Summary: Jakub recently attended Activision's pre-E3 event in Santa Monica and was given a chance to take a glimpse at some of Activision's upcoming high-profile titles. We've chosen from our notes the most interesting and relevant games: Doom 3 on Xbox, Call of Duty: United Offensive and of course the ghoulish Vampire The Masquerade: Bloodlines. At the least, take a gander at the new screenshots of Doom and Bloodlines to get an idea of how sexy games are getting.
Doom 3 - Xbox
Doom 3 on the Xbox is being developed by Vicarious Visions. Vicarious Visions is perhaps best known for their GameBoy Color and GameBoy Advance titles, but they've also developed Star Wars: Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy for the Xbox and had a hand in a few, lesser-known PC games like Terminus.
When the demo played, it was absolutely impossible to believe that this same hardware had difficulty running Halo at the same speed as Doom 3 was running. On top of that, the quality loss between Xbox and PC versions of the game is negligible at best. I'd made it a point to watch the Doom 3 videos before the conference and I could not spot any obvious differences between the two platforms other than resolution.
For all intents and purposes, Doom 3 on Xbox is Doom 3 on PC, at 480p resolution, and balanced for the console controller of course. The lighting and shadows remain per-pixel real-time, bump mapping is all over the place, and id's physics engine is still at work with the game, while retaining a target 30fps framerate.
There are content changes between the two, mostly involving some level re-design to fit Doom 3 into the Xbox's small 64MB footprint, but these changes weren't drastic according to the developers.
The multiplayer will be identical as PC, with 4 players in deathmatch or team deathmatch, but there will of course be no PC-Xbox interconnectivity. The save system remains undetermined and neither id nor VV wanted to speculate on what the options were, never mind what the final decision would be.
Of course, the big draw of the Xbox version will be co-op mode. At the conference a question was asked if multiplayer would be split-screen and the answer was no, but we're not certain if this also applies to co-op mode.
On the technical end, Grey Matter has revamped the particle system which seems to have had positive consequences for the explosions (no more giant marijuana leaf) and permitted the use of a flamethrower. They've also modified the game engine to permit a mission where the player acts as a turret gunner in a B-17 Flying Fortress bomber.
Multiplayer is going to see a major enhancement with the addition of vehicle combat (read: tanks), though they'll be only available on some of the 9 new maps. Vehicles are going to be easy to operate like in Battlefield 1942, rather than requiring realistic crews of 3-5 people. The flamethrower was quite impressive, improving even on the already-spectacular version from RTCW. Whether or not it makes the transition to multiplayer is still being decided.
The singleplayer is being expanded with three more campaigns that again follow American, British and Russian soldiers. In most instances the game will be dealing with new characters, however there will be several that return for extra tours in United Offensive. Grey Matter went on record stating that there will be "more" than 10 missions, but exactly how many is as yet unclear.
At the conference the developers demoed one level, and immediately dispelled any doubts that they could follow in Infinity Ward's footsteps. The deviation from the CoD formula was non-existent. The map started off with the player, a Russian, beating off waves of German soldiers in a recreation of the battle of Kursk. After stopping the assault, the counter-attack had the Russians moving forward up to plant dynamite on Elefant tank destroyers, which, in accordance with history, lacked a machine gun at the time. The level seemed quite expansive, and lacked none of the intensity of the original.
The player will be able to choose either gender and any of the seven clans, with all the gameplay consequences that entails. Choose one of the ugly Nosferatu and your public activity might have to be limited, and of course most NPCs adjust their reactions accordingly if you happen to have a female character rather than male.
This first-person shooter RPG is based off Valve's own Source engine, and this was quite evident from the demonstration. The game is quite beautiful, making particularly good use of lighting and the facial animations. Animations are somewhat stiffer than we'd expect, but this is Troika's first FPS. The combat was remarkably smooth, given the tie-ins involved, like skills and vampire powers. The RPG aspect of Bloodlines looked to be much more smoothly integrated than the clunk in Deus Ex or even Morrowind's decent setup.
Bloodlines is also the official prequel to White Wolf's Time of Judgment, and unlike most computer translations of White Wolf products this far, it doesn’t lack for mature content. Troika goes about the sex, violence and swearing with a bit of tongue-in-cheek, but not enough to ruin the effect, nor do they take themselves as seriously as say Kingpin did.
Like any Troika game, Bloodlines seems to offer the player enough freedom and rope to hang himself with. You're permitted to make gimp characters, to make the wrong choices and of course to pay the consequences. There are factions to align with, stay faithful to or betray as you will. Depending on your clan and abilities, in some situations you can talk your way past a fight, or to sneak past, or to go charging right through like a typical Brujah. Depending on some of these choices, the ending of the game will adjust itself to reflect what the player has done along the way. What quests you choose to do, which ones you succeed in or which you fail, can have consequences for the endgame.
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