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The Question video game: The Lazarus Initiative

A proposal by Tim Allen

Fake X-Box cover for a Question video game
ENLARGE
The Question: The Lazarus Initiative, a collaboration between AeroFantastic Design and Faux Games

You, yes, YOU, are Vic Sage, investigative journalist and sometime costumed vigilante. Your adventures as THE QUESTION have carried you far, from your home city of Hub City, through Chicago, St. Louis, Batman's home turf Gotham City, and, most recently, Metropolis. Upon your return home from assisting the Man of Steel with the whole business with the Subterranean and the Science Spire, you find that, as usual, not all is well in Hub City.

During your travels with the Justice League, a ruthless industrialist named Robert Lazarus moved into town and started taking over. He bought all the judges and policemen he could afford; everyone who wouldn't kowtow to his whims was driven out of town -- including the current mayor, Vic's former love interest Myra Fermin. Driven by natural curiosity, when you return to town (and to your job at Hub's local news station, KBEL) you immediately launch an investigation into Lazarus' business dealings...both in public as Vic Sage, and in 'private' as The Question. But during said investigation, an interesting development turns up: tracing some of Lazarus' biggest bank deposits leads you right back to Metropolis...into the headquarters of Intergang!

Intergang and Lazarus are working hand-in-hand on developing some new type of chemical weapon...and are using Hub City as a staging ground to test it. With this knowledge, you race back to Hub to gather enough information to shut Lazarus down for good. You're up to it. What would Rorschach do?

Gameplay Features

FREE-ROAMING ENVIRONMENTS: You begin each game at the home of Professor Aristotle Rodor, inventor of your Question gear and all-around super genius. From here you can load a game, save a game, set game options, and select which game area you'll travel to. Hub City's a big town, and as you progress through the city and accomplish Story Missions (more on that in a minute) you'll unlock new districts (downtown, industrial, suburban, etc). From Rodor's house you can choose which one of these districts you want to travel to in order to get to your objectives faster.

Your primary mode of transportation is your good old, supped-up red VW Bug. You begin each new game with it, and it's basically indestructible. If you lose track of it somewhere, just go right back to Rodor's, there'll be another one gassed up and waiting. If you can't get to your VW in a level, though...you've never shown much compunction about 'borrowing' a vehicle before. Hell, as The Question, you've never shown much compunction for ANYTHING. So...carjacking isn't allowed, but if you happen to find an unused vehicle, it's fair game. Just be warned that this will make you a bigger target of Lazarus' corrupt cops than usual. They may not believe too much in enforcing justice, but they love any excuses they can get to kick the crap out of someone.

You'll run into a variety of citizens during your travels; most of them will leave you alone, weirded out by your distinct lack of a face. Policemen usually will too, unless you happen to catch an especially belligerent one, or if you witness the police doing something they don't want any witnesses for. And then, unfortunately, your only recourses are to attempt an escape or fight it out. This is a rough fact of life.

Mission Types

There are a few different types of missions Vic will encounter during his adventure to defeat Lazarus and Intergang. All missions are marked with objective icons on the Hub City Map that can be accessed during gameplay; each mission type would have it's own unique marker so you know what remains to be done in that particular district.

STORY MISSIONS: These missions only appear after certain criteria are met, and are the only missions that directly advance the game's plot. These missions could range from boss battles to scuffles with random gangsters to stealthy building infiltrations to car chases. They're usually accompanied by a cutscene, and work to move the story of the game along. Some Story Missions make unlock new districts of Hub City to explore.

CITY EVENTS: Much like Ultimate Spider-Man, City Events are random happenings around the area you're traveling through. It could be random acts of violence; it could be a kitten in a tree, anything. A certain number of these and Investigation Missions are required to unlock each progressive Story Mission.

INVESTIGATION MISSIONS: Like City Events, but with a specific purpose. These require you to track down a specific person within the area and interrogate them, or hack a person's computer, or something of that sort. These missions are usually stealthy affairs, requiring more puzzle-solving and guile than the usual martial-arts beat down the City Events and Story Missions involve. The interrogations would be controllable; not as violent as the ones in The Punisher, but with a fair amount of strong-arming.

TRAINING MISSIONS: Completely optional and skippable, these missions are scattered about the areas and take you to Richard Dragon's dojo to learn new moves for combat. A box appears showing you the button combo for a new attack or something, and you then have to go through a minigame either trying the attack out on Dragon himself or some training dummies. Accomplishing some of these not only gives you new moves, but may increase your health bar and/or Walk Two Worlds meter. Doing these doesn't move the game along at all, but you may be glad you did them later.

Game Controls

This depends on the system this appears on. At first, Vic would have the standards: jump, punch, kick, block, and maybe some more intricate kickboxing and/or judo moves. As you complete some of the Richard Dragon Training Missions, you'd get some more powerful martial arts techniques, which would be accomplished by putting in short fighting-game style commands. If this is on the Xbox 360/PS3 it would use the standard face buttons; if a version appears for the Nintendo Wii, fighting could be accomplished by actually swinging the remotes around in an approximation of throwing punches.

Theoretical controls for the Xbox 360:

  • RIGHT THUMBSTICK: movement; push gently to walk, push harder to run. If used in combat, can be used to swing at opponents behind and to the sides of Vic
  • LEFT THUMBSTICK: camera controls, clicking it in centers the camera behind Vic
  • D-PAD: pushing up during gameplay activates Hub City Map; the rest is only used to navigate menus
  • START: pause menu (save game, options, etc)
  • A BUTTON: jump, press twice to double jump, pressing it near the edges of platforms will have Vic grab on to the edge, can be used in combination with other moves to do jumping attacks (tackles, jump kicks, etc)
  • X: punch attacks, can be used for more advanced attacks when used in combination with other buttons and the joysticks
  • Y: kick attacks, same rules apply as the X button
  • B: grappling attacks; when used in conjunction with the right joystick, Vic throws his opponents, when pressed twice, Vic uses a 'suplex' attack, and when used with X and Y Vic holds the opponent in place and just wails on them/li>
  • RIGHT TRIGGER: lock-on. When held, Vic locks onto the nearest opponent, causing a health bar to appear above their head. Moving with the right thumb stick has Vic circle around the locked-on enemy, and the left thumb stick moves the camera from side-to-side instead of completely around Vic. If you let go and re-press the trigger quickly, The Question will lock onto the next closest enemy; when the trigger is released the lock on is broken.
  • LEFT TRIGGER: blocking. The Question is still vulnerable to attacks from behind, but head-on attacks are completely blocked; stronger opponents will still do damage, but less. Vic can still move while blocking, but only side-to-side and back-and-forth, similar to when he's locked on to an enemy.
  • LEFT BUMPER: Walk Two Worlds mode (see below)
  • RIGHT BUMPER: action button: open doors, activate computers, enter a vehicle, etc

Walk Two Worlds

In a tribute to the 'urban shaman' abilities The Question gained during the Veitch/Edwards miniseries, holding a button on the controller activates Walk Two Worlds mode. In this mode, Vic, his enemies, and all important objects/areas in the nearby environment are highlighted in an inky black, while the rest of the world gains a bright yellow tint, similar to Edwards' artwork.

Primarily, this mode is activated to locate the various Missions in Hub City, solve puzzles, and find important objectives while completing missions. While running around the city streets, if the player is having a hard time finding the next City Event or Story Mission, Walk Two Worlds mode would highlight the mission area with a large black beacon and plant a winding black 'crack' along the road ahead of the player, illuminating the way. If used during a Mission, it could be used to find an important document in a cluttered office building, track a potential informant through the winding streets of Hub City, and such.

When using this mode, time around Vic is slowed slightly, giving him a speed bonus. This can be used to give him an advantage in combat, as Walk Two Worlds can be activated at any time. Also in combat, it gives Vic something of a 'danger sense'; when an enemy is about to strike The Question, that enemy starts glowing red (instead of the usual black that enemies appear) so Vic knows to get out of the way.

Walk Two Worlds doesn't last forever, but it regenerates naturally when Vic isn't using it, so it comes back over time.

Graphics

Cel-shading seems especially effective when applied to a game based on a comic or cartoon license, and cel-shaded graphics are the best way to approach the Walk Two Worlds mode. Vic's standard Question uniform would be similar to 52 or the Veitch/Edwards series: brown trench coat, brown fedora (that would fall off and magically reappear during fights), black suit, gloves.

DC Universe Cameos

Should be kept to a minimum, as The Question tends to be a bit grittier and more down-to-earth, and having the whole Justice League in there would complicate things. That said, a few Story Missions where Superman, Batman, or even Blue Beetle (Ted Kord era) come to Hub to aid Vic with his investigation wouldn't be too out of place if they were used right. Lois Lane could show up in a cutscene or two as Vic's perpetually unrequited love interest, and one of the Story Missions might be an ersatz reunion with the Riddler. Of course, some Question characters would return...Cathy Fregosi might be working as one of Lazarus' heavies, The Mikado could show up in a few City Events and Izzy O'Toole, now Hub City Chief Detective, could show up once in a while to assist The Question.

Unlockables

All throughout Hub City are scattered Comic Covers, when found, these are simply covers from all the various DC series The Question has appeared in, including the 80's O'Neil/Cowan series, the Veitch/Edwards series, the cover of Cry For Blood featuring Vic, his appearances in L.A.W., and...Heck, let's have a fan art contest; whoever submits a cool picture gets to have it appear. These are viewable at the Title Screen or at Prof. Rodor's house.

After you finish the game, four new costumes appear for you to choose at Rodor's house, in addition to his regular in-game outfit:

  • DITKO ERA QUESTION: light blue suit/coat/fedora, orange shirt, yellow tie, black hair
  • 80'S QUESTION: blue suit/tie/fedora, dark blue coat, orange shirt, red hair
  • JLU QUESTION: blue suit/coat/fedora, yellow shirt, black tie, black hair
  • RORSCHACH (suggested by Bob F.)-brown trench coat/fedora, black suit, Rorschach mask

Also, after finishing the game once in the garage next to the Bug, you'll find The Question's big, blue, government-agent-style Lincoln from JLU. It handles the same as the Bug; it's just a matter of personal preference as to which you drive.

Feedback

All feedback and comments are welcome...unless it's negative, in which case I have a fragile ego and couldn't possibly bear the thought of someone not liking what I've done here. ;) Drop me a line at flash1087@hotmail.com, or, even better, get a hold of me on the vicsage.com forums.

Thank you much for reading. I wish you and yours many happy returns.

-Tim A, 'Flash1087'

Gallery

Alternate cover created by forum member "?"