Orcs Must Die! Hands-On Preview

PAX East 2011: We stem the green tide at this year’s PAX East convention.

Across dozens of fantasy worlds, orcs constantly get the short end of the stick. They exist only to get cut down in a multitude of ways, and it’s no different in Orcs Must Die!. We got the chance to go hands-on with the game during this year’s PAX East convention in Boston–and we got a lot of orc blood on our hands.

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Who’s Making It: Independent studio Robot Entertainment is developing this game. Founded in 2009 by members of Microsoft’s now-defunct Ensemble Studios (Halo Wars), Robot Entertainment is adapting its extensive experience with the Age of Empires series into something a little different.

What It Looks Like: Orcs Must Die! is a third-person action game that mixes in some elements from the tower defense genre. The artistic style has the same cartoonish look as the developer’s other game, Age of Empires Online. The area we played in was a long, twisting hallway where enemies would pour through two entrances. The first was at the far end of the hallway, while the second was about halfway down. Posted around the hallway were some friendly archers who, we were assured, would help us out by firing on the enemies, as well as a few exploding barrels.

What You Do: We controlled a knight in shining armor whose mission was to slaughter waves of orcs wholesale before they reached the end of the hallway. The tools of the trade included a variety of different traps, as well as our own personal weapons and abilities. Spike pits, springboards, tar pits, and spike walls helped thin out the enemy hordes so long as we placed them in the enemy’s path. And, as we fought, we collected more money to purchase even more traps and produce more carnage.

How It Plays: The orcs that managed to survive our traps had to be dealt with personally. The crossbow, which had a high rate of fire but lost accuracy with each shot, was our weapon of choice against the masses. It also had an alternate attack, which would briefly slow enemies in a small area. Combined with the tar pit trap, we could bring hordes of enemies to a screeching halt and then blow them away with a barrage of arrows.

In between waves of enemies, the game would pause to let us catch our breath and place some more traps. The minimap would update to display a color-coded density map, showing where we got the most kills. If we saw that a particular trap had been ill placed, we could sell it back and buy another. As the waves progressed, the game introduced new enemy types, including quick and nimble kobolds who excelled at running around our traps and high-flying fiends that our traps couldn’t reach.

What We Say: Orcs Must Die! offered an interesting mix of genres. It definitely captured the morbid satisfaction that comes from watching our enemies get cut down by our defenses. And while the combat felt basic, we were assured that there will be numerous other traps and abilities to unlock in the full release. Orcs Must Die! will be released for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC this summer.

By Maxwell McGee, Editor

Beyond Good and Evil HD Hands-On

Ubisoft polishes up a fan favorite action game for the PlayStation Network and Xbox Live Arcade.

Ubisoft had a nice little surprise for fans of Beyond Good and Evil when it unveiled an HD upgraded version of it at a recent press event. The game, developed by Michel Ancel’s Montpellier studio, was originally released in 2003 for the GameCube, PC, PlayStation 2, and Xbox and garnered attention for its unique gameplay and colorful characters. Ancel’s studio is working in conjunction with Ubisoft Shanghai, who is handling the upgrade, to polish up the beloved title and toss in some modest extras.

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The original Beyond Good and Evil was a stylish, unique title when it hit stores in the fall of 2003. The game cast you in the role of Jade–a reporter on the planet Hillys–who was tapped to investigate the military dictatorship that was allegedly defending the planet from an invasion from the alien DomZ. The game featured an eye-catching art style and gameplay that mixed stealth, action, puzzle-solving, and photography into a surprisingly cohesive and fun package.

The upcoming HD version of the game will offer a cosmetic upgrade to the original visuals and bring them up to 1080p. There will also be improved audio. In addition, you can expect the standard inclusion of achievements and trophies, as well as an all-new leaderboards feature. While there wasn’t much information on just how the leaderboard feature is going to play out, the work-in-progress Xbox 360 demo on display at the event featured a handful of levels to showcase the visual upgrades. The five levels on display let us explore the ancient mine, pedestrian district, east district, Alpha Section HQ, and main shaft areas. The selection of areas alternated between letting us control Jade by herself or in conjunction with her right hand pigman Pey’j to explore levels, as well as pilot her hovercraft vehicle. The demos handled pretty well, with the camera being a little tricky in spots–just like the original game. As far as the visuals go, the game is starting to look nice and shiny. The game’s art style seems to be scaling up well.

From the look of things, Beyond Good and Evil HD will be a solid upgrade of the fan favorite game. The promise of high-definition visuals, improved audio, and the chance to earn some achievements or trophies should please fans. We’re curious to see just how the leaderboard feature is going to work, although we expect it to be tied to how fast you can get through an area or your picture-taking skills. We’ll also be interested to see if there are any ties to the next installment in the series. We know, it’s doubtful, but we can dream. Most importantly, the upcoming digital release of the game gives it a second chance to find a bigger audience. If you never had the chance to play Beyond Good and Evil, you should definitely keep an eye out for the game when it is released next year. At the moment, there’s no word on an exact release date or pricing. Look for more on the game in the coming months.

By Ricardo Torres

Swarm First Look

These cute and expendable swarmites are your ticket to ruling the leaderboards.

It might be understandable to compare Swarm to Lemmings upon first look. The only trailer we’ve seen so far gave us a look at all the creative ways that these dopey but adorable critters can die. The comparison to Lemmings ends there, however, because Swarm is an action platforming arcade game from Hothead Games where you need to get at least one of these goofy blue blobs to the end of the level while collecting as many points as possible. It’s frantic and hectic at times, but it’s definitely entertaining.

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This giant blue pod with tentacles has somehow landed on a dangerous planet that seems to be littered with explosives and constantly falling debris. You control a swarm of 50 swarmites that must brave the awaiting hazards and collect as much DNA as you can to take back to your pod for it to grow. The game is broken up into 12 levels where you start off with 50 of these bulbous creatures and need to get to the tentacle waiting for you at the end of the stage. In between, there are numerous DNA globules and special hard-to-reach double helixes to collect. By continuously collecting DNA, your multiplying will continue to increase. A circular timer will let you know when it’s about to run out, so if you’re looking for that high score, you have to keep moving. Sacrificing a few of your swarmites will also keep that multiplier going, so it all depends on how you want to go about it. There are frequent pods that you’ll come across, which will replenish your rapidly decreasing supply of swarmites, and certain areas will yield bonus points if you can manage to keep your team together.

You move as one giant fluid mass, and the little guys will generally stick together as you go around obstacles and group together again when they can. The stragglers will scurry to catch up, so they’re not completely stupid. You can use the left and right triggers to have your swarm spread out or cluster together, depending on the situation. Sometimes DNA is all over the screen, so it’s easier to spread your guys out and have them gather. But for tight platforming sections, you want them to huddle close to prevent them from going over the edge. These poor swarmites will die–and die often–because you tend to lose a few when you go through dangerous areas filled with explosives, poisonous gas, falling metal, and other deadly obstacles. While it’s no big deal, as long as you get to the next pod, the game does keep track of how many swarmites you’ve killed and how–whether they were impaled, electrocuted, asphyxiated, and the like. In the PlayStation 3 version, there is a counter on the screen to keep a running tally as you play.

It’s fun to see how this amorphous group gets around and works together. You can dash by holding and releasing the right trigger, as well as stack your swarmites to snag items that are located at a higher level. All of their skills can be combined, so you can stack up your guys and use them to bash towers. There will come a time when you need them to interact with the environment for more than just running and bashing, so some light puzzle-solving skills are needed to hit switches, for example. The B button will appear when there are objects to interact with, whether it is throwing bombs (and each other) or stuffing yourself into pipes and blowing up later. Sometimes sacrifices need to be made. You can order the swarmites to pick up bombs that are lying around and throw them at your target. And they’ll do it…for the most part. If you look closely, you’ll see that the really dim ones will pick up a fellow buddy and toss it. There’s a cursor that lets you point to where and what you want your blue troops to target, and they won’t miss their mark. However, they will also throw it at anything else on the screen that looks similar to your target. For example, if you want them to throw a bomb at a crate to the right, they will throw it at anything else onscreen that looks like the crate you highlighted.

Keep them together if you can.

Keep them together if you can.

It’s also interesting to zoom in with the camera every now and then on your disposable lemminglike creatures to see how they’re doing, especially when they’re trying to balance on top of each other when you get them to stack. You can see them wave their piddly little arms to try to keep their balance; if you move them too quickly, they’ll all topple over. Their spacey expressions are endearing, but there are just so many of them that we weren’t too concerned when half of them just didn’t end up making the jump. Although we did feel a twinge of guilt when we saw them impaled or even when they turned green from noxious gas and burst into a mess of blue goo–but life goes on.

The game is set to have about six to eight hours of gameplay across 12 levels, and you’ll be able to keep a close eye on a friend’s high score as you play to encourage friendly competition. There is currently no release date yet set for Swarm, but we were told that it should be coming out shortly on the PlayStation Network and Xbox Live Arcade. We’ll be sure to update you with more information as soon as it becomes available. But in the meantime, check out some gameplay clips and the hilarious developer diaries if you haven’t seen them yet.

By Sophia Tong

Warp Hands-On Preview

We go warping and fragging in this downloadable stealth actioner.

Stealth action title Warp pits teleporting alien Zero against scientists and security guards in an underwater laboratory. “Portal meets Metal Gear” is a description bandied about at the game’s Montreal-based developer Trapdoor, referring to its science-fiction flavour and puzzle emphasis on one hand, and its top-down, stealth-based play on the other.

Frag out!

Frag out!

The lab complex from which Zero must escape, a network of gleaming white chambers filled with science stuff, could certainly be a seabed outpost for Aperture Science. It’s here that Zero finds him(her? it?)self imprisoned in a glass-walled cell, monitored by lab-coated, clipboard-toting technicians. They must not have known about the little alien’s ability to “warp”–that is, teleport short distances through space or space-containing walls.

One warp later and he’s loose in the lab, free to exercise his explosive second power, “frag.” With this, Zero can warp into people or Zero-sized objects and kerplode them from the inside. You waggle the left stick to jostle the hapless host or suitable vessel–waggle enough, and you’ll blow them up, producing usefully destructive blasts in the case of explosive barrels, and bloody messes in the case of human victims.

Don’t feel bad about the latter. Soon enough you’ll spot an alien specimen like Zero dead on some kind of science table. Scientists, eh? And then there are the armed guards, who deserve less sympathy still. These guys have laser-scoped guns and force-field shields, through which Zero cannot warp, making them dangerous enemies. Combat is not an option for the alien critter, so he needs to work towards escape by traversing the lab’s rooms with warp-enabled stealth, hopping through walls that aren’t protected by force fields, chaining warps from object to object, human to human, object to human, and so on.

Can we talk about this?

Can we talk about this?

Rooms are set up as puzzles with multiple solutions. In one of the simplest, Zero has to destroy a force-field generator by fragging a nearby barrel. In another, this one defended by guards, he can warp in through a wall behind them to get around their shields. In another room, with a couple of scientists and a couple of patrolling guards, Zero can attract the humans’ attention by warping into a nearby barrel and giving it a wiggle–but not blowing it up until they all gather around to see. Alternatively, he can nip from the barrel into a guard, another guard, and then away. Humans are left dazed for a short while after being inhabited, giving Zero a few moments to make a dash out of cover.

We’re told to expect further abilities later on in the game, promising more complex puzzles as it progresses. But with two of Zero’s abilities to work with, Warp already has a neat setup for top-down action puzzling. Nice touches take the visuals beyond ordinary–at one point, while we pan our bird’s-eye view across the subaquatic lab, a whale glides through the surrounding water–and the aesthetic blend of cute and clinical, edged with gruesome, is appealing.

Warp is being prepped for release “soon” across Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network, and PC by studio Trapdoor in association with the EA Partners program.

By Jane Douglas, Section Editor

Section 8: Prejudice Impressions – First Look, Swarm Mode

We take our first look at this sequel to 2009′s Section 8 and its all-new Swarm mode.

Last year’s Section 8 was a large-scale, sci-fi multiplayer shooter that let you play as a futuristic super-soldier equipped with heavy-duty weapons, high-tech gadgets, and a power suit that let you run so quickly you could literally kill your enemies by running into them headfirst. While the first game was ambitious and its reach arguably exceeded its grasp, developer TimeGate Studios has already returned for round two with Section 8: Prejudice, a full-fledged sequel intended to improve on everything in the original game.

Watch Section 8: Prejudice in motion.

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While the developer created the first game to be a multiplayer shooter, it readily admits that the first game’s single-player campaign, which was basically a primer for multiplayer, left something to be desired. As such, the developer is building out a full story-based single-player campaign that covers the conflict between the elite soldiers of Section 8 and their sworn enemies, a militia force known as the Arm of Orion (which, as it turns out, is secretly controlled by a shadowy faction of elite troopers who might have been Section 8′s predecessors). You can expect to see a full campaign about five hours in length, with nine missions that take place in different environments and voiced cinematic cutscenes between them.

Check your six. Section 8 is back…with extreme prejudice. Not the politically incorrect kind, the other kind.

Check your six. Section 8 is back…with extreme prejudice. Not the politically incorrect kind, the other kind.

We watched a few missions in the single-player game, including the tutorial mission (which starts off at the Section 8 firing range), as well as a mission that required us to destroy guarded antiair turrets on the ground by using the explosive satchel gadget to blow them up. We then skipped ahead to the very next mission, an airdrop deployment that was made possible by the removal of the AA guns on terra firma. This gave us a chance to see Section 8′s drop gameplay in action. When you make a drop, you’ll actually see your character from above, from a third-person perspective, as he plummets to the ground below. And because you can control the direction of his drop, if you’re skilled enough, you may be able to frag an enemy by landing directly on his head (this applies in both single-player and multiplayer).

We then jumped over to watch the new Swarm mode in action–a cooperative multiplayer mode that requires you and your buddies to hold an outpost against hordes of increasingly tough enemies that start off on foot and then eventually bring heavy mechanized suits and even tanks into battle. Fortunately, so can you. Over the course of the match, and in other multiplayer matches, your character will earn experience points that actually carry over from match to match and let you choose different, higher-level deployable items, such as stationary turrets, tanks of your own, and the new hoverbike vehicle, which moves even faster than overdrive sprinting (and is just as deadly if you run over an enemy at top speeds).

In Swarm mode, your foes come swarming at the base from all sides for a chance at the outpost’s command console–Swarm mode’s key to victory or defeat. You and your buddies can use the console to change your weapon and gadget loadout during the match, but if the enemy captures this key point, you’ll have a very short window of time to recapture the console until you and your teammates suffer the agony of defeat.

Swarm mode will challenge your to defend a remote outpost against hordes of enemies in an all-out comp stomp.

Swarm mode will challenge your to defend a remote outpost against hordes of enemies in an all-out comp stomp.

With Section 8: Prejudice, developer TimeGate clearly intends to fix any and all of the previous games issues and make a far better game, based both on the studio’s own observations and tons of feedback culled from the community. The game will launch early next year.

By Andrew Park

Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode One Hands-On

We ride mine carts, balance on boulders, and journey into the darkness during our look at the Lost Labyrinth zone.

Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode One piles on the nostalgia from the moment you load up the game. If act one’s Splash Hill zone is an homage to the likes of Green Hill and Emerald Hill from the originals, then act two’s Lost Labyrinth is akin to the classic Labyrinth and Aquatic Ruin zones. We went hands-on with the new zone and found tons of instantly recognizable touches throughout it. However, a number of new gameplay elements have been introduced to keep things fresh and prevent it from feeling like a rehashing of previous ideas.

The fiery flame torch gives Lost Labyrinth an Indiana Jones-like vibe.

The fiery flame torch gives Lost Labyrinth an Indiana Jones-like vibe.

The Lost Labyrinth zone was set in an underground temple full of waterfalls, golden sand blocks, and deadly spikes. Because the temple was underground, there was no light, so Sonic had to navigate the labyrinth using a flame torch. This only lit up a small area around him, giving us limited visibility. We found we had to use much more caution when speeding through the level; otherwise, we’d run into a set of spikes or into a bottomless pit. The lack of light was used for several puzzles in the zone. In one area, there were lanterns on the wall, which we could ignite using the torch. Each lantern extended a platform, which we needed to climb up to escape the room. However, the lanterns had to be lit in a certain order and at a particular time; otherwise, the platforms would disappear before we could make it all the way to the top.

Later in the level, we found another use for our fire torch: igniting dynamite. Some large stones blocked our path, which rather handily had dynamite attached to them, along with a fuse. By igniting the fuse, we could blow up the blocks and clear the path. Another area had several explosive blocks in it. We had to carefully choose which blocks to ignite and which to leave in place so we could jump up to a secret area at the top of the screen. The dynamite section was swiftly followed by one involving boulders, which dropped down into a pit below. We had to time our jumps just right to make it across the pit without falling into it. Later, a boulder was released from behind us Indiana Jones-style. Rather than just run away, Sonic jumped on it and we had to maintain our balance by pressing left or right while it rolled down a long track.

The final section of the level featured a mine cart sequence, which required some quick reflexes. After jumping into a cart, we sped off down a long track where we had to jump over obstacles and avoid falling down bottomless pits. The lack of light made it difficult to see upcoming hazards, so we had to be especially alert to make it out alive. While these sections added something new to the series, we found there was still plenty of classic Sonic action. All the loops, springs, and insane speed from the original games were there, along with plenty of tricky water hazards and spikes to avoid. Sonic handled just as we remembered him, though we did find him a tad easier to control using the PlayStation 3 D pad rather than the Xbox 360′s.

Outta my way evildoers!

Outta my way evildoers!

Though we weren’t able to try it out, we spotted a casino-themed level on the world map screen, which indicates there is still plenty more to be revealed about Sonic’s HD outing. Keep reading GameSpot for more on the game in the run-up to its release later this year on Xbox Live, the PlayStation Network, and WiiWare.

By Mark Walton, Senior Staff Writer – Reviews

E3 2011: Crimson Alliance Preview Hands-On

We find out why orcs fear fire in our hands-on preview of this hack-and-slash adventure.

A wizard, a mercenary, and an assassin walk into a cave. No, this isn’t the setup for a bawdy joke. Rather, it’s the concept behind Crimson Alliance, a hack-and-slash adventure coming to Xbox Live Arcade later this summer. An assortment of familiar fantasy tropes set off on a quest to slay every orc and goblin in the land, as well as bask in the riches such a dangerous conquest can dole out. We spent some time today donning our wizard’s hat and came away with enough experience to level up our charisma.

Crimson Alliance stays true to what you would expect from a loot-driven adventure, but don’t think you know every detail just because you finished Diablo 2. The wizard and mercenary have an expected array of moves. Fireballs, ice spells, and electrical blasts make up the mad magician’s key attacks; the mercenary follows suit with shield bashes and sword swings. We didn’t get a chance to see the assassin (her identity and moves are being kept secret for now), but the dynamic duo complemented each other’s attacks nicely, forming a formidable team against the horde of bone-crunching ogres.

Enemy positioning made the fights more tactical than you might normally find in the genre. Your treacherous foes are positioned around corners and hide behind pillars, which are perfect places to knock you down if you’re unprepared. Their deliberate positioning gives you time to breathe behind fights and figure out the best way to dispose of those foul beasts. For instance, you could flank them from the side, freezing them with the wizard’s winter-themed spell. Then, you could have your hulking buddy rush in to finish them off. Or you could go the environmental route. Toss a flaming barrel into their midst and watch them scream and burn. The different ways you can approach combat makes Crimson Alliance flexible and unpredictable.

The best element in the early going is the wizard’s ability to teleport. It’s a small addition that seems like a trick right out of an X-Men comic, but that doesn’t lessen the fun one bit. One second, you’re chucking fireballs into a growing miniboss; the next, you’re laying down a turret behind him. The freedom of movement lets you take advantage of the entire map, so you don’t get dragged down by mashing your way through hordes of enemies until your fingers cramp up from exhaustion.

For the inquisitive type, there are hidden alcoves to find. Each level contains a set number of secrets, and the game marks your progress each time you uncover one. They reside behind seemingly solid walls and into blind corners, so it pays off to poke your nose where it doesn’t belong. Other times, you need a specific character to open these secrets. A cracked wall signifies that the mercenary should knock that thing down, and a glowing wheel is the calling card for a crafty wizard. At the end of every level, you’re awarded a score based on your combat efficiency, exploration skills, and speed, which earns you extra gold to spend on gear as well as a place on the leaderboard.

Crimson Alliance doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it doesn’t need to either. Our time spent with this downloadable game was short but quite fun. Keep your eyes on GameSpot for more information on this hack-and-slash adventure.

By Tom Mc Shea, Editor

Pac-Man Championship Edition DX First Look

We munch on all the new features in the latest Pac-Man offering.

One of the most recognizable icons in video games is still hard at work, chomping on an endless supply of multicolored ghosts. His digestive track seems to be doing just fine, after having recently reached the ripe old age of 30. This year, Pac-Man gets a new game called Pac-Man Championship Edition DX, which expands on the original Pac-Man Championship Edition released in 2007. Because Pac-Man CE was played by competitive gamers who competed in the first Pac-Man World Championship in New York City, it wasn’t always as accessible for newcomers to play. Pac-man DX includes new features that will help new players get all the pac-dots they need.

The green sleeping ghosts are just waiting to pounce.

The green sleeping ghosts are just waiting to pounce.

The basic premise of the game remains the same. You run around a maze, eating as many dots as you can while avoiding the always-watchful ghosts to rack up a high score. The more dots you eat in a row, the higher your multiplier gets. In DX, you now have bombs, which will send all the ghosts back to the house once you activate them with the right trigger. Your multiplier will be halved, however; so if you’re gaining 100 points per dot, it’ll go down to 50, and you’ll have to build your way back up again.

For newcomers, there are three difficulty settings per mode, so the easier the setting, the more bombs and lives you’ll get. One of the biggest additions is a new type of ghost. Sleeping ghosts are carefully placed all over the map, and as soon as you pass by, they’ll wake up and run after you in a giant conga line. Their pattern is mainly just to follow you, so as long as you continue to move forward, they won’t catch up to you. It starts to get tricky when your chain of tormentors gets really long, which makes it hard turn in smaller spaces because you’ll likely run into the ghosts that are on the tail end of the line.

While there are many different modes in Pac-Man DX across nine different maps, the demo we were shown was timed, and we had to get as many points as we could within five minutes. As the timer ticks down, the game speeds up, so eventually, all you see is Pac-man zipping across the screen with a huge line of ghosts behind him. Like the last game, if you start your turns early, sparks will fly, which will let you take your turns faster to increase the distance between you and those multicolored fiends. Random ghosts still appear from the house as soon as you chow down your first power pellet. They’ll come out and start wandering the maze, and when you get close enough to make them angry, they’ll hop into the conga line as well.

The game really starts to get crazy and hectic the longer you play, but anytime you’re surrounded or make a wrong turn and are about to die, the game will suddenly go into bullet time, giving you precious seconds to either use a bomb or turn the other way. It’s a cool feature and may seem a little like cheating, but once you realize how quickly the line of ghosts build up, you’ll be thankful for the slowdown. We didn’t get to actually play the game to see how easy it is to grasp with the new mechanics, but we were told that you die a lot less often with this feature put in, making it more accessible to Pac-Man newbies.

Use a bomb to send them all back to the house temporarily.

Use a bomb to send them all back to the house temporarily.

Several new modes have been added, including a Time Trial mode and Ghost Combo. They’re both pretty self-explanatory, but with Ghost Combo, your goal is to get as many ghosts to follow you as you can and then eat them with a power pellet. Now, there is also a bar under the timer that indicates when your power will run out, but ghosts will randomly give you pellets as you’re mowing them down so that you don’t suddenly run out of juice halfway through the conga line. Another mode involves collecting fruits on either side of the screen. You need to clear out half the maze for the fruit to appear on the other end, and vice versa, until you reach the requirement.

Visually, the DX will look very much like the previous Championship Edition, and you’ll have the option to flip among various styles of Pac-Man if you like. Whether you prefer a more pixelated old-school look or a rounded 3D art style, you can pick whatever mode suits your mood. Once you unlock Free mode, you can change all the variables in the game, such as how many ghosts you want when you start out or how much time you need so that you can customize your own game. Some examples of other maps that you’ll unlock include a maze that is completely dark except for a small radius around Pac-Man and a dungeon-style maze that comes complete with dead-ends.

There’s definitely no shortage of pellets in this frantic version of Pac-Man, so look for Pac-Man Championship Edition DX on Xbox Live Arcade, as well as the PlayStation Network, this fall.

By Sophia Tong

Star Raiders Q&A – First Details

Senior producer Jonathan Moses and Incinerator Studios president Joel Goodman discuss this upcoming remake of the classic Atari 2600 game.

The original Star Raiders first saw the light of day on the original Atari consoles of the late 1970s. The game was revolutionary for its time: a first-person cockpit-view space shooter that let you travel from sector to sector of hyperspace while battling the evil Zylons. More than 30 years later, the publisher now known as Atari is bringing back the classic game to the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. We get the details from Atari senior producer Jonathan Moses and developer Incinerator Studios president Joel Goodman.

Star Raiders will be a remake of the classic Atari game from the early 1970s.

Star Raiders will be a remake of the classic Atari game from the early 1970s.

GameSpot: Why did you decide to bring Star Raiders back? Why did the time seem right?

Jonathan Moses: Star Raiders was such an amazing game for its time. Epic dogfights in space, a galactic map that gave players an open world to explore–all on the Atari 2600. There have definitely been other games that have built on this formula, but Star Raiders was the first. I’m a huge fan of the genre, and the opportunity to go back to that original with the new elements that Incinerator Studios is bringing to the table–there was no way to pass that up.

You’re going to be seeing more of this from Atari in the near future. Along with some exciting new IP that we’re working with, we’re not ignoring our history. We’re bringing back some of the classics in a way that makes them relevant now. We recently released a reimagination of the classic Haunted House and are gearing up to launch Atari’s Greatest Hits Volume 1, which features 50 of our gaming classics. It’s an exciting time at Atari.

GS: Once the decision was made to bring it back, how did you settle on the approach–that is, a full-on update of the game versus a more retro version?

JM: I think there could be really fun games in both directions–and you’re going to see Atari revisiting the classics both ways. However, for Star Raiders we’re going with a full update–really taking the core of the original game and reshaping it around a modern approach. There is a story and gameplay that will be familiar to people who play shooters today, and a universe that we can continue to build and explore. At the same time, players who remember the original Star Raiders will feel instantly at home.

GS: How did you settle on a developer?

JM: The core team has a great deal of experience working with vehicle gameplay and have worked with us at previous companies, so hiring them for this project was the best way to make sure the pictures they have on file never get to the authorities. All kidding aside, besides our own comfort level with them as developers, we received several concepts from other teams too. The game that Incinerator proposed was easy for everyone to sign up for. They spun a great story about what the legacy represented, how to build on it, and why they were perfect for the project. They continue to deliver on that initial promise, and I couldn’t be happier about how the game is turning out.

GS: What interested you in updating Star Raiders? What do you remember most fondly about the original Atari game?

Joel Goodman: It isn’t often that a developer gets to work with a genre-defining intellectual property, and Star Raiders is just that. Great games such as X-Wing and Wing Commander were influenced by this Atari classic. The original game had great tension when you warped into a sector not knowing what you would be facing, and at times you were immediately thrown into combat. Having to manage the flow of the game from the Galactic Map was a very unique and exciting experience.

GS: Have you given any thought to including the original game somewhere as an unlockable bonus?

JG: We are currently looking at quite a few options in order to provide the richest experience for the consumer. Providing the original game is a possibility.

GS: What are the key elements you feel the update must retain from the original game? What’s more flexible?

JG: For gameplay, we are building on that great feeling that the original had of dogfighting in space, while adding another dimension through ship transformations, where the combat vehicle changes its flight characteristics on the fly. Other original components that we felt were important are the galactic map and the energy pool. Managing the energy pool was a core part to combat and gives players another layer of strategy.

GS: What’s the underlying direction of the update? Are you taking any inspiration from more-modern sources?

JG: Since the original came out, there have been quite a few exceptional flight combat games, as well as remakes of classic sci-fi movies and TV shows, and they have all played into how we are bringing Star Raiders into this generation. We also wanted to give this version a bit more character by building a story arc for the player.

GS: How did you settle on the game’s art style?

JG: We wanted to have a style that balanced classic sensibilities with modern expectations, and we believe that we achieved that. You see elements of modern sci-fi realism merged with a strong focus on rich color.

GS: Could you give us some more detail on the game’s online modes? Are you planning any DLC?

JG: Players will be able to engage in various online modes, from team deathmatches to last-man-standing battles. They can also duel one-on-one, or play cooperatively against common enemies in a hostile environment. Plans for DLC are being discussed now, as the new Star Raiders universe is extendable in many forms.

GS: Thanks, Jonathan and Joel.

By Staff

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