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Cover Critic
Cover Critic: Doom, Far Cry Primal, Street Fighter V & Road Raider
By Cyril Lachel     |   Posted on February 08, 2016   |   Episode 82 (Show Archive)  

They say you shouldn't judge a book by its cover. But since I've never heard that expression used against video games, I figure that it's open season on the box art you see every day. This week we're taking a look at designs for Doom, Far Cry Primal, Street Fighter V and the Amiga classic, Road Raider.


It used to be that Doom was synonymous with all first-person shooters. For a time in the 1990s, every first-person shooter, no matter how unique, was deemed a "Doom-clone" as shorthand. While a lot of the excitement had to do with the revolutionary gameplay, I would like to believe at a sliver of the intrigue came from the killer cover art. But as great as that initial box was, future releases like Doom 64 and Doom 3 suggested that Id Soft's most imaginative artists had already left the building.

Perhaps that's why I wasn't surprised to see this, the box for the Doom reboot. It's boring; I think that much is obvious. It's hard to distinguish from countless other chest-thumping action games, and that's a problem. Is this Doom or Crysis? Or Killzone? Or Halo? It's impossible to tell. If you're new to the franchise and only know of the name, then there's nothing about this design that is going to set it apart from the rest of the horribly generic sci-fi first-person shooters on the market. Bethesda needn't look further than 2014's critically acclaimed Wolfenstein: The New Order to see how to design compelling box art.


For a while in the 1990s, it seemed like everybody was into prehistoric times. Jurassic Park was a huge hit at the box office and we saw countless games starring dim-witted cavemen, including Bonk's Adventure, Joe & Mac, Chuck Rock and Caveman Games. But instead of evolving through the years, these Neanderthal heroes were destined for extension. But with Jurassic World making dinosaurs hip again and the upcoming release of Far Cry Primal, maybe prehistoric times are about to make a comeback.

This Far Cry Primal box art is a great start. There's an enormous woolly mammoth front and center, as if to remind you that we're not at the top of the food chain. There are no guns or explosions, just a guy with a flaming spear. We don't even see our hero's face, making this box all about the treacherous world. I like how much detail they manage to cram into the background. It's full of warring factions and uninhabitable terrain. And yet, even with so much to look at, the box does a great job of focusing your attention at what's truly important.


As silly as it sounds, I remember where I was the first time I played Street Fighter II. When I close my eyes, I can see that arcade in Seaside, OR. I can picture the time of day and even the sweet smell of popcorn. I guess what I'm saying is that Street Fighter II left a big impact on me, and I'm eager to see what Capcom has in store for the World Warriors when the newest game hits PlayStation 4 next week. That said, this cover art is a huge letdown.

Here we have a very pissed off Ryu striking a pose and letting you know with his scowl that he means business. The red of his gloves and band is the only color to break through the stylish black and white design. It's fine, but certainly not memorable. It's yet another cover where our hero stands front and center, not unlike what we saw with the Doom box. This is better than what Bethesda has come up with, but not by much. This doesn't convey what makes this sequel new and better, it's just another picture of Ryu. If you want me to get excited about a new Street Fighter, you better show me more than Ryu.


Between the shades, car and post-apocalyptic setting, there's something about this Road Raider cover that is awfully familiar. I can't seem to put my finger on it, but the hunky heartthrob on the cover reminds me of somebody. He's suited up in leather, has a gun strapped to his back and it's been a few days since he last shaved. Best of all, he drives a sporty car specifically designed for this brand new future world. It's armored and equipped with tire-shredding spikes, ready to drive down the Fury Road.

Forget it; I'm done trying to figure out what Road Raider reminds me of. There are simply too many amazing details to talk about, like that car being launched into orbit. I'm also curious why only the tops of the buildings have been damaged by the war. Is it possible that only the people above the 10th floor were killed? And wouldn't a red sports car be easy to spot and a liability in this post-apocalyptic setting? And what's with that title, anyway? Road Raider? This guy doesn't look anything like a raider. Call me crazy, but with the spikes and multiple guns, this guy looks more like a warrior. Almost like a road warrior. Yeah, that's what they should have called this game -- The Road Warrior. Wonder if that name is still available.


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