TORONTO--Koei is a developer known primarily for action and strategy games set in ancient Asian regions, but the company is looking to add to that reputation in the next generation of consoles with Fatal Inertia, a new futuristic hovercar racer for the PlayStation 3. The game is in production at Koei's newly expanded Toronto development studio, and at an event celebrating the studio's opening, we got to take a look at a new trailer for Fatal Inertia and also nabbed some preliminary details about the unique phyics-based gameplay and game modes in this PS3 launch title.
Not much has been revealed about Fatal Inertia's premise, but we know the game will be set during the 23rd century and will place you in the role of a driver competing in a series of deadly, high-stakes races across a number of diverse locales. Considering this is a combat-racing game, that's probably all you really need to know before you jump into the action. The game's concept leans heavily on a physics implementation that will govern the movement of the cars, the effect of the weapons, and your interactions with the environment. During a presentation, lead designer Michael Bond discussed Fatal Inertia's physics-based gameplay, saying that the weapons and situations you'll find in the game will encourage you to both play creatively and come up with dynamic solutions on the fly to take out your competitors and to come in first.
Though the trailer does show the game's hovercars attacking one another with conventional weapons like machine guns, we're most intrigued by the possibilities of the physics-based weapons. You can see several examples in the trailer of possible weapons in the upcoming game, such as a detachable tow cable that stops a competing car dead in its tracks. You can also see an interesting weapon that creates a floating, elastic barrier in front of an enemy; when that enemy's car hits the barrier, it's bounced backward into the dirt of the canyon. Probably our favorite weapon in the trailer is a small rocket that attaches, via magnetic clamp, to an enemy car. Once the rocket ignites, it spins the car around and throws it wildly off course. Assuming the game's underlying technology is solid enough, these sorts of weapons should be limited only by the designers' imaginations. In discussing the physics implementation, Bond also talked about the interactivity of the environment. For instance, you'll potentially be able to destroy a rock wall at an opportune time to bring tons of stone crashing down in front of (or on top of) an enemy.
After talking about the top-level design aspects of Fatal Inertia, Bond grabbed a controller (a PS2 Dual Shock, if you're curious) and played through a brief, very early demo of the game. This was a simple level set in a canyon similar to the one seen in the trailer, and it merely tasked the player with navigating at high speed through a series of rings set up throughout the rocky course. In its current state, the game is certainly far too early for us to make any projections about its final graphical quality or gameplay, though it looks like the team is creating a solid underpinning for the game's madcap racing action.
Koei isn't talking specifics about the different sorts of game types you'll find in Fatal Inertia, since much of the game's design still exists only on the drawing board. But Bond did indicate during the presentation that the game will include a variety of multiplayer modes that will work online. But since Sony itself hasn't divulged any details about the PlayStation 3's online gaming options, we can only speculate how the multiplayer will be implemented. The game will also contain an extensive car-customization mode that will primarily let you change the cosmetic aspect of your car with new paint jobs and accessories, such as spoilers. You'll also be able to tweak the performance of your car in some small ways, though the under-the-hood customization won't be nearly as involved as your typical street racer.
From what we've seen of Fatal Inertia so far, Koei is well on its way to expanding its next-gen presence beyond the predictable new iterations of Dynasty Warriors and Romance of the Three Kingdoms. And putting out a futuristic hover racer is a pretty safe bet, as it certainly worked for F-Zero on the Super NES. But we've come a long way since those days, and Fatal Inertia sounds like it'll take good advantage of Sony's amazing new system. Fatal Inertia is scheduled to release at the PlayStation 3's launch--though exactly when that will be is anyone's guess. In any event, stay tuned for more in the coming months.