Rising from obscurity.
It's easy to come away from E3 obsessed with the fancy-shmancy big name games, but the purpose of the convention isn't solely to showcase the high-profile titles destined for success. We at GR spend a good deal of time combing the show floor for sleepers, potential gems that for one reason or another aren't getting the hype they likely deserve.
At this year's show, one such game was found in the Majesco booth. It may not enjoy the wide-scale marketing hype of Halo 2, but Advent Rising might very well be the coolest game you've barely heard of…so start listening.
It is a time of galactic unrest. Humans are facing their greatest threat in the form of The Seekers, so called because they are seeking to eradicate humanity. What the name doesn't tell you, though, is that they're ten feet tall, ugly as hell and armed to the teeth. Fortunately, the humans aren't planning to sit back on the couch and watch their race get wiped out without lifting a finger. You play as Gideon, brother to a renowned fighter pilot and unlikely savior of the human race.
Luckily, Gideon has powers that make Neo look like Ms. Cleo.
Your adventure as Gideon will unfold throughout a trilogy of games being developed by GlyphX games, the first of which is Advent Rising. In case you think such a project would be too ambitious for game designers, consider that the story is written by an author any self-respecting gamer should instantly be familiar with: Orson Scott Card. Yep, the mind behind the legendary Ender's Game has turned his sights on a new kind of game; not only does Advent Rising look like it will kick ass, but we're pretty sure it's going to blow minds with insane action, detailed characters and an involving plot.
How involving? Well, at the completion of Advent Rising, your game will be saved for importation into its sequel. In this sense, decisions made in Advent Rising might have an effect in one of the later games. This kind of carryover is a gaming rarity, often only seen in high-quality PC RPGs (the game is planned for the PC as well), and should help foster the epic scope of the project.
In the playable Xbox demo we saw at E3, Gideon looked unstoppable. Using guns, grenades, a cool version of bullet-time and a couple powers straight out of the Jedi Handbook, Gideon is a lot tougher than his name implies. However, the devs assured us that Advent Rising isn't just a big, mindless action romp. Rather, it blends RPG elements and character development into the broth, allowing Gideon to gain new abilities and refine old ones.
But what clearly made the greatest impression during our time with Advent Rising was the action. The game is mostly played from a third-person perspective with first-person capabilities. By pressing a direction on the D-pad, Gideon can access a display of all his weapons and powers. Gideon may then highlight a weapon/power and press either the L or R buttons, thereby mapping the desired ability to the designated trigger.
From what we saw, this can lead to some wickedly cool combos. For example, Gideon can use a chargeable Push move (causing an awesome transparent ripple effect to issue from his hand) with the L trigger, knocking all the enemies before him back and off their feet. He can then immediately follow that up by lobbing a grenade with the R trigger, a one-two death punch.
The most impressive display of Gideon's power and Advent Rising's innovation involved an episode in which Gideon opened a door to find himself staring down a hallway full of enemies. Fortunately, the hallway was also full of huge windows, and Gideon already had a fully charged Push loaded. Unleashing the force wave from his palm, Gideon knocked all the enemies backwards off their feet and caused a massive force implosion which shattered all the windows. Before the bad guys could come to their senses, they were ripped to shreds by the ensuing torrent of glass. Bad ass.
If such action-movie heroics sound thrilling, then you'll have a heart attack when you see the sweet slow-mo sequences. You can jump up the air, slow down time and target enemies while in flight. Pull the trigger and Gideon will then reach for the gun strapped to his back in slow-mo, but as soon as his hand wraps around the grip, things slam into real time and Gideon instantly blasts the targeted beastie. Did we mention this game was a bit cinematic?
Other powers we witnessed included a super-speed ability that could be used to dodge attacks or charge at unsuspecting enemies, a Pull move that allowed Gideon to rip a weapon from an enemy's hands from afar, a ton of brutal melee moves and a few awesome machine guns and pistols.
While the gameplay is clearly the star of the show, the graphics are no slouch. Advent Rising runs on a modified version of the new Unreal Warfare engine, so expect plenty of eye-candy, not to mention liberal use of the built-in Karma physics system.
While what we saw was only a build, Advent Rising could someday
be part of the Xbox cannon of all-time great games for its tight visuals, intense
gameplay and epic plot. We'll
find out for certain when the game hits Xboxes and PCs in Fall 2004.