Devil May Cry Preview

Gamestyle Archive intro: It is clear from this preview of Capcom’s forthcoming franchise, we didn’t know what to expect from Devil May Cry. Of course nowadays such surprises are few and far between – you feel like you’ve already experienced the title before making the purchase. Writer JJ, published July 2001.

Devil May Cry
Version: PAL PS2
Developer: Capcom
Publisher: Capcom

Genre: Adventure
Players: 1
Accessories: Memory Card
Release: Winter 2001
Link: www.capcom.com

dmc

Although it could be considered a meatloaf song title – certainly the way the main character dresses – Devil May Cry is the first true PS2 title from survival horror masters Capcom.    What about Onimusha I hear you cry? Well its Psone roots were painfully obvious to us and everyone else we hope.  A nice bit of FMV doesn’t make a true next generation title no matter what they say.   Devil May Cry promises to be the real deal and Capcom hope is a much-needed breath of fresh air in a going exceptionally stale genre.   In fact the Japanese giant have claimed this game is the first in a new genre, to be known as “stylish hard action” so are we talking Hard Boiled with or Exit Wounds?   Then again reading press releases its also tagged “gothic horror” so, which one is it?

The plot and outlining scenario are familiar to most that have played this type of game before.   Devil May Cry is a game from Shinji Mikami who created the long-winded Resident Evil series and Dino Crisis.   The story begins two millenniums ago where a legendary swordsman called Sparda defended the human race against the Dark Raid lead by Mundus.  Yet Sparda was himself a demon but he defeated the demon army and imprisoned its leader.   The time has come for the Dark Raid lead by the evil Mundus to rise once again and seize control but the son of Sparda (Dante) is waiting for the demons with his father’s sword.   This cool, dashing hero likes nothing better than creating carnage and demon slaying.   As a day job he is a supernatural private investigator and seeks revenge for the death of his mother and brother.   Due to the DNA of his father, Dante is part demon and has special abilities, which become activated when his health bar is full.   Dante’s attacks become even more devastating and increase in range when in this state.   This man may have no dress sense but with his pistols he can pack a punch.  For all their success, control of the characters in Resident Evil was fairly limited.  In Devil May Cry again you are offered a barrack full of weaponry but you also have the ability to learn new moves and attacks.

The emphasis is very much on gun toting action this time around and certainly has an arcade feel about it.    This is very much a full on blast fest from start to finish with puzzles remaining in the background.   In this game you do not need to rely on ammo conservation as it is unlimited making it a tad easy and dare we say straightforward? Press R1 to lock on the nearest enemy and fire away.   Even with the increased reliance on action, Devil May Cry does not (so far) really bring anything new to the 128bit format.   The gameplay is firmly entrenched in what has gone before, perhaps even more shallow, as after a few hours of blasting you soon become bored.

Puzzles are involved but items that you do need to collect still glow brightly on the pre-rendered backdrop thereby diminishing any adventure element.   Yet again we have puzzles which involve statues and jewels, not very original is it?   The increased power of the PS2 has allowed Capcom to put more enemies on screen and increase the frame rate.   It has allowed Capcom to incorporate a jump feature into the game thereby providing you with the opportunity to jump several feet.   It does not end there however, when Dante is in his demon state, wings will allow you to climb to even greater heights.

The most disappointing element of Devil May Cry is that once again it features static, featureless backgrounds but in real time.   The backdrops are stunning, from everything we’ve seen but they’re just that, backdrops.   Gamestyle begin to wonder if this is a ploy from Capcom to speed up production time and thereby entice the public enough to follow with a sequel 6-12 months later i.e. Onimusha.   Capcom are fast becoming the Stock, Aitken and Waterman of the gaming world.  The backdrops in places are fantastic and ooze gothic and nightmare qualities but using this method brings once again the same familiar problems.      After the success of Resident Evil Code Veronica, why did they not stick with this feature?   The ability to jump and fly often places a strain on the camera and those problems are still there!

As we’d expect the presentation is flawless but will there be enough underneath to justify shelling out for another game in Resident Evil clothing?   We’ll have to wait till the end of the year to find out but we do hope that Capcom can include some original features and add to what little depth currently exists.

Smash Bros. Melee Preview

 Gamestyle Archive Intro: another GS preview from August 2001 when we were all waiting for this new Nintendo series. Writer JJ.

Smash Bros. Melee
Version: Gamecube
Developer: Nintendo/HAL
Publisher: Nintendo
Genre: Beat ’em up
Players: 1-4
Accessories: TBA
Release: November 2001
Link: http://e3.nintendo.com/gallery/supersmashbros/
 

Super_Smash_Bros_Melee_box_art

One thing that is for sure about the video games industry is that it is far from predictable.   Certainly some firms are more painfully obvious than others i.e. Electronic Arts but once in a while a developer will surprise us all.   Super Smash Bros. on the N64 was a big surprise, Nintendo doing a beat ‘em up, involving their most famous characters?   Unbelievable and frankly stupid were my first thoughts when I first heard this amazing news.   Rather than go down the Way of the Exploding Fist style of fighting, Nintendo took a different approach.

For a machine that lacked a single decent fighting game for most of its life, Super Smash Bros. on the N64 was its only shining light and showed that when Nintendo decide to make a game, more often than not it is excellent – no matter what genre they choose.   Smash Bros. Melee continues the Nintendo practice of exploiting their back catalogue through sequels or side projects.   For some a sequel on launch day is an unusual choice, given the range of games that they had to pick from.   Yet perhaps it’s an admission that not having a decent fighting game blighted the N64 and the Gamecube must have a decent fighter from day one.

The most important aspect of any fighting game is the control system deployed by the developer.  Arguments ensue about which fighting game has the best method but Gamestyle just doesn’t care.   The ideal system is one that is firmly of a pick up and play nature but has enough depth to keep the fighting fans occupied and offer combinations.   The Gamecube controller is far more suited to this genre than the N64 version ever was.   This is perhaps a reason why the developer has upgraded the fighting system as the amount of control is greatly improved.   The original was very much offensive with little time for tactical or defensive fighting styles.   Now you can block by using moves of your own or have the ability to evade and deflect opponent’s attacks.   This will no doubt result in longer battles with the most skilful player being victorious rather than the first to pull off a special move but will it affect the offensive hungry American market?  No more Attack! Attack! Attack! Kill! Kill! Kill! But instead tactical, stylish, cunning and skilful – just like Gamestyle UK!

Along with the excellent Powerstone series, Super Smash Bros. was the only fighting game to achieve a playable four-player mode.   The fighting genre needed some fresh ideas and both these titles found new fans amongst gamers.   The intense battles to be had in the original are only perhaps equalled by 2D fighting games for their speed and ferocity.   For the 128bit version Nintendo are once again plundering their back catalogue to bring us new characters.   Each character will have new multiplayer levels and this includes the hidden characters.   While new characters are included several old ones will be available once again (as Mario, DK, Link, Yoshi, Ness, and Pikachu) complete with new special moves.   Unlike the single player mode the multiplayer has been tweaked rather than radically altered.  More options are available to allow you create the game you wish to play including Tournament and custom rules – standard options in first person shooters for sometime now.   Settings can be altered on handicap, stages, damage percentage and more items to choose from.

The game promises to offer plenty of modes to give the fighting fans happy for many months to come.   While not much is known about the Tournament mode it we expect that it will include a league championship format with player records ongoing – 64 players in total!  I wonder how they came to the number 64?   The Melee mode is a straightforward hit anything that moves option with the victor being the last person standing.  The Decision and Coin modes offer new gameplay elements that do not involve beating your opponents senseless.   Decision mode introduces tactical elements into the game.   Whereas before characters could use their special attacks whenever possible this mode places a limit on the number of times the effective moves can be implemented.   The mode is scored on the basis points given for combo moves rather than kills.   The advantage of this is that it forces the player to become experienced with a character of their choice.   The Coin Mode has coins raining down from the top of the screen and in this game the winner is the player with most coins.   Whether the rumoured Sonic character is actually in the game, the coin mode is perhaps a nod to the Sega mascot otherwise why not use gold rings?           

As with most fighting games the single player mode on the original was limited and only useful to unlock the hidden characters.   To address this problem the developers have made the levels more interactive by including platform elements.   Perhaps we can expect this to be a Nintendo version of Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon with the fighters flying across the screen.   Each level as mentioned previously will be true to your opponent character.  Link will found in an underground maze but before you can take on the Nintendo hero you will have to fight your way past several Redead and Octorocks.   Of course no Zelda level would be complete without platforms and playing each level should bring back memories (good and bad) of the original Nintendo games.

So far this is one of the best looking games on the Gamecube that we have seen, in fact it is stunning.   Everything has been given an overhaul including the animation and character details.   The Gamecube has provided some excellent 3D and lighting demos so far and this game delivers on both.   Nintendo want you to beat up their flagship characters but want them to look good in the process.  The only drawback that we can note is perhaps the game camera focuses too closely to the characters making them appear too big.   Perhaps this is just a setting to show the game off rather than an actual problem we will have to wait and see.

It will be interesting to see how the game compares graphically to the forthcoming PS2 duo of Virtua Fighter 4 and Tekken 4.   While all are firmly placed in the fighting genre, Nintendo have taken a more fun approach combined with the four-player madness, which makes it such an exciting title and once again a refreshing change.     

Deus Ex Preview

Gamestyle Archive intro: thinking back to 2002 we didn’t know what to really expect from Deus Ex. We knew that it was a classic game making the transition to a home console but how would it cope? Writer JJ.

 

deus ex

Yet another PC smash is heading for the Playstation 2 in the form of Deus Ex.  The question that must be asked – is it worth shelling out £45 for a PC title that now retails for £10 even though it won PC Gamer’s game of the year and a BAFTA award?

The PC incarnation was released to widespread acclaim as it tried to break the mould set by all first person shooters.  The aim of Ion Storm-Austin was to release a game that embodied several genres.   Whilst blasting featured, the game includes RPG elements such as customisation, tactics and surprisingly a story!   This fresh approach had been tried before but Ion Storm managed to fit all the pieces together.   The game is set in the future (2052 to be precise) where terrorism is the biggest danger to the world.     You are JC Denton, agent for the anti-terrorism unit known as UNATCO and it is down to you to bring justice to the terrorists.  Like any good film the corruption and greed spreads further than you could have envisaged.   Following this trail will take you across the globe from New York to Paris.  Are you a pawn in a much larger game, spreading to the top of the offices of government?    Initially you are investigating a plague known as the Gray Death that has spread in New York and has been linked to the terrorists.   There are side stories to discover and follow but only if you want to.  In Deus Ex you are in control and the game is anything but linear and hopefully marks a trend of games to come.   The usual Hollywood suspects heavily influence the game as you can judge from the screenshots.

Being an agent means that you are modified through current technology such as cybernetics and medical techniques.  This as you soon come to realise is one of the great aspects of Deus Ex.  Customisation is nothing original but it opens up so many opportunities and allows the player to create their preference rather than the game designer.   Almost everything is customisable to suit your tactics, if you prefer a stealth approach then speed is more important than armour.   Skill points are awarded depending on your progress and these in turn can be used to buy skills to develop your character.   As the game progresses JC Denton will become more machine than human similar to that seen in Universal Soldier thanks to nano-tech enhancements.   A nice touch is that there is no set way to complete a mission, rather there are several possibilities, resulting in repeat attempts and more customisation.  As Deus Ex is a single player game it shows how confident Ion Storm are of the quality and depth that main mode offers.    Apart from the training mode the game will offer no other options.  Given that rival First Person Shooters on the Playstation 2 offer multi or co-operative options it says much about Deus Ex the game.

Conversions from the PC to the Playstation 2 have been disappointing with the stripped down Max Payne being the latest addition.  The good news for console owners is that the Ion Storm team are handling development themselves, ensuring the best possible port with a few tasty extras including improved animation and sound effects.  There have been sacrifices however, as expected, levels have been altered, resolution and textures lowered.  Graphically the game isn’t a patch on the PC original but it will be interesting to see how it matches the various menus and controls to the Playstation 2 controller.     For the answer to this and many more questions we’ll have to wait until the game is released in March but it could well justify the price for a taste of that rarity in games today, originality.

Gunvalkyrie Preview

Gamestyle Archive intro: another preview revived for the site. The only memory of the game in 2014 was the difficulty yet maybe we’ll learn more if the review turns up as we continue this archive. Writer JJ, published January 2002.

Gunvalkyrie

Now that Sega has gone multi-platform more gamers are reaping the benefits of original and stunning titles.   Of the main formats it does seem on paper so far that the Xbox is receiving more than its fair share of Sega games rather than the ports that have appeared on the Playstation 2, indeed Gunvalkyrie was originally heading for the Dreamcast until Sega’s change of direction.   Gunvalkyrie is from the Smilebit team who are responsible for Jet Set Radio, Hundred Swords and Typing of the Dead, in other words quality and originality assured.   The game been labelled as a brand new type of 3D shooting game by the developer and comparisons (even by the developer) to Starship Troopers are rife.

You are placed on a mysterious planet infested by alien reptiles and worms.  Finger on the trigger and off you go.  The difficult terrain will also pose problems and dangers for player, if the bugs weren’t enough. Plots and shooting games do not accommodate one another easily and this is the case here once again.   The plot is minimal, allowing the player to enjoy the thrill of high-speed action without being distracted by cut scenes or missions.   For what its worth alien bugs, due to his expertise in technology and weaponry, have captured a brilliant scientist.  It is vitally important that you and your elite unit locate the scientist and the technology if possible.   The designs of the characters are very reminiscent of Virtua On and include a wide range of devastating weaponry that you will sorely need.

One of the key phrases associated with Gunvalkyrie is freedom of movement, because in essence this is what the developer intends to bring. By using both of the Xbox analogue sticks they hope to recreate this feeling; one controls movement while the other controls your aiming sights.   This combination is not unique, as it has been attempted before with varying success as seen in Virtua On.  Feedback so far indicates that work still needs to be done to smooth out the control system.  Given the 3D nature of the game it can be difficult to see enemies from all sides often leading the player to stop and correct their position and view.   With both hands around the sticks your fingers will be left to the triggers that control the firing and boost functions.   The Dreamcast version was originally going to use both the controller and light gun but thankfully the much-criticised Xbox controller provides a suitable solution.

Graphically the game is stunning and shows just how accomplished Smilebit are with the Xbox already.   A huge variety of textures and lighting effects are in evidence from the footage already released.  Adding to the expectations is the speed at which the game runs even when the screen is full of baddies – all superbly animated.   At times the game is a ballet of violence with contenders engaged in a set piece of explosions, carnage and thumping music.  Spectacular to witness and thrilling to play it unquestionable is, however as with all shooting games replay value and depth is limited.   How Smilebit tackles these fundamental problems associated with the genre remain to be seen.   With no multi-player aspect included it will be a difficult task but the game will include some online element as of yet unspecified.   Smilebit may also, fingers crossed; take advantage of the Xbox linkup facility?

Jet Set Radio Future may be grabbing all the headlines and attention for Smilebit but Gunvalkyrie is shaping up to be an enjoyable and spectacular if limited romp.   A definite sleeper hit and one to watch out for over the coming months.

Luigi’s Mansion Preview

Gamestyle Archive intro: seems like only yesterday we were waiting for the Gamecube and one of the lead titles was Luigi’s Mansion. This preview is from June 2001, writer JJ.

VERSION: Gamecube

DEVELOPER: Nintendo

PUBLISHER:  Nintendo

GENRE: Adventure

ACCESSORIES: unknown

PLAYERS: 1

RELEASE: Europe Easter 2002

 luigimansion

Nintendo are well known for only releasing games when they are finished and not beforehand.   Details of all the forthcoming Nintendo Gamecube titles have been kept firmly under control by the company, no doubt to keep secret many innovative features.   When it comes to Gamecube previews this is all the more harder, because we don’t really have much to go on or comment about.  Based on the movies and information available, Gamestyle presents its first albeit short Gamecube preview.

We all know Mario but what about his younger brother Luigi?   This is his first solo game and like incorrect initial reports wasn’t put together between projects but was conceived as a fully-fledged title.  All we need to say is two words, Shigeru Miyamoto.

There has been talk recently of the need to make Mario and his clan more appealing to gamers of all ages and not just kids.  Luigi’s Mansion is the first title to be developed under this new initiative.   Everyone first thought that the Gamecube would be the first Nintendo console to launch without a Mario title in its ranks and that Luigi’s Mansion would be the main focus.  However with the recent Spaceworld announcement that a Mario title does exist, although in what state isn’t known, it could be that Luigi is pushed aside by his older brother.   Whatever the case, Mario will feature in Luigi’s Mansion but on a minor scale.   One genre featured highly in our recent Console Rage feature was platformers that are synonymous with Mario and Nintendo in general.   It therefore comes as a pleasant surprise that what has been seen so far of Luigi’s Mansion does not include any platforms!

The storyline is that Luigi has inherited a mansion and decides to visit his windfall along with his brother (Mario) who will meet him when he arrives.   It becomes obvious to Luigi that not only is the mansion haunted but that his brother has vanished, no doubt taken by some unseen force.   It’s therefore up to Luigi to rescue his brother and rid the house of all supernatural activity.   That’s all 90 plus rooms one by one needing to be cleared.   The only help that you will receive is from a friendly ghost expert who offers advise, apart from that you only have a torch and vacuum cleaner to do the job.   Brings back memories of Ghostbusters on the Spectrum.   More items that you can equip have been promised and added to your vacuum cleaner, with only a water-spraying item having been confirmed so far.   These will no doubt prove useful in solving the many puzzles that will stand in your way.

Although Luigi and the Casper inspired ghosts are quite comical, Nintendo have tried to convey a sense of being alone, claustrophobia and apprehension.   Make no doubt; this game isn’t a Resident Evil or Alone In The Dark more a humorous Nintendo take on such intense games.   The use of the torch in the game is very important and similar to that used in the recent version of Alone In The Dark.   Ghosts easily scare Luigi and therefore unexpected surprises will result in loss of health and much screaming!  From what we’ve seen the graphical power of the Gamecube as been put to good effect.  Real time lighting, shadows and reflections are all in evidence as you scour room after room with your only source of light.   Everything you see within the mansion is interactive, the typical Nintendo stance – no pre-rendered backgrounds here!

Ever since Mario 64 most 3D games have struggled to put together a controllable and effective game camera.   Luigi’s Mansion features a unique camera in the fact that walls dissolve thereby offering you a better viewpoint and not spoiling the experience.   Once you’ve seen Luigi’s Mansion in motion you have no doubt what a fun, exciting and fast game this will be to play.   What we know so far has given rise to more questions such as will the GBA plug into the game and allow you to use it as a map/ghost sensor?   We already know that Luigi has a Gameboy in the game that does the same job.   How much of a role will Mario play in the game?

Whatever questions we have this is a must have purchase on launch day, roll on 2002.

Halo Preview

Gamestyle Archive Intro: a classic enough said. While Garnett review the game Stateside for us, we had to make do with a preview whilst waiting. From June 2001, writer JJ.

VERSION: Xbox

DEVELOPER: Bungie

PUBLISHER:  Microsoft

GENRE: FPS/Adventure

ACCESSORIES: TBA

PLAYERS: 1-4

RELEASE: November 2001 (US)

LINK: www.xbox.com/games/action/halo.htm

 halo

Every machine needs a killer game to attract attention of the more casual gamers.  I’m sure everyone at Gamestyle can be labelled under early adopter’s because we always want the latest thing regardless of the launch software.  That’s why we’ve had our doubts and regrets since shelling out for a PS2 back last November.   The N64 had Mario, the Playstation got going when Wipeout was released in Europe, GBA has F-Zero, the Dreamcast had to wait till Crazy Taxi and the PS2 in many eyes is still waiting.  For our first Xbox preview we are looking at the most promising game for the system to date and Halo has got us very excited.

There is no doubt Bungie are a very talented development company, now owned by Microsoft as of last year, of course this means that you will need a PC or Xbox to enjoy Halo.   Whether being owned by Mr Gates will affect the production of the game or future work in general is open for debate, Bungie do have their work cut out bringing Halo in on time for the Xbox.

Think future; think colonies everywhere, think its going fine?  Well until an alien alliance called the Covenant starts taking out humans on a grand scale (think Starship Troopers) it was.  Soon only a few colonies remain and these are being mopped up but the immediate threat is to Earth.   While the Covenant sends it forces towards our planet, we devise a cunning plan.   The approaching invasion force will be delayed by one en-route colony that becomes a decoy and takes its pursuers on a wild goose chase to a random location in the galaxy.  Why are all aliens so dumb?  Falling for such an old trick like that, at least they could have split their force in two.

It soon turns out that upon arriving at the random location a stroke of luck from god has been granted by Dan.   What they find upon arriving is a planet with a small moon in orbit around it but between them is an equally large ring that is some sort of ancient artefact.   Within the ring (now called Halo) is a breathable atmosphere complete with land, rivers, oceans, mountains etc.   At this point the Covenant force attacks and inflicts critical damage on the colony ship leaving no option but to crash on Halo.   Both parties now become very interested in Halo and its significance.

Enough of the minimal plot, the PC version of Halo has been coming for sometime and apart from looking fantastic, plays a blinder.   The console variation was only recently shown yet it only took Bungie a matter of days to convert the code to the Xbox.  While this version is still being optimised it promises to overshadow its PC cousin but at present this isn’t the case.   Take into account that the PC version is probably the best looking yet for that format.   The Xbox version currently is a little plain and empty in comparison and the frame rate while solid, could be improved.   Microsoft recently confirmed that there would be no online capability from the Xbox version, which suggests that the team are focusing all their energy on getting the game finished.  Bungie have shown DVD demos of the game that support Dolby Digital 5.1 sound and now the Xbox will have the latest Dolby sound chip we hope that this is included in the final version.   Imagine fighting countless foes, explosions and screams ringing around your room!

The game offers a combination of genres and views, just as our recent Red Faction preview, not only will you be in a first person view but you will be expected to control various craft while exploring the planet.   This continues the trend of recent FPS offering more than just pure blasting action; still the first level of Halo will get anyone’s adrenalin pumping.  From the first moment when you are briefed on route to the surface, then drop down amongst the carnage and engage the enemy, you know it’s going to be good, very good.

Unlike other games you have the choice whether to drive or to be the gunner and your computer-controlled colleague won’t let you down.   In the multiplayer mode you and a friend can perform either task! Craft will play an important part in the game as you navigate the various continents in search of the necessary supplies that were jettisoned by the Colony Ship.   You will have to use a variety of alien and human vehicles in your quest ranging from hovercraft to tanks: if you find it, you can use it.  Expect your range of weaponry to be just as impressive, forget pistols and rocket launchers when you can have a laser energy propellant or plasma sword?

As with most games Halo is mission based but the variety of locations and objectives on offer really put this one above most previous FPS.   Just like Deus Ex and Perfect Dark, expect to be treated to some wonderful locations, inside and outside, just don’t stand still to admire them!   Your missions will range from rescuing captured colleagues, raiding outposts, stealing technology to all out warfare.  We hate the term “movie-like” but this is looking like a bug-blasting Starship Troopers sequel.

The lack of an online option is a shame but Bungie have ensured that your mates just don’t need to sit back and watch your gaming skills.   Halo will include a wide range or 2-4 player options to keep you amused for months to come.   Your choice of death will be sweet for sure.   Apart from the standard death match you will be able to create you own team games or a two-player co-op mode will be included.  Bungie also promise to include some wonderful graphical effects and a seriously challenging AI program. “Most advanced graphic system on the most advanced gaming platform in the world” is some boast, hype or reality?

Halo is shaping up to be one of the games of 2001 its just a shame that European gamers won’t get their hands on it till Easter 2002.   Sometimes life just isn’t fair.

Red Faction Preview

 Gamestyle Archive intro: here’s a blast from the past with a preview of the first Red Faction title a month before it was released in June 2001. There was some expectation and generally the game met  the hopes of gamers providing a fun romp. Writer JJ.

Developer: Volition

Publisher: THQ

Genre: First Person

Accessories: Memory

Release: June 22nd

Link: www.redfaction.com

 _-Red-Faction-PS2-_

This year could be seen as the PS2’s last chance to attract gamers with quality software before the Xbox & Gamecube arrive.   The summer is shaping up nicely and with titles such as GT3, Ring Of Red and Onimusha Warlords being released over the next few months’ things are looking up for disgruntled PS2 owners.   Red Faction has certainly been receiving plenty of hype from the press here and in America – where the game has just been released.   Gamestyle thought it was about time to take a closer look at Red Faction to see if the Perfect Dark/Half Life/Deus Ex comparisons are justified or whether its another PS2 let down.   Can it take the best from those games and forge its own identity?

You are Parker (no not the chauffeur) and you are a very influential union leader on Mars.   Due to the high number of fatalities resulting from poor practice in the Ultor Corporation’s mines action needs to be taken.   Jobs are few are far between in the world of Red Faction, if not a military career then you often have the choice of jobs where humans just shouldn’t be.   Working conditions in the mines are terrible, suits and workers share bunks and drug abuse is rife.   When miners on a daily basis collapse and die from an unknown virus this proves to be the final straw.   This future society hasn’t become all peace and love, instead of negotiation the workers decide to rise up and revolt with you as the figurehead.   As Black Flag said “rise above we’re gonna rise above!”  The usual influences on the design and concept are pretty obvious and I won’t need to mention them, just think Blade Runner, Total Recall or Twelve Monkeys.   Just give me one game set in the future that doesn’t involve an evil corporation for a nice refreshing change!  Yet Red Faction isn’t setting out to be a mindless blaster like Timesplitters or Doom, instead Volition have created what they hope will be an engrossing storyline full of interesting characters.  Over the 20 levels we are promised the usual twists and shocks in the plot, we’ll see.

It could be said that Red Faction represents the first in the second generation of PS2 titles, ones that hopefully will show what the machine is capable of.   Volition is very proud of the game engine, which has been dubbed Geo-Mod (Geometric Modification).   This innovative engine is capable of remembering damage to the surroundings in real-time.  For instance on the opening section that I played I managed deliberately damage every pillar and wall, leave the room and return to see the damage still in place.   It certainly does add to the realism and concentrates your aim more effectively especially on the spaceship levels.   Yet it doesn’t represent the breakthrough the PR would have you believe, most damage is very similar and only in certain sweet spots does it prove of any use.  We’re still waiting for the Blast Corps of first person shooters and you still can’t shoot out the lights!

There is plenty of scope for the control system as its fully customisable and even with the set up similar to Timesplitters this game would really excel with a mouse and keyboard set up.   Even with the sensitivity adjusted I still found the control method to be sluggish but perhaps that’s due to the frame rate.   Every button on the Dual Shock Pad is used in Red Faction but I think the inclusion of USB support should have been considered as the controls are firmly entrenched in PC land.  Too many options isn’t a good thing sometimes.

Remember the promises that games not running under 60fps were gone for good?  Not here, Red Faction struggles in places to maintain a steady 30fps and the games suffers.  The action at times feels as if it’s from the slow motion Matrix scenes, just not fast or fluid enough and that’s something the games in the introduction could do.   The animation of the characters is good enough but the AI is very predictable, go through a door into a room and the guards won’t follow and will kindly wait till you go back outside.  Other little flaws noticed were after killing a colleague early in the demo (place a mine on them and see what happens!) he turns up 5 minutes later to offer advice!

The graphics in Red Faction are impressive yet not up to the standard offered by the latest PC titles.   Textures and lighting effects are employed exceptionally well and all edges are smooth for a change!   Everyone runs around in protective suits so the character designs are very basic and indistinctive.   Red Faction also allows you the opportunity to drive 5 land, sea and air vehicles through the game.   You will need to master each one in order to progress to the next area.   The game only offers 15 weapons, which is small compared to other similar games but as in Perfect Dark several offer a secondary mode.  While the loading times aren’t bad the fact is that during a level at certain points the game will have to load the next stage.  Not good.

Red Faction while conceived very much as a single player game offers a two-player death match mode.   While the number of human players is a disappointment (surely 4 is standard now?) you can include up to 5 bots in the matches.   Specialist levels have been included for this mode and the developers have spent sometime trying to create an enjoyable alternative.   Yet the fact is, Red Faction is a single player experience and should be bought as such.  Shame the PC level editor couldn’t have been included in the PS2 version.

Gamestyle will have a review at the end of June when the game is released in full and then we’ll be able to judge whether it successfully creates is own identity or relies to much on previous games.

Crazy Taxi 2 Preview

Gamestyle Archive intro: another preview dating from 2001 which shows the expectation rising for the Crazy Taxi sequel. The archive is literally everything including previews!

Writer: JJ 

 

VERSION: Dreamcast

DEVELOPER: Hitmaker

PUBLISHER:  Sega

GENRE: Arcade

ACCESSORIES: VMU, rumble

PLAYERS: 1

RELEASE: June 2001

LINK: www.hitmaker.co.jp

Crazy_Taxi_2_cover

So its almost summer and its time to welcome back Sega’s ultimate good time racer, the game that makes every other console owner green with envy – ladies and gentlemen its Crazy Taxi 2.   This sequel promises more of the same with a few tweaks and minor alterations to the fantastic game that it already is.   Lets face it; the original was superb in almost everyway and why mess with such a winning formula?   As this version is specifically planned for the home and not the arcade we can expect Crazy Taxi 2 to play even better than the original.  So perhaps it isn’t more of a sequel rather Crazy Taxi 1.5.   Who cares, bring it on!

The most visible change is the relocation from California to the rain drenched streets of New York.   Expect the authentic shops (FAO Schwartz, Gap, HMV) and famous landmarks (Wall Street, Grand Central Station, Madison Square Garden) of the Big Apple to become very familiar.   The roads will be much busier than in the previous version and this will increase the difficulty level dramatically.   Traffic is much more a factor than before as Hitmaker have chosen to include a new move for us, the Crazy Hop and jumping will become second nature, such are the number of jumps and obstacles in your way.   The roads themselves will vary in size and will test your control and overtaking manoeuvres. New York will be much harder to navigate as there will be less blocks, less straights and roads interconnecting therefore you will have to know memorise the layout even though the friendly arrow points the way – sometimes there is a better route.   At the centre of the map will be Central Park (without drug dealers), which with no traffic will provide a good shortcut for those longer fares.   Expect to find a lake here with the usual strange fares standing around at the bottom.   The emphasis seems to be very much on exploration whether on the ground or high up on the skyscrapers.   The city this time is very much multileveled with the subway system being available to you as well.   Hopefully one day we’ll have the Crazy Taxi world tour of various cities, I’ve always wanted to jump off the North Bridge into Princess Street Gardens and then floor it.

A new addition is the prospect of multiple fares that you can collect on your trips.   One of the problems of the first game was that longer fares tended to eat up the clock and you were often better to stick with the shorter fares and thus reduced the level of exploration.   Hitmaker have addressed this by allowing you to collect up to four fares but unfortunately they never want to go to the same place.   This will put more pressure on you to reach those locations in good time and in the most effective sequence.   Those crazy passenger designs are back in force with cheerleaders, Afro dudes and convicts all waiting for a ride – any British tourists I wonder?

The taxis themselves are from the 60’s & 70’s (Taxi & Taxi Driver) and it is the developer’s intention that players experience a low rider style of drive.   The inclusion of the Crazy Hop opens up a whole new range of possibilities and allows you not to rely solely on tarmac to get to your destination.   Hopping itself won’t be a skill as it’s activated by pressing one button yet what you do when you land no doubt is.   New drivers are also on offer with different attributes such as speed and handling although it is suggested that the drivers from the original version will be hidden away somewhere in the game.   Just as before expect one from Cinnamon, Slash, Hot-D or Iceman to become your favourite cabbie.   Iceman is someone who can is cool under pressure and does not make mistakes.   Cinnamon is very much the joker who likes to pull off tricks and keep her customers amused.   Slash is very much the crazy driver, taking risks to get to the destination in time.   Hot-D is the elder statesman of the group but a retired stunt driver who loves money.

Don’t expect Crazy Taxi 2 to set new graphical levels or be an immediate improvement over its predecessor.   Hitmaker aren’t concerned with graphical awards and concentrate on gameplay like other notable firms such as Treasure.   The pop up problem that featured to a minor extent in the original seems to have been removed and the draw distance is improved.   The game engine also can handle more traffic and variety of textures and objects thereby increasing the Crazy Taxi experience.   The soundtrack will again keep the tempo high, while not offering the same amount of sun drenched cali-punk tunes we can expect the Offspring to return, yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah!

As someone who has experienced New York cabbies and given directions to them on more than one occasion New York is the ideal place for the sequel.  Other new additions that the developers have promised include more crazy games and challenges plus more levels on offer.  For instance the smaller track is known as the Small Apple and is larger than the original level from the first game!   This promises to be the ultimate home experience for Crazy Taxi fans and we’ll have a full review once the game is released very soon at the beginning of June.

Onimushi : Warlords

Gamestyle Archive intro: time may have forgotten Capcom’s Onimushi series but it was a huge hit and extremely popular. I’m sure it was also one of Darran’s first reviews for Gamestyle. However this is a preview from 2001.

Writer: JJ

Published: March 2001

VERSION: PS2

DEVELOPER: Capcom

PUBLISHER:  Capcom

GENRE: Survival Horror/Action

ACCESSORIES: memory, vibration

PLAYERS: 1

RELEASE: Europe July 2001

LINK: www.capcom.com

 OniEurope

The PS2 at the moment seems to be a haven for all things Japanese, we’ve had the tactical Kessen, the slashing Dynasty Warriors 2 or the plain awful Orphen and with Seven Blades on the horizon the trend looks set to continue.   Onimushi is currently one of the biggest selling PS2 titles in Japan and America but can we expect lavish visuals and gameplay or just another cross-dressed Resident Evil?

You are Akechi Samanosuke a warrior and your mission should you accept it, is to rescue the kidnapped princess Yuki and stop the evil Oba Nobunaga and his samurai army from taking over the country.   Of course many demons and creatures of varying appearances and attributes will stand in your way.   Hence the title Onimushi which roughly translated means “demon warrior” and “ghost.”   Onimushi is set in feudal Japan circa 1560 and does have some historical fact except the developers have taken an artistic license and put the undead into the game.  The world at this time is one of darkness, magic and rampaging warlords always looking to gain the upper hand.  I suppose survival horror wouldn’t be the same facing everyday native Japanese warriors or unhappy peasants.   The costumes, items, weapons and environments are all realistic of the period and no doubt this has increased the realism.   The FMV footage from the introduction to the end is of stunning quality and was the winner of the Siggraph best of show award.  No expense has been spared by Capcom in hiring Flagship who were involved in the Resident Evil series or the New Japan Philharmonic Orchestra to provide the atmospheric and wonderful soundtrack that matches the excellent audio effects.

A noticeable twist comes with your first of many weapons, known as an Elemental Sword, which feeds on the spirits of your victims – Soul Reaver style and is upgrade-able.   Apart from increasing the power of the sword and the range of attacks available, the experience points gained can be used to open new areas.   To balance this Capcom have made sure that you are open to attack when you are collecting a spirit before it vanishes.   This helps to speed up your actions and adds planning into battles with multiple foes.   The combat system is excellent if not a little straightforward and the slicing and dicing of anything in your way remains enjoyable throughout unlike Dynasty Warriors 2 – partially due to the buckets of blood and gore on offer.

As the game is from the creators of Resident Evil many of the features that you associate with the popular series are to be found in Onimushi.   The oddly positioned camera angles, control system, inventory/combining of items and pre-rendered backgrounds are included.   It is disappointing after seeing what can be done with real-time environments (Shenmue) on an arguably less powerful machine that Capcom could not have given the title more of an 128 bit feel and its own identity.   The press release is quick to mention the revolutionary “background animation” technology which the game utilises.   This applies to realistic weather conditions, animals, waterfalls etc. but all these wonderful effects just heighten the sense of disappointment with the pre-rendered backgrounds. Certainly the lighting effects, speed and number of enemies on the screen at anyone time have all been improved greatly.   Yet fighting multiple foes does tend to expose the shortcomings of the fixed camera angles – you can’t fight what you can’t see on the screen but it sure can take a swipe at you.

The reviews from Japan and America pinpoint problems with the game that should have been addressed long before its release on the PS2.   I noted in my Silent Hill 2 preview how refreshing it was to have character animation that was realistic, for instance upon running into objects and walls; the character would out-stretch their arms.   In Onimushi, just as in Resident, your character will continue running against a brick wall and of course won’t walk up stairs.  Capcom have based the animation and main character on leading Japanese actor Takeshi Kaneshiro but surely he doesn’t act like this in real life?  Adding to negative aspects are the loading times between rooms and the fact that many while finding the game enjoyable, think it isn’t scary or shocking enough to warrant the Survival Horror tag.  You do however get to control another character as the story unfolds, Kaede, a ninja with some great moves who would fit into the Tenchu series.

Puzzles feature thankfully to a lesser degree in the game and with varying degrees of difficulty – yet you cannot help but think that the developers could have thought of another way to add depth to the gameplay.   The linear nature of some puzzles i.e. find the key to open the door is made even easier as the three-dimensional items themselves standout easily against the pre-rendered backgrounds.   The actual story contains many surprises that I won’t spoil except to say that the ending and ensuing epilogue create more questions than they answer.

Further feedback indicates that the game is on the short side and shouldn’t take long to complete.  On average you are looking at around ten hours for most first time players with the more experienced chopping off 3-5 hours.   Capcom to their credit have addressed this potential problem with the inclusion of a Ranking System.   This system leads to various extras such as weapons, costumes, the Oni Spirits sub game and an extra difficulty level made available to those who can achieve the necessary ranking.  Also hidden on the disc is the trailer for Onimusha 2 which comes as no surprise as since its release in Japan on 25th January it has sold over 900,000 copies to date.

It does remain to be seen whether Europe receives the unedited Japanese cut or the trimmed American release.   From what we understand the censorship relates to a transformation sequence involving a female character and no doubt the amount of blood involved may offend the usual Daily Mail readership.   Perhaps Capcom in 18 months time will release the Directors Cut?  I hope not as it would tarnish what promises to be an enjoyable – if limited and short game.

Wipeout Fusion

Gamestyle Archive intro: the Wipeout franchise was always closely associated with the Playstation console offering an ideal fix of beats and speed whatever the time of day.

Writer: JJ

Format: Playstation 2

Published: February 2001

VERSION: PS2

DEVELOPER: SCEE Studio Liverpool

PUBLISHER:  SCEE

GENRE:

ACCESSORIES: Memory, Dual Shock

PLAYERS: 1-2

RELEASE: Winter 2001

LINK: www.scee.com

 250px-Wipeoutfusion_cover

The Wipeout series for some represents style over content but with the gaming public proved to be extremely popular.   Most conversations centred on the overall design or the accompanying hip soundtrack but not the actual game itself.   I do think that the previous instalments were over-rated in comparison to the criminally overlooked Rollcage, also by Psygnosis.

Although the developers name has changed to SCEE Studios Liverpool, the team is very much still in place – until recently when several moved onto the Getaway team in London causing the release date to be put back.   Sony eventually realised that they could loose a flag ship title after its appearance on the N64 and therefore bought Psygnosis.   In these days such console exclusives are rare and by purchasing the financially troubled firm they would gain a popular title and prevent Microsoft or Nintendo from obtaining the franchise.

Rather than being the latest sequel to grace the PS2, the new power has allowed the team to rebuild Wipeout to their original vision.   In comparison to Tekken Tag or Ridge Racer 5, Fusion promises to be a revolution instead of an evolution.   The year is now 2150AD and the Federation has created a new league.   The Wipeout F9000 league offers cash incentives, more weapons, true anti-gravity ships and is a rollercoaster ride for all the participants.   As expected the teams are as before but this time the structure of the league and hence the game is far more competitive and challenging.   Cash is given at the end of each race depending on how well you perform in certain areas such as final position, time, damage to craft, damage inflicted and skill displayed.   The reward can then be used to upgrade your craft in six areas – speed, acceleration, lateral stability, braking, weapon and shield power.   This feature will allow you to create a craft, which suits your own style, as you may prefer pure speed, or to blast your way to the front.   With 32 ships of varying styles, sizes, handling and appearance available you, there will be a great deal to choose from.   Once you have upgraded your ship to its maximum level a new ship will be given to you, perhaps one that cannot be opened any other way.

Wipeout has always been a tough game to master and this incarnation will prove to be the toughest challenge yet.   The AI has been improved dramatically and whereas before you could predict a foe’s behaviour, this time it won’t be so easy but they will react to pressure.   Rival pilots will have different styles of flying and will try to block your every move; you will also have to watch out for debris on the track.   To add to the realism team orders will also come into play and revenge will feature highly on their list of objectives if you shoot them down.   The game will offer twenty-six weapons with several being exclusive to this version; thirteen standard, eight super and five multi-player varieties.

Fusion will feature seven different environments each with three tracks.   The overall visual look is now being handled by Good Technology and this has resulted in a more organic style.   The developers have promised that the tracks will have a rollercoaster feel with several jumps, loops, twists and a sense of sheer speed.   The footage shown so far certainly indicates that your craft could fly around the tracks at any angle even upside down if need be and the handling has been improved.   The tracks will also feature short cuts that you will need to blast open in order to access.   The actual width of the track in previous editions was tight to say the least and this has been increased dramatically thereby encouraging overtaking.   Damage is very realistic and will affect the handling plus ships can break up and leave debris – these factors making the pit lane far more important than before.

The game will only support two players which is a disappointment after the increased numbers offered by the N64 however the developers wanted to ensure 60fps in the one and two player modes.   No news yet on whether the game will offer a link-up option but with the added time before release perhaps they can incorporate this.   Although the artists have not yet been confirmed the soundtrack again will include several big names but promises to be more underground than before – still dance music though.   The developers are planning to offer new experiences to the ongoing league action. A challenge mode will offer a refreshing break from league action and the possibility of winning a Super Weapon License if you complete the tests.   They also plan to ship Wipeout on DVD and we are promised several secrets, behind the scenes documentaries and other details as bonuses on the disk.

It remains to be seen if the game can match the fun and speed of F-Zero X but I may just like this version…