Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Robot Combat League

Get out your giant metal gloves, we're reviewing Robot Combat League!

Robot Combat League is a new reality competition show on SyFy that pits teams of two(a jockey and a tech) against each other, each manning a giant robot in a real robot boxing match!

Robot Combat League is basically a live-action version of a Rock-Em Sock-Em robots game. (It's also what I expected Robot Wars to be all those years ago.) Two robots go in, driven by their human masters, knocking around and busting each other up.  When I first heard about it, I thought it was going to be an episodic fictional version of Real Steel, but no, it's "real" fighting robots. And if you wanted to see two giant humanoid robots fight it out for real, well this is about as good as you'll get for now.
George Lucas's daughter is a contestant, so
can we expect a cameo from Darth Vader?

How "real" the fighting is is questionable, as is all reality in any reality TV show.  When I say it's like Rock-Em Sock-Em Robots, it's an apt comparison  There's less strategy and fighting and more just knocking up against each other until parts fall off of something. Not to say that's not entertaining! A robot will get gut punched and sparks will fly, hydraulic fluid will spurt all over the stadium, and pieces of armor will fall off. The reality is suspect as the robots don't look like they're walking so much as shuffling, but it's still pretty entertaining to see one robot knock another one's torso clear off his legs. And if it is real, this is pretty damn barbaric for any AIs watching. Leave the smart phones at home!

It reminds me a lot of Rock-Em Sock-Em Robots Arena on the Playstation, when they were trying to revitalize the franchise. Each of the robots have different styles and stats, and each has its own persona, like Scorpio who's covered in Spikes and sports three glowing purple eyes, or Commander, who looks like a green tank with an old-school army helmet. They even have a Steampunk robot! No, I don't think he's actually run on steam. I thought that each team customized their own, but they were each made and then just given out. I wonder if they'll all be back next season or if they'll only keep the winner and have all new robots.

There's very little human drama in Robot Combat League, which may be its biggest draw. In any kind of reality show, you'd expect 45 minutes of people bickering at each other building up to the ultimate challenge in the last 15 minutes(looking at you Survivor and Face Off!).  But here, there's a few bits about who the teams are and how they're going about training, and then it goes right into the action! The first episode featured a challenge to see the line-up of teams and then the first battle, and the second episode has two battles! They know they're audiance only cares about the damn robot fighting.
This is the guy that made all the robots,
so maybe give him a call?

I find it interesting that they have 2 person teams. One is the tech that's used for maintenance and driving the legs, and the other is the jockey that handles the actual fighting in an almost VR like boxing get-up. They feature race car drivers, MMA fighters, helicopter pilots, people from all walks of life coming to battle it out with giant robots. And hey, plenty of diversity in race and gender!  I was surprised and elated to see all the lady nerds and fighters they invited. They even get the daughter of George Lucas, which is...kind of out of left field, but still cool.

At the end of the day, it's a competition about giant robot fighting, and that's pretty darn cool. If you enjoy giant robots and boxing, I would recommend catching a few episodes.

THE GOOD: Robots fighting, robots knocking the slag off each other, not much reality TV drama, interesting team dynamics, robots have personalities.

THE BAD: Questionable how "realistic" the fighting actually is, over-dramatized a little, don't get a sense of the personalities of the teams until they're kicked off.

THE VERDICT: $$$$ Worth a watch! So far it's pretty entertaining. It's not as real as Real Steel just yet, but it's two giant robots knocking each other around, and you could do worse for a TV show.

SHOWS AND MOVIES LIKE IT: Real, Steel, Robot Wars, UFC, WWF, Boxing, G Gundam

ONE-SCENE METAPHOR: Uhhhhh one robot punches another robot and sparks fly?

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