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Evil Genius Preview

Joe_Dodson By:
GENRE Strategy 
T Contains Comic Mischief, Suggestive Themes, Violence

What do these ratings mean?

A plan so evil, it just might work!

Some kids want to grow up to be firemen, doctors, astronauts, presidents or rock stars. They want fame, fortune and respect. They want to make a name for themselves, to etch their name in the history books by doing something unforgettable.

So why, then, doesn't anyone officially want to grow up to be an evil genius? Talk about instant fame! You could even study it in school - blend Sociology, Religion and Chemistry, then add a dash of Psychology and a side of Business. A touch of severe mental illness and uncharted megalomania would help, too.

Likewise, you could build a cool evil genius game if you combined the right ideas, which is exactly what Elixir Studios and Vivendi hope to do in the aptly-titled Evil Genius. This upcoming world domination simulation is a cross between the stylish stereotypes of classic James Bond villains and the classic game Dungeon Keeper, a splendidly nefarious project that lets you micro-manage your way to infamy. And thanks to a recent playable build, it's clear to us that micro-management, also known as plotting and scheming, can be great fun when done for the right, er, wrong reasons.

You may assume the role of the calculating and deadly Shen Yu, the beautiful but beastly Alexis, or Dr. Evil's other clone, Maximillian. Regardless of whom you choose, your goal is the same: build a doomsday device and destroy the world! Enter your own evil laugh here.

We chose to begin the game with Shen Yu, the imposing, imperious super-criminal turned secret-agent turned Evil Genius. Upon arriving at Shen's secret island, we were greeted by our right-hand-man, Lord Kane, and five workers. Shen immediately commanded the workers to begin hollowing out the mountain in the middle of the island, while Lord Kane patrolled for any unlucky civilians caught meddling in our evil paradise.

Building your secret lair in Evil Genius is easy and fun. The view is top-down, and the entire middle of the island is taken up by the base of a large mountain. An intuitive control scheme lets you design your evil base just as you'd like it, carving out evil rooms and placing various evil items with which to perform evil deeds.

Every command in Evil Genius is expressed by a tag. For example, a room that needs to be built will have a tag issuing up from it with a picture of a hammer striking. This means that a worker (who will be chosen from whatever pool of workers is available) has been assigned to build this room, and will do it as soon as he's collected the money and resources. If you want to halt construction on a room, you simply click the tag, then click the 'halt construction' command. A pause symbol will pop up to remind you that construction has been stopped.

This tagging system is very effective and makes it easy to take everything in at a glance. As opposed to opening windows and checking stats, you can simply sweep over your compound to see what's going on and how far along everything is coming. If you want workers to work faster, you can use your evil genius to raise the priority on the tag (if there are no workers available, one will be pulled from another task to do you bidding), or he can simply walk near workers to make them speed up. Everyone works faster when the boss is looking, right? If a worker insists on being lazy, or starts freaking out because he can't handle the strain, you can easily dispatch him with your genius to set an example for the other workers. Enter your own alternate evil laugh here.

However, if you want your minions to function efficiently, you'll need to take care of them. Minions have statistical needs, each of which has a corresponding room to replenish it. For example, the attention stat can be replenished in the staff room over a game of table tennis or a soda. Workers who work too long without play will bottom out in the attention area and wind up tripping your traps or failing to notice the presence of enemy super-agents.

Once you've built an evil base, it's time to start building your doomsday device, which requires money and notoriety. To acquire either, you must send your minions around the world to do your evil bidding. The handy world map is divided into five regions; you'll need to send minions to each of these and have them start stealing in order to get the cash flowing. This in turn will generate 'heat.' Each region has a police force, and that region's heat meter governs how hard each force is trying to foil your plans.

One of Evil Genius' most important balancing acts involves building money through crime and notoriety through Acts of Infamy, and then using social minions to reduce the heat. Acts of Infamy are huge crimes that usually result in lots of money, new technology, and heightened levels of respect among the world's criminal elite. However, these generate tremendous amounts of heat, so don't be surprised if some super-agents come knocking on your door after you shrink the Eiffel Tower and stick it in a jar.

The world's various law enforcement agencies will send all sorts of goodie-goodies to your island to investigate wrong-doings, steal your funds, or possibly even assassinate you. And you thought YOU were evil! So, you can build traps, train guards, and set up security networks to keep out the pesky Austin Powers wannabes.

The security networks are a fascinating example of Evil Genius' terrific gameplay integration. For example, you can build a security room and fill it with a security desk and a time clock. Then, you put security cameras in rooms with more important stuff (like power generators) and alarms in the bunkers and staff rooms where all your troops hang out. If a guard is sitting at the security desk and a burglar or secret agent tries to sabotage your generators, the camera will spot him, the guy at the desk will sound the alarm, and your troops will all run off to go kill the bad guy. You can even set the time clock to ensure that there's always a minion in the room to work the desk. Also, if a bad guy does manage to blow up one of your reactors and you aren't generating enough power to service every room in your base, you can use the time clock in the security room to shut off power to that room and allow the rest of the base to function normally. Very handy, very smart.

You may also lay deadly traps in anticipation of the hordes of do-gooders who will try and end your evil days, keep play-things around to seduce and distract soldiers and enemy agents, and build hotels and casinos for more revenue and a constant stream of potential prisoners. If you've seen it in a movie, it's probably in here.

Topping it all off is the slick presentation, from the bright colors and sexy, distinct designs to the excellent spy-music and voice acting. Plus, the preview build runs very, very well and doesn't seem to be a system hog, a rarity for a PC preview.

If it all holds up, Evil Genius should be the complete package. It's a great idea for a game with wonderfully integrated gameplay mechanics, slick style and tons of wit. So keep an eye on the Trouble Alert; Evil Genius is plotting to take over your computer this Fall...and that's no laughing matter.

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