Summary: More E3 games coming at you! In this trio preview, Marcus will give you a run-down (including screenshots) on:
•Legacy of Kain: Defiance
•Deus Ex: Invisible War
The Original MasterThief
That guy from Halo may be the MasterChief, but you are the MasterThief. You reprise your role as Garrett, and once again the name of the game is stealth. Thief shares its engine technology with the Deus Ex: Invisible War team, and if you take a look at some of the screenshots you’ll notice that there’s a dynamic lighting system in place. Similar to what we have experienced from Splinter Cell, shadows will play a huge role in the game world. You’ll have to keep constant tabs of the light sources around you, as the AI in the game will be able react to shadows. If there’s a big light source at your back casting a shadow 10 feet ahead of you, guards will be able to spot you – even though you are not in direct line of sight.
Another page similar to Splinter Cell’s book of tricks is the lock picking system. We were shown the Xbox version of the game, and lock picking worked by slowly rotating the analog thumb sticks until we felt the strongest rumble sensation before hitting the pick button. It may take several of these trials before successfully breaking into a lock. Of course, during this entire time, Garrett is focused on the lock and not on his surroundings. It’s entirely possible that a guard may have wandered into the area while you were so absorbed in feeling the good vibrations. There’s the ability to look around while you’re sitting in front of the lock, but then you’ll be splitting your attention and thus it would take longer to pick the lock. We predict tense situations coming from lock picking puzzles.
SIDEBAR: The first two Thief games were developed by the now-defunct Looking Glass Studios. Since then, several employees have made their way to Ion Storm Austin to work on the new Thief.
Of Mice and Thieves
Garrett has gained some physical skills while he’s been gone. He’s now able to scale walls, which opens up options for both exploration and evasion. Got a guard hot on your trail and you’ve got no place to hide? Pull a Spiderman and climb the castle wall so that you’re out of immediate sight! Other new methods to escape detection are promised, wall climbing is just one example.
The best parts from the Thief series are the ones where you must sneak around human characters. The previous two games took slight changes in character when it came time to deal with monsters and other creatures. On that note, we asked about the inclusion of creatures in the new Thief. The answer was that creatures such as zombies will be in this new game, though it will have a greater ratio of humans to creatures when compared to Thief II.
All in all, though, this new generation Thief is something fans will definitely want to keep an eye on. Game play length is said to be about the same as Thief II. Look for this one on Xbox and PC this winter after Deus Ex: Invisible War ships.
Vampire May Cry
This new chapter is all about action. That is not to say that there won’t be any of the classic puzzle elements, but LoK: Defiance will easily be the most action oriented game in the series.
Instead of going on and on about how the combat system works, let’s start with something familiar. If there was one game that we could draw a parallel to, it would be Capcom’s Devil May Cry. We mentioned this observation to LOK: Defiance’s director Amy Hennig to which she replied that the team loved Devil May Cry and tried to take the best from that game to apply it to their own.
SIDEBAR: The original Legacy of Kain was designed by Canadian developer Silicon Knights, now better known for its work on Nintendo’s Eternal Darkness. Silicon Knights is currently working the Metal Gear Solid remake for GameCube.
Use the Force
Graphically, LoK: Defiance already looks quite polished. That shouldn’t be much of a surprise, however, as it is running on the Soul Reaver 2 engine originally built for the PlayStation 2. Director Amy Hennig said that with Soul Reaver 2, much of the development time was spent on figuring out Sony’s console. Now that much the technology has been established, the team can spend more of its resources on story and gameplay.
We look forward to playing Legacy of Kain: Defiance on PlayStation 2 and Xbox this fall.
SIDEBAR: Maybe I wasn’t attentive enough, but I didn’t see a Lara Croft model this year. Maybe they didn’t want to take away from Angelina Jolie’s upcoming Tomb Raider movie. Trailer here.
God From the Machine
Warren Spector openly admitted that he now feels that the first Deus Ex was overly complicated. He joked that the old inventory management system was a test in spatial reasoning. While such spatial abilities are in-born for the hardcore gamer, Ion Storm wanted to make this game far more accessible to the general gaming public – without losing anything that made Deus Ex great. Spector reaffirmed this by saying that they distilled Deus Ex down to its finest and most pure parts, improved the mixture, and the result is Invisible War.
SIDEBAR: According to MobyGames’ bio, Warren Spector received his BS in Speech from Northwestern University and an MA in Radio-TV-Film from the University of Texas, Austin.
Spector revealed to us that many of the open-ended gameplay choices (such as hacking, stealth, brute force) for the original Deus Ex had to be thought out ahead of time and be hard coded into the game. One of the goals for Invisible War is to create a game where such gameplay paths would not have to be coded into the game, but rather “grow” out of the environment. Some paths are still hard-wired into the game, but this time around, the game engine itself will be doing a good chunk of the work. Does this mean that players may possibly find solutions to problems that the developers themselves have yet to discover? Looks like we’ll just have to wait and see on that one. Exciting though, isn’t it?
Some proof of the ‘purified’ Deus Ex can be seen in the new interface. Out are the tiny text and icons and in is a circular, translucent overlay composed purely of icons. Designed to look like it a nano-implant that could fit in your eye, the left half of the circle serves as your quick-access inventory, and the other half is for your augmentations. Speaking of augmentations, Warren Spector explained that the skills system as we knew it won’t be in Invisible War. Instead, the skills aspect of the game has been combined and built into the bio-modification system. This move was made to remove some of the unnecessary complexity from the first game. More time playing, less time fiddling with skill points.
SIDEBAR: Harvey Smith is the project director on DX: IW. We looked all over for him, but he was nowhere to be found. (Maybe he was checking out Tecmo’s Fashion Show – not that we can blame him.)
So, we had to “settle” for Ion Storm studio director Warren Spector. Yeah, E3 is harsh.
Warranty-voiding Aftermarket Upgrade Parts
While the graphics of Deus Ex: Invisible War may not have the same flash as those found in Doom 3, it still features a dynamic lighting system and ample bump mapping to emphasize it. The art direction in DX: IW retains the same ‘artificial’ and ‘clinical’ style found in the first game, which is quite fitting. It may also be interesting to note that the visuals seen in Thief and DX: IW are a result of Ion Storm’s custom renderer, not the Unreal engine. Here’s a quote from Ion Storm’s Kent Hudson with regards to the technology:
But really, the reason why we loved the original Thief and Deus Ex games was for the gameplay. It just so happens that both the upcoming sequels feature great graphics to go along with the deep gameplay promised.
While some of you may worry that Deus Ex: Invisible War is being dumbed down for mainstream gamers, everything we’ve seen thus far points to the sequel we’ve been waiting for.
Too bad Warren said that we’re going to have to wait until October.
SIDEBAR: Deux ex machina means “god from the machine” in Latin. In terms of ancient Greek plays, it referred to an insurmountable problem that was only solvable by the appearance of a god lowered by stage machinery to save the day.
Are you excited about these 3 titles? Can’t wait to sneak around, while stealing souls and fighting in an unseen conflict? Let us hear your reactions!
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