Eidos has provided us with some fresh new Eve of Extinction code. It had been quite a while since we'd seen the game in action, so we were pretty interested in seeing how it's developed since our last run. The game essentially is a 3D beat-'em-up, woven with some pretty hearty adventure elements. Your character steadily gains proficiency in a number of weapons as you progress through the game, which adds segments to the attack combos he performs while using them. There is a fairly impressive combat system in placewhich takes advantage of your character's unique weapon: it's called the Legacy Drive, and it's made up of all kinds of wondrous materials, allowing it to change its form at your will. Thus, you could be beating someone with a staff one second and with a two-handed sword the next.
Eve of Extinction is being developed by YUKE's, the studio responsible for various wrestling games, as well as the slick manga-based Dreamcast brawler Sword of the Berserk. The game is set in the near future, and it stars Josh Calloway, former employee and bio-enhanced agent of Wisdom Inc. Wisdom Inc. is a huge multinational company whose endeavors include, among other things, genetic engineering and weapons development. By creating superhuman armies and soul-powered weapons, Wisdom hopes to put a stranglehold on the world's militaries, a move that, no doubt, would change the world for the worse. Josh Calloway wanted nothing to do with this, so, with his lover Eliel in tow, he bolted from Wisdom HQ. Eliel was captured by agents of Wisdom, however, and suffered a pretty grim fate: Her soul has been used to power a Legacy Drive and has granted that particular model some especially nice powers. Fortunately, Josh ends up with the Eliel-powered weapon and thus begins his quest to expose and ultimately destroy the madmen behind Wisdom Inc.
If you've played Sword of the Berserk, you'll find Eve of Extinction's pacing pretty familiar. Remember how cutscene-heavy Berserk was? Well, EOE seems right in that vein, especially during the game's introductory sequence. Though it serves a tutorial purpose, you'll find that the action is halted quite frequently throughout the game's first hour. These quasi-cutscenes serve the purpose of instructing you on the basics of interacting with the world--how to hit switches and open doors, for instance. Those who feel confident in their grasp of basic gaming conventions can skip these at will, though anyone new to third-person 3D gaming will surely appreciate the hand-holding.
Even after the initial tutorial, though, the cutscenes are ladled on pretty heavily. Oftentimes, Eliel's voice--projected telepathically via the Legacy Drive--will tell you which paths to take. Other times, the cutscenes will be purely expositional in purpose. Eliel's presence serves as a pretty neat in-game help system, though, and because the levels are for the most part nonlinear, you could perhaps find yourself lost and needing a bit of guidance.
Combat is definitely Eve of Extinction's strong point, however, and in that respect, the game seems definitely to be headed in the right direction. As mentioned before, the Legacy Drive is able to shift into a variety of different melee weapons--swords, axes, nightsticks, bo staffs, and more--and as you become more proficient with each weapon's style, your combos will get longer. You gain experience, as you've probably deduced, by beating up enemies, the points for which are applied to the weapon type you're currently using. Get enough points, and you'll gain experience levels in these weapons. It doesn't end there, though--if you switch weapons midway through a combo and input an attack command with the new weapon before the previous attack ends, you'll be able to maintain the string of attacks with the new weapon. As you progress through levels and your weapon skills improve, stringing together chains with several different weapons becomes a total possibility. Overall, this is a very cool fighting system, especially given that EOE isn't a pure fighting game. To be honest, the only flaw with the system is its button layout--you have to hit the R1 and L1 buttons to scroll through your weapon forms, so you're rarely able to access weapons that aren't immediately adjacent to the one that started the combo. Still, given that each weapon has two possible variants--one on either side of it--using one of those as a "link" with which to reach others farther away doesn't seem too bad.
In terms of layout, everything is pretty functional. You get two attacks, which are mapped to the square and circle buttons, and you can jump with the X button. The triangle serves as your "action" button, which, depending on what you're equipped with, executes a different action. For instance, when you're unarmed, you'll get a "switch-flip" animation, and when you're equipped with the bo staff, you'll get a neat pole vault. Some of the weapons you get access to later on will no doubt come with other such unique properties.
EOE, in all, is shaping up to be a pretty interesting action game. It runs supersmooth, and its premise is amusing, to say the least. The fighting system, too, seems pretty robust, and its environments are large and varied enough to keep things from feeling like a guided tour. Our only gripe right now is with the camera, which has a tendency to oversweep during some battles. Free-roaming cameras in 3D melee-combat-oriented games are generally a problem, though, so we really hope that EOE manages to refine this aspect a bit.
In any event, we'll have more on this one very soon. Keep your eyes on this space for an update.