MorphX is an existential nightmare.
MorphX is also a 2010 release for the Xbox 360. Wait, let me amend that, MorphX was technically released in 2008, but only in its native land of Russia. That’s right! According to a staff roll that includes a number of Ivans, Olgas, and Igors, MorphX was created and designed in Russia. And it shows! Superficially! MorphX is the story of an alien invasion of Moscow, and… I guess there’s Russian graffiti in some of the tunnels? Wow! What an amazingly different and unique culture! I bet their sewer levels smell totally different from our NYC-based sewer levels.
Aside from the obvious cultural divide (though they did find the time to dub in American voice actors), MorphX is a pretty standard lil’ Xbox 360 action game with a few interesting flourishes. You’re a human that had an alien ram its ovipositor down your throat and lay eggs in your chest, so before even the tutorial starts up, you’re a half human, half alien monster hybrid. And that’s a good thing! You can soak bullets, regenerate health, and kick normal humans halfway across the sewers with your mighty hybrid calves. It’s good to be a freak! And your current status as a monster man also grants other interesting gameplay quirks, like a level up system that is primarily based on light puzzle solving (it’s one of those “pipes”-esque deals, not unlike hacking in Bioshock), generally fun ability upgrades (like night vision and berserker mode), and a fine excuse for restoring health through “eating” deceased aliens. Overall, MorphX is a pretty rote action title of the era, but it does have a fair share of thoughtful ideas and concepts. You can tell that this was more than a random “crapped out” cash-in title, and, while it would never be game of the year, it might not be a bad way to kill an afternoon.
But I got all that information from playing the game. Why not anywhere else? Well, because this is the extent of the Wikipedia page for MorphX:
And did I mention I picked up this disc at the five dollar store? Yes, MorphX was released in 2010, and, in seven short years, it appears to have been completely forgotten.
And that is terrifying to me.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, no videogame is created today by “accident”. We have long passed the days of one, singular architect of any given game (or at least any game that isn’t Axiom Verge), and, no matter the system or quality of the final product, you will inevitably see a host of hands in the stew. MorphX is no different, and it’s clear that the minigames that comprise the leveling system are entirely different from the main monster-mashing game, so even if the credits were just six people (which they’re not), it would be elementary to assume MorphX was the product of several people working together. And that means something! That means there were discussions! That means there were different viewpoints! That means there were “working lunches”! While corners may have been cut, and maybe not everything worked out exactly as planned, MorphX, like any piece of media that could even remotely be called art, was a labor of love… but with a heavy emphasis on the “labor” part. Hell, it’s entirely possible everyone involved with MorphX hated the damn thing, but that doesn’t mean any part of its creation was easy. MorphX was not an accident, it was the end result of hundreds of hours of work by many, many different people.
And, in the end, it wound up in the five dollar store. It wound up at the five dollar store in vast quantities.
There’s a common misconception that has been floating around for a while: the worst thing you can do is make something that is bad. Technically, a part of this is true, as making something “bad” is, by definition, a bad thing. However, it is not the greatest failure one can achieve. Manos: The Hands of Fate is a terrible, terrible movie that killed nearly everyone involved, but, somehow, you recognize that title because a bunch of robots mocked it relentlessly. Reefer Madness is dreadful, but it’s kitsch, right? It’s all in good fun. And The Room? That’s a movie so bad, they made a movie about its sheer badness, and then gave a dude an award for portraying the chief reason it’s so bad. And, come to think of it, did you see Tommy Wiseau hopping up on stage with Franco? Why was Tommy there at the Hollywood elite’s biggest party? Because he made an abysmal movie. He made something that, according to every rule of filmmaking, was completely terrible, but he is celebrated in the same room as Spielberg. Tommy Wiseau is a joke, but he is a joke that will be told for a generation. In a hundred years, Tim Burton III will make a holo-vid about his life and times.
So, no, the worst thing you can do is not make something that is bad. The worst thing you can do is make something that is forgotten.
Objectively, this sounds absurd. It is “better to rule in Hell” thinking that inevitably gets godwinned out of existence the minute you note that Mein Kampf is a more popular work that Generic Fantasy Novel #4,1645. Sure, you can be famous for being infamous, but that’s no sign that you’ve done something right. And that’s absolutely true for people. There is no nobility in being known for being a bad person. However, art is something very different. Art is, for all intents and purposes, the “belief gods” you see in Neil Gaiman novels and old Star Trek episodes. Art lives or dies by its audience, and, good or bad, if an audience isn’t there, it is dead. Sure, we like to keep ourselves warm at night with stories of how one fan learned a valuable life lesson from one book, and that made all the difference in the world… but seriously? There have been a million books written just in the time you’ve been alive, yet you will note that your local bookstore (should such a thing even exist) is not a stadium holding the wealth of knowledge and imagination it could potentially contain. There have been thousands upon thousands of works of art lost to time because generations didn’t discover that “forgotten gem” fast enough for it not to be completely forgotten. A forgotten gem that is never remembered is just a useless rock.
And to anyone that creates anything, that concept is terrifying.
All art takes time. Every creation takes effort. Whether it’s good, bad, or something decidedly in between, every thing that has ever been fashioned by mortal hands has demanded blood, sweat, and tears from its creators. To imagine such a work amounting to being judged poorly is unfortunate, but for such a thing to be completely ignored? That is so much worse. That is petrifying, and is likely the number one reason poems don’t get written, songs don’t get sung, and movies don’t get made. Why bother? Why even try when you’re going to wind up in the five dollar store down the aisle from the last of the Street Sharks merchandise? Why bother?
Well, maybe you could do it because somehow, someway, your art, being sold at a discount at some random store halfway across the world, could inspire some nerd to write about the horrors of creating anything. And that article could inspire other people to overcome their own fears, and create their own works of art. And one crappy little videogame could change the world in its own little way.
… But seriously, what are the odds of that happening?
FGC #378 MorphX
- System: Xbox 360. And one would suppose also Windows/PC, because every Xbox 360 game is on there.
- Number of players: Just one lil’ angry dude.
- Favorite Weapon: The shotgun isn’t any great shakes, because it seems you absolutely need weapon range to succeed in this game, but it does have a tendency to shoot out some kind of buckshot thing, and being able to see “the spread” on screen is a novel approach to the usual “just a flashing gun” weapon animation.
- Blood Sport: One other noticeable thing about MorphX is that your average dead soldier just plain explodes into a pile of blood and body parts. It’s a little upsetting, but it’s slightly more interesting than modern “rag doll” deaths.
- So, did you beat it? Nah. If this was the only game available to me for a month, I might bother, but I’m pretty sure I got a good grasp of everything this title had to offer from a couple of hours.
- Did you know? It is impossible to find trivia about a game that doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page.
- Would I play again: MorphX makes me think about the concept of creation, videogames, and art. It’s also not a very interesting game, in a genre I don’t particularly care for, so you know the drill.
What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Fable 2! We go from a completely unknown Xbox 360 game to one of the most infamous! Neat! Please look forward to it!