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RPS At E3: Sweeping Up

Featured post Just admiring the view.

There are a few bits and pieces from E3 that I’ve yet to write about. I’ve also thoughts on the remarkable-looking Love to come, and details on a few of Paradox’s forthcoming games via Mr Stone. But here’s a few that were left over. Below there’s a few brief comments on Alpha Protocol, Alien Vs Predator and Rogue Warrior.

Yes.

Alpha Protocol

This would be the non-stealth approach.

This was perhaps the most surprisingly mediocre presentation of the week. I’m still very much looking forward to the game – I look forward to anyObsidian game based on their superb track record – but it put in a peculiarly lacklustre showing at E3. What we saw was two versions of the same scene, designed to show off the differences between two styles of play. On one screen someone was playing using stealth, on the other all-guns-out fireplay. The demonstration was designed to show how differently a scenario in the spy-based action RPG could be tackled. How in one instance you could slip your way through, those you killed never knowing you were coming, the rest never realising you’d been. And how in the other you could play it as a third-person shooter. The trouble was, the scene was a remarkably unenigmatic grey industrial area, which was hard to remember to even watch.

The theory explained to us was far more interesting than what we were watching. Your decisions, while never attempting to orientate you on a moral spectrum, have both short and long-term consequences. At the beginning of the level there’s a conversation with a Germanic mercenary woman called Z. The conversation options are time-limited, forcing you to pick your approach in just a couple of seconds. Talk aggressively to her and she’ll take a shine to you. Demonstrate a lack of balls and you’ll lose favour. However, the key decision comes when she offers her support. Accept it and she’ll fight alongside you for the mission, clearly to your advantage. Refuse it and she’ll be furious with you, and storm off. So there’s your short-term. Long-term consequences shape the future of your game. If you sided with her, we’re told there’s opportunities for romance further down the line. Refuse her and she’s a boss-fight-to-come.

It’s an intriguing idea for Obsidian to be developing a game with no dice rolling anywhere, either in front of or behind the camera. The action focus is hefty, with piles of weapons to choose from, stealth tactics like briefly cloaking for sneak attacks, decoys, martial arts, and so on. The RPG kicks in as you modify your abilities and making your chat-based choices. At around 20 to 30 hours, it’s also a strikingly short game from the team. Still plenty of promise, but hopefully not too much of the game will be so unrelentingly grey.

Alien Vs Predator

Yummy tummy.

Built by British-based Rebellion (who unfortunately get a harsher entry below) it was hard to see anything in this to get worked up about. We were shown footage from the perspective of a Predator (I heard rumours that Marine footage was being shown in a secret room somewhere), which was an oddly barren affair. Operating in the trees, as you’d assume, movement could be done independently, but seemed to be primarily about leaping to pre-defined points acres across the map. It was certainly a cool leap, but it didn’t seem to be one with which the player was particularly involved. There were different ways to see the world, with heat vision, night vision, etc, a cloak that doesn’t have a draining energy bar (hurrah), and all sorts of brutal ways to dispatch the enemy. Aiming for an R rating (18 in the UK, or whatever PEGI comes up with), it’s quite astonishingly brutal. We saw a Marine’s head get ripped out of his neck, the spinal chord coming with, in some stomach-turning visceral detail. I think we need to see an awful lot more of this one, and most of all have a play of it, before we can figure out if it’s going to do justice to one of Alec’s favourite series.

Rogue Warrior

Just soak those background details in.

If there was an “oh dear” moment at E3, it was this one. Certainly Dragon Age’s unfortunate presentation didn’t win favour, but there was still faith of a good game beneath it all. But Rogue Warrior… oh dear.

Now, I went into this under the misapprehension that it was something to do with the horribly overlooked Rogue Trooper, since it was coming from the same developers, Rebellion. Rogue Trooper was an FPS so barking mad that it featured a talking hat, gun and bag. And it was a great big dollop of fun. So let’s be clear: Rogue Warrior has nothing to do with it. Let’s put that aside. It is in fact loosely based on the books of Richard Marcinko, an ex-Navy Seal who has, we’re told, killed many men with his black ops training. The game is aiming to reproduce his memories of his experiences fighting the Soviets in the 1980s.

Originally the project was being developed by another team, using the Unreal 3 engine, with a multiplayer focus. All that’s been ditched in favour of a single-player game, a smaller multiplayer mode, and all built on a proprietary engine. And what an odd choice that was. I promise that I checked twice to see if it was being played on a PS2, only to see a 360 controller in the developer’s hands. Bland, smeared textures lay across a grey/blue world of metal walkways depicted in edges so jagged you could use them as staircases. But give this the benefit of the doubt, maybe? It’s not finished code, not optimised, certainly not in HD, and not at a PC resolution.

However, what we saw of the game itself offered nothing inspirational. Obsessed with a collection of 25 death moves, the idea is you sneak about slaughtering your foes in a variety of brutal ways. But this was something done in its entirity by the awful Punisher tie-in game (developed by Volition, who thankfully went on to create the utterly fantastic Saints Row 2), and certainly not a hook anyone’s been clamouring for since.

Smile-inducingly, Mickey Rourke takes the honour of grunting Marcinko’s lines, which apparently include his favourite phrase, “goatfuck”. Um. Look, who knows, it’s not out until the other end of the year, and this was ten minutes. But boy, it wasn’t a good ten minutes.

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John Walker

Senior Editor

One of the original co-founders of Rock, Paper, Shotgun, I'm now a senior editor and hero of humanity. Old and special.

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