Since the dawn of video games, running around and blowing stuff up good has been a staple of the medium. Ever since man first blew up a space invader and was rewarded with a modest spray of pixels, the act of destruction has clearly been a good thing. As games have evolved over several generations of hardware, and, as they've become more in-depth, the simple act of blowing things up has become a bit more involved. In some cases, this has resulted in a loss of some of its basic charm, due to intricate controls or overly complex game design. Majesco's upcoming Blowout for the PlayStation 2 aims to walk the line between modern graphics and old-school gameplay. The game is being developed by Pipe Dream and marries detailed polygonal environments with side-scrolling gameplay that's reminiscent of some 2D classics. However, to keep the game fresh, some modern tweaks have been thrown into the mix. We had the chance to try out a preview version of the game that let us blow things up real good.
Blowout's story is a simple little tale that hearkens back to the good old days of "kill anything that moves" games. An elite platoon of mercenary commandos are dispatched to a space station that's been overrun by mutated alien parasites called "bugs." The team's goal is to take out the offending critters before they get to the station's control center and head into colonized space (apparently they know how to pilot space stations), where they'll threaten humanity. You'll assume the role of John "Dutch" Cane, an African-American soldier who, surprisingly, is not the first one killed when the team sets foot on the station. Dutch is, in fact, the game's hero and is armed with a small arsenal of weapons well suited to cleaning up mutants. You'll guide him through 18 levels, set in the space station, as you methodically wipe out the mutants.
The game's structure is one part Contra/Metal Slug action married with one part Castlevania exploration and item collection. It's an interesting mix that falls prey to some pacing issues, as you'll find extended segments of death-dealing broken up by searches for color-coded key cards, weapons, ammo, and assorted pickups. As you enter different areas of the ship, you'll find nodes that will upload sections of the map to your personal PDA. You'll find that accessing certain areas requires you to actually blow through the wall and ceilings of the space station.
Control in the game is pretty solid, although it's not quite intuitive. You move with the left analog stick, which also lets you adjust Dutch's aim, while clicking in the stick lets you lock his aim. R1 fires your weapons, and L1 lets you use Dutch's jump pack, which allows you to perform modest boost jumps to reach new areas. The circle and triangle buttons let you cycle through your weapons. The square button is an all-purpose action button that lets you interact with elevators and consoles you'll encounter. Finally, the D pad lets you direct the elevators you ride either up or down.
The graphics in the game are somewhat modest in scale, but they compensate with solid performance. The basic perspective is a side view, with occasional sequences that find you shooting at basic enemies or bosses in the background. This side view owes a tip of the hat to games like Konami's recent Contra. However, Blowout features quite a bit more lighting in its environments, which helps with the claustrophobic atmosphere. The creature designs are interesting, thanks to designs from Yasushi Nirawasa, whose work has unnerved players in such games as Soul Calibur, Deep Fear, and Enemy Zero as well as in films like Final Fantasy and Men in Black.
The audio is pretty good, making use of solid, albeit clichéd, voice acting and a nice assortment of sound effects. Dutch has a "Michael Ironside thing" going on with his delivery, which isn't a bad thing. His fellow marines are a bit peppier, which is a bit out of place considering the rampant death on hand. Said death is punctuated by a satisfying assortment of effects used for weapons fired from Dutch's in-game arsenal, in addition to the resulting explosions. The sounds used for robots and the assorted foes you'll be perforating on your adventures are on par with the other game effects and help set the mood.
From what we've seen so far, Blowout is coming together pretty well, albeit a bit modestly. The game looks good and plays reasonably well, once you sort out the control scheme. The overall pacing could use some tightening up to ensure that players won't be bored as they roam through the massive environments. The game is also slated to include a level editor--which wasn't included in our demo--that should liven up the game experience. Blowout is currently slated to ship this fall for the PC, PlayStation 2, and Xbox.