This was an interesting one. We were shown the most extraordinary demo of the game, that was pretty much unrepresentative of how the final game will play. Because showing a man creeping along a dank tunnel, scared out of his life, with one bullet and little hope, isn’t going to thrill the men in ties, or the excitable kiddies. But I was solemnly promised that the game is emphatically honouring the atmosphere and style of the original, while improving in every respect.
It looks stunning. The engine is mind-blowing, vast cityscapes meticulously rendered in seemingly impossible detail. Underground things are equally detailed, with some remarkable lighting. Lighting you’re mostly switching off. Keeping in the shadows we saw the player shooting at pots over fires to spill their contents and put them out, unscrewing light bulbs, taking pot shots at bulbs on walls, and so on. Larger underground caverns gave opportunities for stealth, or large-scale firefights.
We then saw a long series of intense action. Nothing original, and mostly quite tired for the FPS genre. Particularly hoary was a long cart ride through tunnels, shooting at waves of enemies careering down neighbouring tracks. However, despite this being gaming’s oldest idea, here the intensity was remarkable. I felt out of breath as we roared through the rock, the cloth physics of scraps of material defying belief as they whipped and flapped at the high speeds.
Before that point we’d sneaked into a rally meeting of the Reich, an unambiguously Nazi-inspired baddies, wandering through crowds of hundreds of NPCs, until we reached the very front and started a firefight to make good our escape.
But this was a sort of faked up version of the game, where it was all action in a row. The real game, a producer explained to me, will include all those elements but well spaced out, ensuring the vision of 4A Games is respected and delivered. As if any publisher could tell them what to do.
I think there are a lot of reasons to be excited about this one. THQ seem determined to honour 4A here, both in terms of letting them create the game they want to make, and in terms of recognising its potential and marketing it appropriately. And they have good heads about that. They know it’s not going to break into the broader mainstream, and compare their hopes for it with something like BioShock. The 4A Engine is ridiculously good, and ambitions to make the best looking shooter ever aren’t empty boasts – it’s already looking that way.