Raw Thrills has been on quite a roll lately. With the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles beat-em-up recently released, and with Nex Machina Death Machine supposedly still on its way, we’ve had a lot of awesome crud to look forward to. These are exciting times for arcade fans. Wonderful, exciting times. And remember that mystery game I wrote about back in January? I think this may be it.
Raw Thrills, being the kick-butt developer they are, couldn’t stop at awesome. No, they had to keep going. In the Inside Xbox presentation a few days ago, Raw Thrills, Play Mechanix, and Microsoft dropped another huge announcement: a new four-player, Halo-themed rail shooter is on its way to arcades later this year. (Before you watch the video, I feel like I should administer a cringe-warning. These guys clearly have no concept of what modern arcades are and make big fools out of themselves trying to talk about it.)
(If you'd like to see the trailer without all the brain-dead commentary, here's the video from the official Halo YouTube channel.)
Halo: Fireteam Raven is, like I just said, a four-player light gun game. These aren’t too common. There was, of course, Tomb Raider and Rabids Hollywood from Adrenaline Amusements this year, but other than that, we haven’t seen too many. (Three-player games, like Crypt Killer and Evil Night from Konami, are slightly more common—barely.) This new arcade Halo installment follows the titular Fireteam Raven ODST squad, supporting Master Chief during the events of Combat Evolved. Like Jurassic Park Arcade and The Walking Dead before it, Fireteam Raven is, alas, another mounted-gun shooter. But based on the reload button on the gun itself, it seems to be taking more of a Walking Dead-esque approach to the formula.
The sheer size of Fireteam Raven is what has most people talking about it. Two monitors (forming a 130-inch 4K Ultra HD display), a 5.1 surround sound system, and four seats are housed in a gigantic 11-foot by 11-foot by 11-foot environmental deluxe cabinet. (And yes, it is a sit-down cabinet. The nimrod in the Inside Xbox presentation couldn’t seem to get it through his head that this wasn’t an “old-school stand-up arcade cabinet.") Fireteam Raven will be running on Play Mechanix’s NexaGen engine, which is clearly much more powerful than what they’ve used in their other recent games.
The cabinet really is a beauty. (A real beauty. It genuinely takes my breath away.) Plus, the game itself is sure to be plenty of fun. Raw Thrills has proven again and again and again that they know how to make solid rail shooters. It doesn’t matter what the original IP or license may be—the game underneath the surface will still always be exciting. Luckily for us, Raw Thrills seems to be doing a good enough job with the Halo license so far, so fans hopefully won’t be disappointed. (Though there has been plenty of entitled console gamer "discussion" in the comment sections of various Fireteam Raven videos.) Classic weapons like the AR, Needler, rocket launcher, and Plasma Grenade will be present, plus fun vehicles like the Warthog, Pelican, Ghost, and more. It’s definitely exciting, and it’s clear that there will be plenty of variety in the gameplay.
Halo: Fireteam Raven may be just another mounted-gun rail shooter, but it doesn’t seem to be just another Let’s Go Island clone. It seems to me that this title might be aimed a bit more at the “hardcore” crowd. While I can’t judge Fireteam Raven based on the Halo license alone, the way its being marketed indicates that this isn’t just for the kiddos. “Squad up,” they say, and push through an exciting Halo-themed adventure with a bit more depth than first meets the eye. Of course, these are all broad assumptions. At the very least, I do quite enjoy the emphasis on multiplayer. We all know how consoles have all but killed off local multiplayer....
Believe it or not, the Halo franchise is actually quite important to me. Although I'm not a big fan of the Xbox line of consoles, I always have to concede that the Halo games are incredible. Some of my fondest memories involve biking to my friend's house and playing Halo: Reach for hours on end every Saturday and Sunday. It was truly awesome. That's why I'm glad Raw Thrills, one of the most competent developers out there, is handling the arcade conversion. Sure, it would have been nice if this Raw Thrills brought the first-person shooter genre to arcades in a "pick-up-and-play" format, but it's understandable that they didn't. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles may have proven that joystick-based games can still do well in modern arcades, but no one's expecting Raw Thrills to pour a bunch of cash into crud-ton of risky investments just yet.
Unfortunately, we don’t have too many details on Fireteam Raven just yet. We do know that players will be able to use the now-commonplace Raw Thrills QR code system to share their scores on Halo Waypoint. Even more exciting is the ability to link one’s Xbox Live account through Waypoint or on the game’s scanner to unlock exclusive STATS and rewards. (I apologize for borderline plagiarizing Arcade Heroes. Unfortunately, I'm not quite a real journalist, so I’m reduced to nabbing information as soon as it pops up on other sites.) I absolutely love that Raw Thrills is embracing online connectivity with this new game, because it’s yet another indicator of this being a slightly more hardcore title. While I still hope we eventually see an e-AMUSEMENT-esque card system on Raw Thrills games, I guess I’m okay with what we have for the time being. I like that they’re doing their best to push arcade games into the online age without completely scaring off arcade operators.
What we also know is that Halo: Fireteam Raven may be on location test “as soon as next week for Memorial Day weekend” (also from Arcade Heroes) and that it will be a timed Dave and Buster’s exclusive before this year being receiving a general worldwide release just a little while later.
It’s very clear that Raw Thrills wants to emphasize the “experience” over anything. After all, they are taking a home IP and translating to arcades; they have to differentiate it somehow. And as we’ve already mentioned, the cabinet is pretty insane. It’s a beast with loads of bell and whistles, like Dark Escape 4D and Star Wars Battle Pod. Halo: Fireteam Raven is meant to turn heads.
Here’s where I’m a bit concerned.
This game looks incredible. This is something that I could never, ever dream of experiencing at home—a true arcade experience. But it’s also gigantic, and almost certainly targeted squarely at the FEC market. This isn’t a game you’d find at a small, local arcade. No, no, this is meant for the Dave and Buster’s, Round1’s, and Chuck-E-Cheese’s of the world. Fireteam Raven is ridiculously cool, but it’s also pretty flipping gigantic. Oh, and did I mention that it will be, without a doubt, ludicrously expensive?
I guess the only reason I’m bothered by this is because I just published an article about how video arcade game developers have stopped accommodating small street venues (like grocery stores, movie theaters, waiting rooms, and restaurants) and instead only care about big family entertainment centers. I love deluxe arcade games—love ‘em to death!—but we’re crippling the industry by only making big games. When a game is expensive for the arcade operator, it’s expensive for the players. And when it’s expensive for the players, the experience is lessened, no matter how cool the bells and whistles are.
Keep in mind that I am insanely hyped for Halo: Fireteam Raven. I think it’ll blow my mind as soon as I play it. But I also think it’s a sign—a sign that Raw Thrills has moved on. They may not want to support street venues and small arcades as much anymore. And I guess…I guess that’s okay. There’s nothing wrong with flashy, exciting experiences. As long as the gameplay doesn’t suffer in the pursuit of earning more dollars (because you know this ain’t a $0.25 game, kiddos), I’m happy. And there's no reason Raw Thrills can't eventually release a smaller, stand-up version more akin to the Time Crisis 5 cabinet.
As a little side-note, I'm actually quite curious to see how Halo: Fireteam Raven shapes up against House of the Dead: Scarlet Dawn. Two huge rail shooters from two of the biggest developers in the arcade industry—who's gonna win? While it's not a necessarily a competition (as The Walking Dead is much more comparable to House of the Dead, at least in theme), I think it's worth noting. Arcade game developers have a habit of continuously trying to one-up each other, and I think that may happen here. Raw Thrills doubled the number of simultaneous players, so perhaps they're going straight for the kill.
You know, Raw Thrills doesn’t have a history of disappointing (outside of, say, Nicktoons Nitro and the DDR X debacle). They know what they’re doing, and they execute without failure. Halo: Fireteam Raven is destined to be another hit, no matter how expensive it is. As long as the difficulty isn’t ramped up or the game isn’t rigged to end your total playtime as soon as possible (like Dark Escape 4D or Star Wars Battle Pod, respectively) to make up for the expense of the cabinet, I think we’ve got a surefire winner. At the very least, this is one of those games you’ll have to wait a long time to play at Dave and Buster’s. We all know how bad the lines can get on new, popular games, heh-heh.
So with all that in mind, I suppose we just sit back and wait. I’m excited, kiddos. This game looks WICKED cool—absolutely sick.
Well, as long as it isn’t a $1.50 per credit. That’d make me mad. But it’s a four-player game; I doubt it’ll cost that much.
See ya around. I guess I’m finished for today. I know I don't usually post on Saturdays, but I couldn't resist. This news was too big too pass up.