LOS ANGELES--At this rate, next year's Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 Indiana Jones game may come out before the long-rumored fourth movie in the venerable action series. But if LucasArts can make good on all the smack it's talking about the technology and design it's implementing in the game, that'll be fine by us. We got to check out a really early tech demo-sort of thing at LucasArts' E3 booth to see the direction it's going in, now that the company has embraced next-gen development in a major way.
In short, Indy has a lot of promise, thanks to two underlying technical systems, Euphoria and a "digital molecular matter" materials system. These were developed in conjunction with third parties, and the former is an environmental awareness system that will let AI characters interact in ways like dynamically grabbing onto a ledge when falling. The latter simulates a wide range of materials realistically, though we didn't get to see nearly as much of this system in Indy as we did in the tech demo for the new Star Wars next-gen game, so be sure to go read about that early game as well.
We did see a whole bunch about Euphoria, though. The first part of the demo opened with Indy battling a bunch of thugs in a back alley of San Francisco's Chinatown. Initially, he dropped the first enemy with his whip by disarming the man's gun and then pulling his leg out from under him. But after that, we saw the Euphoria system in action when Indy threw the guy into a car, and the enemy used the bumper of the car to catch himself. Later, Indy set off a store of fireworks that blew apart a catwalk that an enemy was standing on, and this character barely managed to grab onto the edge of the catwalk and hang on for a second before falling to his death. None of these actions will be pre-scripted; they'll all happen based on a character's orientation in the environment, and even the exact same action performed multiple times will often produce different results.
We saw another part of the demo that featured basically the same sorts of things, in which Indy was on top of a cable car rushing down a San Francisco hill, with all sorts of thugs climbing up to get him. Again, these guys would plummet realistically from the top of the car when pummeled, and they'd occasionally grab onto something to keep themselves alive if at all possible. But even more impressive was a pure technical demonstration in which Indy was standing on a rope bridge--and the player could only control the bridge, not Indy. His Euphoria-controlled animation caused him to adapt to the bounces and rolls in the bridge by stumbling around to maintain his balance, and he even staggered realistically when he was pelted by a series of increasingly large rocks from the sky.
There's not a lot to know about the actual game here, yet, since LucasArts is keeping mum on the details for the time being. We do know it's set in 1939, about a year after the events of The Last Crusade, and that George Lucas has had some input into the storyline. However, the game will have nothing to do with the possible next movie; it's an original property with an original story, though it will feature some returning characters from past films.
We'll bring you more on Indiana Jones for the Xbox 360 and the PS3 as soon as LucasArts gives us the chance. Hopefully that will be soon, since we're really intrigued by the mention of all this new technology and are optimistic that it can add up to better games in the general sense. Stay tuned.