As you probably have noticed by now, we went to the E3 Expo in Los Angeles. (The Electronic Entertainment Expo is an annual trade event for the games industry.) There are a couple of projects that are in a very early stage of development that we wanted to tell you about, as well as some action/adventures that we found interesting. Here are some capsule previews of those games.
Full Throttle II
I will begin with the most exciting news of all: LucasArts used the occasion to present the first footage of Full Throttle II. While the game wasn’t on display at LucasArts’ booth, we were shown a video trailer full of bar fights and high-speed bike chases. Ben, the leader of the renegade motorcycle gang the Polecats, is back for this second installment and his attitude is still as macho as ever. A shakycam recording of the trailer can be found here.
According to PR manager Tom Sarris, we won’t see much more than that until spring 2003, possibly around E3 2003. Full Throttle II was announced pretty early on since LucasArts was very eager to show it. "We can't think of a better brand or character to lead LucasArts' charge into a new era of original game development,” says president Simon Jeffery in the press release. We were also told that this announcement is only a signal of ‘much more things to come’.
Leading the project is Sean Clark, who previously oversaw the design of Sam & Max Hit the Road, The Dig, and co-designed Escape From Monkey Island. The game will combine action and adventure elements with a humorous original story and will be released for next generation consoles and PC in 2003.
Broken Sword 2 GBA
Adventure Gamers had a meeting at E3 with Charles Cecil, Managing Director of the British developer Revolution Software. He had taken a prototype of Broken Sword 2 for the Gameboy Advance with him to show us. Revolution had taken great care in porting the first Broken Sword game to the GBA, with re-mastered graphics, a new control system and – yes – the removal of the notorious Goat-puzzle. The game had been almost completely rebuilt from scratch. This will be no different with Broken Sword 2: it feels like it was born for the GBA.
The buttons give you direct control over the character. When you are near a hotspot, an icon will appear above it, showing you what actions can be performed. Revolution has also included a function that will reveal all hotspots on a screen, making the dreaded ‘pixel hunting’ a thing of the past. Revolution’s philosophy is that this will not make the game too easy. Instead, they say, it will make the game less frustrating. Porting Beneath A Steel Sky or Lure Of The Temptress will be a more costly and time demanding task, but Revolution may consider doing them if the Broken Sword GBA ports prove to be successful. The Game Boy is indeed a platform that lends itself perfectly for adventure games and to say that we are exhilarated by its potential would be an understatement. It is Revolution Software that is at the forefront of exploring this new market.
Next page: Broken Sword 3: The Sleeping Dragon, Myst Online and more from LucasArts
Broken Sword 3: The Sleeping Dragon
Of course there is a new game in production that we are all extremely looking forward to. Broken Sword 3: The Sleeping Dragon is Revolution’s most ambitious project yet and promises to introduce some clever innovations in the control system and in the gameplay. While Charles didn’t get specific on the interface he did say they were trying to move away from the point-and-click interface that has been the standard for the past ten years. (Interesting to note is that Charles sees the Grim Fandango-style interface still as essentially point-and-click.) We will have to wait and see what Revolution came up with.
Broken Sword 3 will be set in a real-time 3D rendered world, which not only requires a new type of control system, but also gives the possibility of adding various exploration-based puzzles and cinematic action sequences. Broken Sword 3 will not be an action game, but you can expect some tense Shenmue-like sequences in which the player is asked to make decisions at critical points. Another type of action might be a dog chasing you, forcing you to climb a wall and find another way inside a building. As in the previous Broken Sword games, there is a possibility of dying, but you will have had plenty of warning to avoid the danger. The action-moves such as jumping or climbing a wall will be neatly incorporated into the adventure game interface through a context-sensitive icon.
Although only a handful of screenshots have been made public, it is already obvious that Broken Sword has made the transition to 3D with flying colors. The artists have been able to fully preserve the atmosphere that makes Broken Sword unique. The beautiful light and shading techniques strongly contribute to its typical style.
Half a year ago we were afraid that Revolution had abandoned graphic adventures in favor of action/adventure games such as In Cold Blood. Now we have seen though that Revolution has been doing much more good for the genre than we might have thought. Broken Sword 3 is the adventure game to watch. Release is set for 2003.
More action/adventures from LucasArts
LucasArts presented an E3 lineup this year that was much more balanced towards original titles. Even though the Star Wars games we saw were very impressive (particularly Knights of the Old Republic and Star Wars Galaxies), the most interesting titles for us adventure gamers will be Indiana Jones and the Emperor’s Tomb and RTX Red Rock.
Hal Barwood (designer of Fate Of Atlantis and The Infernal Machine) is not involved in the Indy game this time. Instead, he is working on RTX Red Rock, a sci-fi action/adventure set on Mars. You are E.Z. Wheeler, a Radical Tactics Expert. Simply said, the RTX are the elite soldiers of the future. Although E.Z. operates alone, he has a female digital sidekick called IRIS who will supply important details (or just make jealous remarks when E.Z. encounters another woman). Apart from IRIS, you will also have access to E.Z.’s synthetic eye and a robotic hand that can be used as a tool or a weapon. Your mission in RTX Red Rock is to free the first Mars colony from an alien invasion. Judging from the demo we saw, the gameplay will be pretty varied. Some obstacles require you to solve a puzzle, while other obstacles are more exploration-based. You will get to fight aliens, drive rovers, use a jetpack and take control of different robots. You can actually interface with the robots and walk them around, getting to places that would normally be out of reach for E.Z. RTX Red Rock will be out on PS2 and Gamecube early next year.
The second action/adventure we saw was Indiana Jones and The Emperor’s Tomb. LucasArts chose The Collective to develop this game with. Although the screenshots of The Emperor’s Tomb might look a lot like Infernal Machine, there are many differences in the gameplay. Probably the feature we liked most was the hand-to-hand combat. Fighting the enemies with your fist is very satisfying and a lot of fun. Many objects around you can in fact be used in hand-to-hand combat, such as table legs and shovels. There is a lot of variation in the action: one moment you are pushing enemies off a ledge, another moment you are using a rattling gun to take down nazi airplanes. There will be a lot of exploration-based puzzles in The Emperor’s Tomb, probably as much or even more so than in RTX Red Rock. Often a certain obstacle is presented through a brief cinematic sequence. These obstacles can then be solved by manipulating an object or using your whip. The Emperor’s Tomb was the most exciting game for me personally (besides Full Throttle II anyway, which officially wasn’t part of the lineup). It looks like it’s got all the ingredients for a great game: interesting locations, lots of fun scenes, simple controls and an important storyline. If you’re not shy of a bit of action gameplay, this is a title you should watch. Look for The Emperor’s Tomb in stores fall 2002.
On the second day of E3, Ubi Soft revealed Myst Online. The announcement came so unexpectedly that we were unable to arrange a meeting, so we will have to do with what little information Ubi Soft has released so far. Myst Online (working title) is the secret project of developer Cyan Worlds that was previously known only as ‘project mudpie’. As the working title suggests, the game is a persistent online world. Ubi Soft claims it is not a traditional massively-multiplayer game and refers to Myst Online as an adventure instead of an RPG. Myst Online will feature “stunning real-time 3D graphics, rich storylines, continually updated content, real voice communication and traditional text chat.” What the gameplay will be like is still a complete mystery. Apparently there will be no hunting and no skill system. There will be a strong social aspect and every month new ages will be released which can be explored. Other than that, no one really knows what the game is about. Hopefully we will get to know more about that soon. Myst Online will be launched through ubi.com in 2003. Screenshots are available at http://www.mystonline.com In related news, Myst III: Exile will be released for Playstation 2 and X-Box winter 2002.
And with that, we are almost ready to wrap up our coverage of E3 2002. Our last E3 article will be a look at Dreamcatcher’s lineup of adventure games.