Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day, perhaps for all time.
I went to the games shop and stared at the box several times a week for the best part of a year. It was the 90s, I read X-Men comics and watched the X-Men Saturday morning cartoon and there was a PC in my house. An X-Men FPS was beyond my wildest imaginings. Yet I could not play X-Men: Ravages Of Apocalypse. In fact, I have never played X-Men: Ravages Of Apocalypse, and because of that it still remains, in my mind, The Greatest Videogame There Ever Was.
I could not play it because I did not have a licensed copy of Quake – only the shareware version. XROA was a Quake total conversion, you see, but sold at retail and, improbable as it might sound now, with the blessing of Marvel Comics. Comics sales were strong at the time, but this was decades before Marvel became the mixed-media titan it is now. In other words, they weren’t anything like as fussy when it came to licensing.
So, no full Quake, therefore no Ravages Of Apocalypse, therefore only the box. The rear of which showed various X-Men rendered in blocky, 3D Quake-o-vision, which at the time seemed like a god-damned miracle. Hell, looking at screenshots today, it does a remarkably good job of capturing the essence of the 90s Blue and Gold teams with the crudest of 3D – this perhaps speaks to the punchiness of those costume designs (as embarrassingly 90s as they may be) as much as it does to what, I’ve realised over the time, is the sheer charisma of the Quake engine.
I have heard few good things about Ravages Of Apocalypse in the years since. I ignore them, just as I ignore the game itself, and the fact that I could very easily go and play it if I so wished. I do not want to play a grindy mod with lousy level design that involves repeatedly shooting Quake monsters reskinned as evil clones of the X-Men. Extraordinary to think about now, that Marvel would give the endless murder of Wolverine, Rogue, Cyclops, Storm at al the greenlight like this.
Instead, I cling onto the game it always was in my head: a world-class shooter in which I could choose which X-Man (or Woman) I wanted to play as, with the ability to deploy their merry mutant powers at will, and amazing boss fights against Apocalypse, Mr Sinister, Magneto and all the rest. For as long as I don’t actually play Ravages Of Apocalypse, that game can still, in theory, exist.