THQ held a press event in Denver this week to show off the latest build of New Legends. For those who haven't been following it, the game is essentially a deeper-than-normal beat-'em-up set in an altogether intriguing world--a near-future take on feudal China. You assume the role of Sun Soo, the eldest son of one of the empire's more powerful rulers. Your source of trouble is Xao Gon, a vile half-devil warlord responsible for ruining your kingdom, whose eventual designs include the wholesale invasion and/or enslavement of China. You'll presumably take on each one of his seven half-demon progeny as you make your way through China with the aid of, among others, a steadfast group of Mongolian rebels.
New Legends' gameplay heavily references both traditional beat-'em-up conventions and 3D fighting mechanics. You'll make your way through impressively large 3D environments, engaging in a variety of combat with Xao Gon's human and demon soldiers, as well as a generous helping of war machines. Facilitating this is an arsenal of weapons 21 strong, consisting of both melee and ranged weapons--ancient and modern. You're able to wield a combination of weapons in tandem, making handgun/melee weapon setups easily possible and highly effective. Certain weapons, though--such as staffs, heavy axes, and bows--will require the use of both hands, but their damage output usually compensates for this. When using weapons in tandem, you map each of them to either the X or B button, which lets you alternate attacks on the fly. You can slash an enemy twice and top that with a blast from your hand cannon, if you're so compelled, or else enter a gang of sword inputs for a huge multihit chain. In addition, weapons have combos associated with them, which, on top of presenting you with unique animations for every instance, lets you tailor attacks to given situations. The button inputs are very simple--they usually consist of X and/or B button presses, and each weapon seems to have roughly a dozen combos associated with it. If you've played Soul Calibur, the attack animations will likely be familiar to you. When Soo uses the Chinese longsword, his moves become whirly and loopy, Xianghua-style, and his bo staff antics are reminiscent of Kilik's, right down to the thousand-hit megapoke. You'll also have access to special chi attacks, which for all intents and purposes are textbook special moves. Your chi meter will gradually fill as you fight, and when it's full, you can execute the special. Inputting the command (hitting Y and B) will envelope you in blue particles and make your attacks more damaging. Once energized with chi, you can execute the special move--the actual effects vary depending on what weapon you're using, but the effect is always off the wall. The bo staff's super, for instance, causes dozens of replicas of the weapon to spring from the ground and assault your enemy.
The build we saw was looking fairly complete, and for the most part the fighting mechanics were pretty enjoyable. Enemies are never in short supply, and they seem to respawn at random, which is a very good thing. New Legends' environments are simply huge, and were it not for the packs of enemies hounding you at nearly every turn, you'd simply lack for things to do. The missions we played were definitely varied, but in truth, they all seemed to involve some kind of "seek the switch" objective or a variation thereof. Granted, these types of things get old, but since the enormous environments seem to be stages for the fighting of huge gangs of enemies, more often than not it's tempting to say that this is largely forgivable. Still, despite their grandeur and the throngs of enemies populating them, the environments seem pretty sparse in regard to both aesthetics and scripted gameplay opportunities. If there's any complaint about New Legends, it's the minimalism. The game is simply begging for either more atmospheric elements--graphical or otherwise--or something else entirely to fill those empty spaces.
The game still has a couple of months left in its development cycle, so there might just be a chance that these types of things will be added. At this point, it runs more or less satisfactorily. The frame rate stutters a bit--it varied between 30 and 60 frames per second--but it's nothing that optimization can't fix. There were enough sequences that exhibited something close to those, so either figure seems reasonable.
We'll be taking home some playable code, so we'll have a full preview for you very soon. Until then, check out the new media we've provided. New Legends is due out in the first quarter of next year.