Konami are a name which has for long been associated with a variety of very specific games, from Disney sports to Dance Dance titles and from Frogger to the atmospheric Silent Hill franchise. One very specific genre however, eluded them, the third person intense combat action game. Every chance they get, Konami are eager to remind us that Apocalyptica will be a non-stop, frantic action game.
Apocalyptica is scheduled for a September 2003 PC release with an XBox version following shortly after that. Interestingly the XBox version will support XBox Live and will feature support for up to eight combatants via the service.
In many ways Apocalyptica has the potential to become a Konami flagship title. It is ambitious and will attempt to create a unique, extremely coherent and very immersing world while drawing from real-world references and experience.
Produced by Konami's new European development studio and created by UK-based Extreme FX, Apocalyptica will have players putting their faith to the test as they confront malevolent bosses and divine forces of evil. The game's powerful proprietary engine has been specifically designed to allow players to experience swift, seamless free-roaming action and unforgettable combat sequences. Complete with challenging team-based quests and heart-pounding battles against enemy forces that are equipped with extremely advanced A.I., the game contains riveting gameplay that will keep players up deep into the night.
One of the most ambitious and unique aspects of the game is its storyline and setting. Although, as with most great titles, its theme is the classic struggle between Good and Evil, more precisely Good and Satan. The unique aspect is the creation of a Sci-Fi, Crusade like story and that the environments, characters and weapons all seem to tie into that story perfectly. Since past Crusades are sensitive subjects it is probably wiser not to attach that label to the game, even though the terminology does produce that effect and to simply describe it as a Sci-Fi game with strong medieval and Biblical influences. John Wildsmith, Research and Development Director at Extreme FX, describes Apocalyptica as the story of the ...eternal struggle between good and evil, God and Satan. In single player you and your team must battle with the evil forces of Neo-Satan across many game worlds, culminating in a battle with Neo-Satan himself.
Armageddon has been and gone. Having initially won, Satan was finally banished by the Lord's intervention. His return was feared but expected, now his time has come, meet... Neo-Satan, and his army of minions taking control of Earth, the Dark Lord's rule of the universe seems imminent. In a bold move to save the human race, an elite group of military heroes are recruited to infiltrate Satan's planetary strongholds and free the innocents from his control.
It is true that on-paper Apocalyptica sounds mighty interesting but reasonable doubts are quickly raised as to the possibility of implementing such a story while still maintaining its momentum. Can the worlds and gameplay of the game match the potential of the story? If the recent videos of the game, featuring some in-game action, offer any indication of what the finished product will be like, then the answer is a resounding Yes.
What seems to work in favour of Apocalyptica is the amazing way in which every feature of the story seems to tie-in with all of the gameplay aspects.
Apocalyptica's success at immersing the player in its storyline relies heavily on the representation of the various settings of the game. In order to achieve that the developers have created their own engine (more on that in the technology section of the preview), which has given them a great deal of flexibility and no doubt, a great deal of anxiety.
An example of the way the story ties-in with gameplay is this brief description of an Apocalyptica world. The first stage of the game is set on the planet of Jerusalem V. This section begins with the player in the desert surrounding the abandoned outpost of Zaraphiel. The objective of this level is to learn all the basic controls while looking for a way into the outpost. The outpost walls and gates are high and unassailable. The only way for the players to enter is by making their way to the entrance of a military base on the edge of the outpost that has been overrun by Neo-Satan's minions. Controversial terminology aside, reading this definitely sets you on your way to rid the world of Neo-Satan.
Apocalyptica offers players the option of saving the world from evil or ensuring that the forces of darkness prevail. With the fate of the free world in their hands, players must guide their character and three loyal soldiers, armed with an arsenal of weapons, through awe-inspiring worlds. Players will battle the enemy with three different attacks: firearms, melee weapons and spell-casting, in an effort to banish the evil forces and let paradise prevail, or vice-versa.
The player has a choice of four main character classes, each in two main variants - good and evil. There are 16 good variants and 16 evil variants. Which gives the player a total of 32 characters to choose from. Each character has a preferred weapon, special skills and weaknesses.
The Templars are an elite group of warriors highly trained in the arts of melee combat. They are masters in the use of swords but are slowed down, somewhat due to their elaborate, powered armour that enhances their strength and skills.
Nuns, with their mythical agility and scouting skills, the miracle working Seraphs and the tough cyborg firearm and computer experts known as the Combat Droids, complete the lineup for the side of Good.
On the opposite corner are the forces of evil with the Black Knights leading. They are former Templars, corrupted by Neo-Satan but who still carry most of the strong and weak points of their good counterparts. The aptly named Vamps are ready to devour gallons of innocent blood while the magically gifted Wraiths inspire fear in every decent heart in the universe. Finally the Ripper Droids are machines powered by the trapped souls of murderers and assassins.
Another remarkable way in which the game will attempt to create its own fan-base is through the introduction of a wide variety of weapons catering to all, gameplay and personal, tastes. The research and thought which has gone into these weapons is mind-boggling and a brief account of some of those is necessary in order to get you ready for the game. Although most weapons are being closely guarded as industrial secrets we have a description of some of the unique ones.
The Bible Basher - a favorite weapon of the Nun class of characters, fires homing missiles, which drain and extract energy from pages of the Bible. The so-called Templars are usually equipped with the Sword of Restoration, a very effective weapon that deals huge damage, draining the energy of its pray and transferring it to the Templar. While anyone carrying the Martyr Gun gets to fire grenades which, upon explosion, release the tortured souls of those slain in battle.
The game will be based on four levels or worlds. Jerusalem IV, a distant planet, SS Ariziel, a human spaceship, Nu-Hades, the remains of the earth and Hell itself were players will fight the mother of all battles. Each of the levels will climax with a fight with a powerful boss character while the fourth level boss will be none other than Neo-Satan himself.
As you would expect, the multiplayer element will be a strong aspect of Apocalyptica. Not many details regarding it though have been released. According to the developers they are... working on some rather interesting features for the multiplayer mode, to make it addictive and appealing to every gamer. It has however, been announced that the game will support Microsoft's XBox Live service offering the chance for up to 8 players to fight it out.
In order to implement the ideal of complete immersion and intense action the developers of the game have had to forgo the luxury of using a tried and tested engine and have opted for the use of an internally developed one. Even though daring, such a move is the only way to go if you are set on delivering an experience which you wish to honestly describe as unique. The engine designed for Apocalyptica, named Evolution, had two main objectives. To create graphically stunning worlds which would follow the story and engage the player during the game and to allow developers to tailor every visual aspect of the game to their needs. According to Extreme FX the use of a proprietary engine has allowed them to keep control of the feature set and implement the ones important to our title. Aside from the impressive visual capabilities Apocalyptica is controlled almost entirely by run-time compiled scripts meaning almost every aspect of it is open to modification by us as well as third parties. This last statement suggests that the whole project will attempt to attract modifications and create a full community in its wake.
No new game, claiming to be as ambitious as Apocalyptica is claiming to be, can survive without some form of innovation in the AI department. The time of mindless bad guys running at you blindly is well and truly gone. It seems that will be every bit as complex as it is dark. This is a brief description of the, again, in-house development of the AI system.
Our A.I. solution makes extensive use of simulated neural networks, the connectivity and weighting of which are derived from genetic traits carefully chosen for this type of game style. I'm not sure but that may actually mean that the bad guys may be smarter than most gamers.
Expect Apocalyptica in September 2003. Follow the screens tab above for more full size screenshots of the game and the download tab for links to videos of the game.
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