The Let's Play Archive

The 3rd Birthday

by The Dark Id

Part 23: Mechanical Issues

Back to it! Aya Brea will be crashing on Maeda’s couch for the duration of this operation. What? She’s not going to go fight the Twisted herself now that she’s no longer time traveling. That’s crazy dangerous! Commanding UN forces from home is far safer and more efficient.

Once again, we’re just thrusted straight into the body of an unsuspecting soldier mid-battle. I love the T-pose soldier silhouette that appears for a half second as the level loads in just slightly too soon. That’s not an emulator graphical glitch. It did that on PSP hardware too and it was funny then as well.

New Music: Worm

We begin by diving into the body of Marcus Ehmke. Throughout this stage we’ll be given status updates on the current time during our Real Time Overdive. We have T-Minus 90 minutes until a nuke is dropped on Manhattan should the mission have not yet succeeded. Kind of harsh.

Hey, take note that it is military time. So it is 4:30 AM. And… broad daylight.

This is much tougher than expected. Quickly use Overdive to move from tank to tank, and find a good angle to shoot from.

This isn’t actually a suggestion by Maeda. We do not have any control over Aya until the good doctor finishes speaking. At which point, Aya is forcefully Overdived into a nearby tank. Marcus Ehmke is instantly vaporized in the process. Really. The dude just straight vanishes as soon as the mini-cutscene plays and Aya hops away. Given her callous disregard for human life, I’m going to assume he was, in fact, torn asunder at a molecular level as soon as Aya jumped into a tank.

Oh and we’ve not just jumped into one of the several crew members working a tank, not one person controls a tank the tank itself, apparently. Or perhaps it’s like in Deus Ex, where Jock fuses with Black Chopper mid-way through the game to become one transportation entity. I don’t know. I’m not a scientist. I do know that this next portion is kind of bad!

But before we begin, let’s take a look at the Feats for this chapter. Much like Episode 3, Episode 4 is a short two chapter affair. Unlike Chapter 3, a lot of the Feats aren’t particularly doable! Secure barricades comes later. Right now, we’re focused on Swiftly Breach the Tower – which translates to beat this giant phallic monster within three minutes! And Tank Team Survivors Unharmed – Which means the tanks during this battle are not allowed to take any damage.

Yeah… that last one sure as shit ain’t happening! Let’s talk about Tank Commander Brea. You’ll notice down at the bottom left we have access to both the tank’s MG turret as well as the main cannon. Both have infinite ammo EXCEPT on a cooldown timer of sorts. The cannon can be fired roughly once every 4-5 seconds indefinitely.

The MG, on the other hand, runs on a constantly regenerating belt of ammo. As long as Aya lets off the fire before the total ammo is depleted, it will regenerate to full ammunition in about a second. BUT, if the player gets overzealous and depletes the ammo gauge (which takes about… 5-6 seconds of continuous fire) then the tank’s ammo overheats and has about a 15 second cooldown period where it’s useless.

While we’re managing our tank’s cooldown meters, the giant penis monster and its crotch spawn lesser chodes are spitting hot balls of fire in our tank’s direction. These cartoonish fireballs can be dispelled by a single direct shot from either the cannon or a few well-placed shots from the MG.

The problem here is that the actual hitbox for the fireballs is deceptively small. We’ve got to land a direct shot in the center of the fire to work with the cannon. And there’s only one shot between a fireball being shot off and the time a cannon can fire and reload. And we must be equally direct with our MG fire. You know, the one that overheats and disables if we fire for more than six seconds. Oh, also the enemies all fire in 3-4 shot volleys. So that’s problematic. Especially that Feat where we’re not allowed to take any damage.

ESPECIALLY, when there’s not one, but three tanks to babysit on the battlefield. There are two tanks on either side of the giant Worm Twisted and one a ways back down the street. I failed that first Feat about fifteen seconds into the fight, since the giant Worm and its spawn all kind of choose their first targets at random and if they don’t pick the same exact one then WHOOPS! It’s suddenly nearly impossible to do that Feat!

Oh and if you’re wondering why I’m talking about positioning and making it out to be a foregone conclusion a tank will take damage if it’s targeted and Aya cannot help, it’s because the treads on all the tanks have been destroyed. Yeah, they’re all just essentially stationary gun emplacements! They also didn’t actually give the tanks any AI (they make the animation like they’re firing their cannons when Aya is not in control, but it’s just for show) so it’s entirely down to Aya here.

As for the fight itself, the primary goal is to destroy the colossal Twisted dick dragon Worm. This is, of course, accomplished by shooting it in its scrotum opening mouth while it vomits fireballs onto the field. The Worm is locked into a single target for the duration of one of its attacks. Aya can draw aggro to another tank between volleys. But once it’s committed, that’s its target. So, when not attempting the Feat like a lunatic, the best thing to do is to just jump into an alternate tank from the one under fire, since then Aya doesn’t have to worry about wasting previous attack time chewing through the fireballs in flight.

Occasionally, the Worm will spit a special green fireball onto the field. It’s best to drop everything and attack these at once when they appear. Otherwise, should they hit the ground…

…a Worm Spawn will be produced. There are initially three Worm Spawns in the battle and all can be taken out in 2-3 cannon shots with some supplementary MG fire. They’re not a big threat right now. They are just a source of additional fireballs we don’t need to be dealing with in addition to the boss’ mess. So removing them before focusing on the Big John ought to be priority.

As a side note, The 3rd Birthday was really poorly edited around here for consistency. Maeda’s voice over refers to these enemies as “Worms”. The in-game objectives refer to them universally as “Spawn” instead. And a datalog we unlock later will split the difference and classify them all as Worms, but technically the giant one is the “Spawn” and the smaller ones are “Runts”. The term “Runts” will never be used anywhere else in the game though!

For sanity’s sake, I’m just going to refer to all of ‘em as Worms. Mostly because there is only the one giant boss one here. Plus the soundtrack says Worms and dammit, that’s the only good part of this game so I’ll take its word on this subject over Datalogs or Maeda.

As far as battling this boss goes, it’s a matter of not getting hit by fireballs from a stationary target (and taking out any secondary targets which are also mostly stationary when spawned), keeping up the attack, and… that’s kind of it. You’ve got a trio of turrets. There isn’t a lot to work with for creativity here. The Worm boss itself only has the standard fireball volley and a crouched down one where it will rapidly shoot five energy shots instead of slowly shooting err… five energy shots.

I got pretty lucky with the RNG and the Worm deciding it just really hated Catapult 27 (the one furthest back.) Which gave me the most time to shoot down the rare green Runt Worm spawning from the Spawn Worm (see why I’m not doing that naming?) Also, the fireballs in flight must all be destroyed one way or another before the worm can cycle to a new attack animation/target. So firing a block away worked in my favor pretty well. That’s the one and only Feat I’ll be accomplishing this chapter.

[Now's your chance, Aya! There is no explanation for why Kyle Madigan is here.]
You aren’t wrong.
[The surrounding Babels are connected underground. The giant Babel may possess a great deal of energy. It's fascinati- I-I mean, it's strange.]

The Coalition Forces all shuffle into the Babel in the North Shallows Tower. Which, if the that street signs next to Catapult 22’s wreckage is to be believed, is on the corner of 3rd Ave & 18th Street.

Which puts us kinda far off mark from that map marker from the mission start screen. In the grand scheme of things, this is a small error in a sea of issues. But I dunno… maybe don’t have a legible street sign directly next to a stationary spot you’re required to view if you’re going to completely fudge details like that.

New Music: Fright Night

Speaking of fudging the details, the screen just awkwardly fades out about ten seconds after Maeda finishes speaking, loads a new area, and here we are alongside the Coalition Forces deep in North Shallows Tower some 15 minutes later. Sure, why not?

[They're planting C4 explosives inside the tower. They're planning on blowing it up as soon as everything is ready. If we get the Babel to the brink of destruction, it'll be easier to find Kyle Madigan.]

So Walt Oxford here and the rest of the UN soldiers have an ongoing task of arming C4 charges. C4 charges… which evidentially an earlier squad had already placed at key structural points but never bothered to arm themselves? Anyway, we’ve got to sort that out now!

And by “we” I of course mean “Aya Brea”. It’s not that Aya has Quantum Leaped into Walt Oxford, demolition specialist or anything. It’s just that she is the only one to take any initiative in arming the bombs. Don’t worry about all that stuff about Aya being an unproven rookie who’s a poor marksmen and out of shape. Tank commanding, arming explosive charges, whatever you want! Post-Timeskip Aya can do it all with no particular explanation!

Thankfully, there’s no bomb arming mini-game. It’s just a matter of standing there and holding the X button for five seconds uninterrupted. That’s all there is to it!

After Aya has armed all four massive C4 charges on this one particular bothersome pillar, a group of Wads will spawn in to rumble. And there you have the primary gimmick of this Episode! Activate 2-3 C4 caches in-between waves of Twisted specifically tuned to bomb activation. Being hit by a Twisted’s attack will cancel Aya’s very technical HOLD X TO BOMB procedure. So better kill ‘em all before even attempting.

[…the tower. When that's done, they're planning on taking down the whole place.]

Yeah, I got the gimmick the first time Maeda. I’ve played a video game or two. Am I right, Thorsten? Holding X to bomb isn’t rocket science, eh Epstein?

New Music: Desperation

As soon as Aya arms the first of four bombs, a Worm/Spawn/Runt warps into the room for the first proper fight against one of these ill-titled bastards. Worms are total jerks and probably one of the most difficult standard enemies in the game. Invincible Reaper encounters not counted.

Primarily, Worms attack by vomiting fireballs all over the room, much like their tank fighting incarnations. Unlike the earlier Worms, these fireballs aren’t quite the size of a mini-van. But nevertheless dangerous.

Primarily, the danger of the fireballs comes from their weird aftershock. Worm Fireballs will strike the ground and create a sort of temporary mine. This can still damage Aya and friends if they are foolish enough to walk over it. But more hazardous is the aftershock, which will fire a secondary fireball in a random direction from the first one. I do mean randomly. A fireball can land behind Aya’s cover and fire directly into her back. Or it could sail harmlessly in the opposite direction. We’re at the wily whims of RNG here.

Speaking of wily whims. You see this orange barrier here? There are several of these this chapter. If any of them are destroyed, that will fail that second Feat about protecting barriers. Things that can destroy barriers: ANY explosives anywhere near a barrier. Just keep that in mind.

Now fireballs are one thing. We’ve seen them. Most of the Twisted have energy blasts and death orbs. It’s old hat! What the Worms have is an air sucking attack, like some much less marketable Kirby offspring.

If Aya sticks to cover (and possibly sidles in the opposite direction because the barriers are not lined up perfectly against the suction radius) she’ll be fine until the Worm concludes its Kirby routine after about 10 seconds. But, should Aya be caught out in the open or slip off the uneven cover, there’s pretty much no way to get away from the Worm’s maw.

Aya has a couple seconds of flailing around before she’s devoured, in which time she can abandon the poor soldier to their fate. Otherwise, as usual, it’s an instant death. The Kirby attack seems to generally only be directed towards Aya’s position.

Which is good, because they programmed absolutely no survival instinct into any of these soldiers for avoiding this attack. The very best we can do is have a soldier manually take cover behind one of these barriers and hope they don’t clip around the edge and into the Worm’s jaw if Aya isn’t assuming direct control. Otherwise, that NPC is almost certainly toast.

If a Worm catches one of our allies and eats them, it will briefly retreat underground to de-spawn that NPC model because they didn’t animate it actually eating anyone to regroup.

Taking a Worm down is kind of a pain in the butt. The only weak point initially is the dickhole mouth and only when it’s fully open and spewing fireballs/attempting to eat Aya. Any other locations are nearly immune due to the Worm’s armor.

But if Aya and friends can manage to deplete the first (of three) health bars, the Worm will briefly turn to stone and molt its armor exterior, turning into an angry red boy. Red Worms take full damage from all firearms (and double damage to their mouths now) as well as lose their immunity to stunning/Overdive Attacks.

Angry Worms lose their Kirby attack, but instead gain a rather awkward ramming attack that has quite a bit of difficult navigating geometry (any sort of uneven surface or a barrier will stop it dead in its tracks.)

More pressingly is the new eruption attack, in which the mad Worm will do its best volcano impression and just spew forth fireballs (which now explode into pillars of fire) every which direction. These pillars of fire will one-shot any NPCs unlucky enough to be standing slack-jawed in their way. So good luck keeping allies alive when encountering Worms.

I’ve found the best method of dealing with Worms is to just run the hell away from our braindead allies immediately, in order to minimalize casualties from Kirby vortexes. At least until the Worm’s armor has broken away and the rest of the crowd can actually contribute. From there, explosives are the name of the game. I mean we are setting up C4. It’s only natural.

Once we’ve taken care of the first on-foot Worm encounter, Aya can return to arming the planted C4. Don’t worry guys, we’ve got it! No, Travanis Beom, you’ve had a rough day. No need to expedite the process so we can get the hell out of the zone before the government nukes the city.

As soon as Aya arms the second of the C4, a pair of Spawn Worms warp into the area. That… could be an issue. One Worm was kind of rough! Except… If you’ll take a look at our Overdive candidate list, you’ll find there is a new addition that is unlike the rest…

Sadly, Undead 42 isn’t the zombie flavored answer to the question of the meaning of life, the universe, and everything. It is, instead, another tank. It’s not that a tank drove up and came to a halt outside the (Square Enix) building during that encounter with the Worms. It’s out there the entire time. Aya just doesn’t have the option of leaping into it until now because…

So shockingly enough, despite Maeda’s creeper tendencies around the Brea family, he actually does give a shit if Aya is potentially firing tank shells into a small enclosed room full of human soldiers. A rarity for this game!

Okay, fine! Fine, Maeda! We’ll do that. We’ll move these idiots into the corner of the room before we fire on the monsters with our 80cm tank shells into the room.

Okay. Done! That’s sorted out and… Oh… Dominic Lynch immediately ran straight into the maw of a Worm and now Otis Zabel is in the corner there running straight into the tank cannon sights.

Fuck it! Aya tried! Later, Otis! And with him blown all over the walls of the Square-Enix lobby, Aya is free to just pump tank shells into the room with zero recourse from the Worms just hanging out in the wreckage and gibbed bodies.

As soon as our tank rampage concludes, Rondy Etxeberria… sure, we’ll go with that name… This muppet runs into the lobby and goes “Holy SHIT” at the carnage left behind. Little does he suspect Aya is here to claim ownership of his flesh and continue onward further into the building complex. Also, I hope you’ve enjoyed the tank mechanic. It never comes up again!

Aya heads upstairs and I’m just going to go ahead and heavily abridge the next couple rooms with a highlights primer. Assume there is frequent stops where Aya arms additional bombs between each bulletin point.

Rollers have gotten a palette swap upgrade! Much like the Slackers, they just have their stats buffed and a new coat of paint before calling it a day. They’re still easily stunned by explosives and are mostly harmless.

Snatchers have followed us from the subways. They no longer have Snatcher nests so they cannot do their namesake snatching. Alright, then! It alternates between arming bombs and fighting Stalkers real frequently. It’s just kind of tedious, all told!

Music: Fright Night

[You can escape from there. We still don't know where Kyle Madigan is, but the troops are heading upstairs. Head to the elevators.]

I’d like to remind you that as far as I’m aware of, we’re in an office building. This is an office building’s elevator we are entering. Not a freight lift. This is where Bob Sebastian Awolowo from Accounting would ride to his sixth floor cubicle.

So we’re down to 60 minutes left in the nuke countdown. That’s kind of tight timing… Also, this elevator’s control panel goes about five inches above Aya’s head and the handrails are up to her shoulders. Good gri—

Oh. The elevator busted. Hey, Maeda. I was too busy marveling at the gigantic elevator to realize that you’d told Aya to ride an elevator up a building full of teleporting monsters and a giant alien root system growing out of it. This was a excellent idea, Professor.

Luckily, the elevator doesn’t plummet down the shaft, killing Aya Rondy. Indeed, it just so happens to open up to a safe room full of ally soldiers. How about that? There’s some troops gathered to bullshit about their crappy fate as usual… Again, there’s an hour left until their commanders nuke them. But no hurry! Let’s see what the folks have to say.

These Twisted remind me of a German tank called the Jagdtiger.
I'm sick of your stupid military history trivia.
If you want to be a gunner, put in an application already.
The Jagdtiger was a monster, too, with armor like a heavy cruiser and guns like a destroyer.
C'mon, you're bumming me out.
But by war's end, Germany lacked the fuel to propel them. We need to cut off the Twisted’s supply of whatever drives them.
By the way, the Jagdtiger could destroy a Sherman tank in a single blow.

Platoon Sergeant Murray, could you please stop fawning over the Nazi war machine and maybe get back to the mission? They’re fixing to go Hiroshima on this city at the top of the next hour. Now is not the time!

Ammo recharges and a laptop to the future across town in Maeda’s Bunker is set up for Aya’s convenience in the room. Hey, how is Aya still doing gun smithing and gene splicing from an old wareho—you know what? Forget it!

I fiddled with a few settings here and there. Again, I’ve had rotten luck with my OE drops and ehh… It’s fine! It’s all fine! We’re not playing harder difficulties.

[They're a virus that devour time and space - fake life forms whose only instinct is to reproduce. They come from the edge of time and space—or possibly the future.]

[I have this interesting theory that the Twisted aren't actually monophyletic creatures. For example, pterosaurs and ichthyosaurs aren't taxonomically classified as “dinosaurs.” They stem from a different species of phyletic origin. They have different ancestors. Eventually, an intelligent species may be discovered. Although, as long as I can… research you, I'm more than satisfied. Ehehe.]

Welp. At least someone is trying to deduce what in the flying fuck the Twisted actually are supposed to be. As for me? I’m just going to go ahead and have Aya jump in this open hole to escape Maeda. Not sure what’s down there. It could be jagged rebar for all I know! Tune in next time to find out!

Video: Part 23 Highlight Reel
(This is currently trapped in the Youtube processing zone. Check back later.)

Worm Concept – That would be kind of okay as far as a phallic dragon design goes. At least I can identify it as akin to something else relatable and not just a mess of bent shapes and appendages.