Evil Genius E3 2004 Preshow Impressions

Take over the world in the most diabolical manner possible in this comical and intriguing strategy game.

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On the surface, Evil Genius appears to be a combination of Dungeon Keeper and X-Com, but beneath this strategy game is a comical heart, inspired by the antics of Austin Powers and the humorous No One Lives Forever first-person shooter.

You'll play an evil genius out to take over the world, and you'll do so from your underground lair, hidden on a tropical island with a hotel resort that serves as a front operation. In addition to building your base, you'll train minions and henchmen to carry out devious missions in the world. You'll build elaborate traps to defend your base against commando raids and superagents.

We had a chance to check out Evil Genius at the Game Developers Conference, but at a pre-E3 preview event, publisher Vivendi Universal showed us some new features we hadn't seen before, such as the World Domination System. The World Domination System presents you with a map of the world and all the missions available to you. At first, you'll be limited in the number of missions that are available, but as you become more powerful and notorious, criminal organizations around the world will want to work with you, and you can pick and choose the missions that will further your goals.

Missions can include kidnapping; you can bring the victims to your underground lair to interrogate them in any number of amusing ways. Virtually every piece of equipment in your base has a secondary use as a torture device. For example, the giant blender in the cafeteria is big enough to stuff a person in it, and you can also place a captive in the organic research facility and watch them get beaten up by giant, mutant Venus flytraps.

The game's producers also showed us more of the elaborate traps and defenses that you can build to protect your base against intruders. In this case, there was a sensor to scan passing minions, and if one of them was an enemy agent, a series of jets would pick the agent up and blow him down the corridor and around corners before dumping him into Satan's Chimney, an incinerator.

If you capture an agent, you can try to brainwash him using any number of devices, including the brain-sucking machine that literally sucks the brain out. The brainless agent then wanders around like a zombie, and when the agent returns home he won't report anything suspicious, which will reduce the heat rating, or suspicion, from that faction. If you kill an agent, you'll want to dispose of the body, because the sight of dead bodies littering your base will make your minions especially nervous around you.

The game's producers told us that at this point they are now feature complete, meaning all the pieces of the game are in place. The focus between now and the release later this year is on polishing, play balancing, and bug fixing. Developer Elixir Studios especially wants to make sure that the game is intuitive and easy to play. Evil Genius should ship later this year.

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