just a bit of imprecision to be tremendous fun. It’s very easy to get the hang of, and it looks right out of a good Spider-Man movie.
On to combat! Combat feels like a somewhat more refined version of what we see in the Arkham games. More refined in the sense that Spidey’s gadgets are a lot better integrated into the fighting. It’s a lot easier to select gadgets, and they fit into your other attack and evasion work really nicely. Another nice feature is the combo bar. Fill it, and you get a finishing move, but you can also use it to replenish your health.
I would also like to praise the randomized minor crime mechanic. In each section of Manhattan, there are various factions who might do some crimes like try to hijack an armored truck. And, of course, you can go stop them. The timers are such that I never felt that I was overwhelmed by crime, or had somehow gone back to pre-Giuliani New York. Plus, after you stop a set number of crimes (five per faction, usually) those stop. Which is nice, because I get really sick when those become never-ending like the dragon encounters in Skyrim.
And now, things I don’t like. Happily, it’s a short list. First, there are sidequests that seem to require more precision in the web-swinging than the system is capable of delivering, which makes them a giant pain. Those quests were both frustrating and verisimilitude-breaking, as I felt like some sort of useless tetherball, not an amazing superhero. Happily, those quests are both few and number and entirely optional. The other annoying bits are the parts where you’re playing as Peter Parker (i.e. not costumed) and you have to walk around between cutscenes. With the exception of the bits in the lab, where there are plenty of things to mess around with, these felt entirely superfluous. Just work it into one cutscene, guys. It’s ok.
Overall though, it’s a great game. Highly recommended.
Optionally-Manned Fighting Vehicle RFP coming soon – These are parvusimperator’s submissions, and I’m so poorly read-up on ground vehicles that I’m not even sure what the relationship between OMFV and NGCV is, so if you want smart commentary on this subject, you’ll have to convince him to write an article.
GPS week counters reset to 0 this week – GPS satellites use a 10-bit field to count weeks, so every 1024 weeks, the counter loops back around to 0. Happily, it’s not a Y2K-style problem, because it’s in the spec, and the last loop happened right around 2000, when counter overflows were on everyone’s mind.
One of the AAF’s intentions was to be a football minor league—a place for players not quite up to NFL snuff to grow and perhaps become useful to an NFL team. This included NFL practice squad players and down-the-liners on active rosters—get your third-string QB some playing time, the sales pitch went, so maybe he’ll develop further! This had two flaws. First, the NFL Players’ Association was never big on the idea for player safety reasons. Why risk injury playing for a minor league? Second, the AAF was never going to survive solely on the name recognition of NFL third-stringers. They had to make a watchable, entertaining on-field product.
They succeeded at the latter goal. AAF football was recognizably football, and in the last few weeks was good enough to be enjoyable on its own. The 4th-and-12 onside conversion and the must-go-for-2 rules injected some extra offensive fun into the game. So, why did it fail?
First: investor Tom Dundon, who swept in at the last rumor of financial trouble swirling around the AAF, seems not to understand that nobody is going to pay any more to watch Danny Etling (Tom Brady’s understudy’s understudy) throw passes than they will to watch Garrett Gilbert (the Orlando Apollos’ QB) do the same. Failure to reach an immediate agreement with the NFLPA isn’t financial doom.
Second: the AAF was too expensive for what it was. Minor league baseball is cheap, and so also should be minor league football. If you can’t take the family to a game and buy everyone hot dogs for, say, $50, you’re not going to get the random, “Eh, why not, it’s a good way to spend an afternoon” traffic you need to drive attendance for a minor-league sport.
I didn’t do week 8 picks on account of being sick, but my week 7 picks went 1-3, for a lifetime AAF pick’em record of 12-12. I’m no worse than a coin toss!