One of the newer game developers to hit E3 was a company called Techland, based in Poland. Techland is one of the premier producers and distributors of games and multimedia in it's home country. One of the major features of this company is their Chrome computer graphics engine. Techland's Chrome engine supports many of the newer rendering techniques that are possible in this current generation of graphics cards, giving stunning detail in their videogames.
Techland highlighted two of its games on the show floor of E3: Call of Juarez and Specforce, both of which are variants on the first-person shooter theme. Also, both of these games use a derivative of their Chrome graphics engine.
Call of Juarez
Call of Juarez is an old west themed shooter that, according to Techland requires "A combination of both intelligent stealth and pure reflex shooting". In this game, you take on the role of two characters - a sneaky fugitive named Billy, and his hunter Reverend Ray. The plot revolves around the two playable characters, and hinges on their psychological and emotional relationship.
As far as the game goes, there is an emphasis on interactivity. The environment in Call of Juarez, including the smoke, can be interacted with in many ways. There is also a physics engine allowing for realistic simulation of ragdoll effects, wind effects, rigid body dynamics, fire/smoke and even liquid effects. A weather and daylight system was also introduced, adding a bit more to the realism.
Call of Juarez pays a lot of attention to detail, and it shows in the game's recreation of the American West during the gold rush. Everything from the landscapes, to the inclusion of the weapons used in the period creates an authentic feel.
The game itself plays out pretty well. In the opening part of the game, you take the hunter, Reverend Ray, into a small western town and are immediately confronted by several gun-toting adversaries. With the press of a button, you can move into something resembling bullet-time, allowing you to move around faster, and take out your enemies quickly. You're also allowed a weapon for each hand, allowing you to fire more rapidly using both the right and left mouse buttons.
In the demo that I played around with, the town looked really good in a graphical sense, and the soundtrack was pretty good as well. The gunfights were a tad challenging as well, as the AI never gave me any slack at all (unlike most other shooters, where they miss more than they hit). A lot of the gun battles in Call of Juarez seem to take place up close, so you must be quick, or you will end up dead. Watch for Call of Juarez in the first quarter of 2006.
Making it's way out of the past, the second game shown off by Techland takes place in the near future. Specforce is based on an enhanced version of Techland's Chrome engine, allowing the game's environment to include detailed models of vegetation, highly textured terrain, cinematic quality water effects, and totally realistic reflections and details.
The storyline of the game surrounds a special strike force of the Federal Expeditionary Corps (FEC), named the Specforce. The Specforce's main task is in dealing with crisis situations that violate the federal order, such as assassination, espionage, infiltration and enemy sabotage. Specforce soldiers are outfitted with the top of the line in hi-tech equipment and combat gear, and are the absolute elite of soldiers.
The actual gameplay comes in when the Specforce are called out to destroy a dangerous factory responsible for the production of an unknown stimulant. This stimulant has been the cause of an upsurge in aggression by various criminals and assassins. The factory that produces the stimulant is located on a planet owned and operated by the LorGen corporation. Since there are possible negative implications for LorGen, the Specforce must also try to collect as much data as possible about the corporation?s involvement in this factory.
After playing the demo in Techland's booth, I got the feeling that this game might be more than your normal first-person shooter. The inventory system was more realistic, sort of like the one used in Halo (you can't carry around 20 guns at once, you must be selective). Ammunition for your weapon also seemed to be limited by your inventory size. This creates a much more strategic style of gameplay when compared to the normal "shoot everything that moves" way of first-person shooters.
On top of this, you can also search the bodies of the enemies you kill for ammo, weapons and supplies, which usually takes more time than just running over a clip or weapon to add that to your arsenal. This is one more touch of realism that I think will be appreciated by those who are tired of all the "shoot first, ask questions later" shooting games. In Specforce, you must react and think, instead of just react. Specforce is shooting for a release date sometime this year for the PC.
On an overall level, Techland had some neat ideas on the table at this year's E3. I hope that these games truly live up to their potential in the crowded shooter market, so that they will not be just another drop in the bucket, but distinguished games.