Alter Echo Impressions

We go hands-on with THQ's upcoming third-person action game for the PS2 and Xbox.

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We had some hands-on time with THQ's upcoming third-person action game Alter Echo for the PS2 and Xbox. The sci-fi themed action game will be on display at THQ's booth area at E3 2003.

In the game, you'll play as Nevin, a character equipped with a suit made entirely of a powerful alien substance that lets him morph into three different forms. Unfortunately, the substance has become sentient and resents the fact that humans have used it for their own devices--so the substance has taken a number of different forms as hostile monsters and has begun to threaten human settlements on the planet. Fortunately, your powerful suit will let you adapt to different situations; you'll be able to take three different forms: melee (which lets you attack your enemies with a sword), gun (which turns you into a large, robot-like creature sporting a huge mounted cannon in place of you head), and stealth (which turns you into a four-legged creature capable of pouncing on enemies and clinging to certain walls and objects).

THQ has changed the game considerably since we saw it last; most obviously, Nevin's character design has changed to show his face in melee form. However, THQ also conducted a series of focus tests on the game that showed that most players never bothered to change into Nevin's different forms, since the powerful melee form was sufficient. As such, the game has been rebalanced to include environmental puzzles, such as high walls that you'll be able to scale only in your stealth form. In addition, some of your enemies will be immune to certain forms of damage; for instance, if you encounter enemies that can't be damaged by the melee form's sword, you'll have to switch to either gun form or stealth form; each of the three will have numerous unique attacks that can be used in combination with each other. If you perform lengthy combination attacks, you'll fill up a special attack meter that will let you use a special ability unique to whichever form you're in; for instance, the stealth form's special power will briefly make you completely invisible.

You'll also have access to a time-dilation ability, which will let you briefly stop time and hammer on you enemies without fear of retaliation. Whether or not you successfully stops time depends on whether you can successfully match a puzzle-like series of arrows in the correct sequence. However, if you can pull off lengthy combination attacks, you'll also gain points towards unlocking new combination attacks as well. In some of the game's levels, you'll even have a computer-controlled companion who will follow you and join you in the fight. Alter Echo will have about 50 levels, each with different environments, puzzles, and enemies to fight. The game is scheduled for release later this year.

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