At a recent Sammy Studios press event, we were among the first people to get hands-on with a multiplayer build of Iron Phoenix. Currently in development at InterServ International, Iron Phoenix is a fighting game in which up to 16 players armed with various melee weapons will be able to do battle simultaneously. Unlike most fighting games, your abilities in Iron Phoenix will be determined by the weapon you're holding rather than your choice of character--much like a first-person shooter.
The large levels in which Iron Phoenix's combat takes place are reminiscent of those you might expect to find in a first-person shooter, and we got to explore two of them during our time with the game. Dragon Valley was a large exterior locale surrounded by cliffs with rock columns to scale, and a huge hollow statue of a dragon that concealed numerous power-ups. Great Wall, on the other hand, was set within the confines of a large fortress, and pits and walls covered with deadly spikes were among its most memorable features. Both of the maps were big enough to accommodate a full complement of 16 players, and both afforded us ample opportunity to try out some of Iron Phoenix's "wire-fu" moves, which include being able to run along and up walls, hang on to walls indefinitely, and glide through the air for a short time. The movement controls were extremely easy to pick up (dash and jump are the only buttons you'll need to perform all kinds of acrobatics), and it wasn't long before we felt like we were ready to jump into a 16-player battle.
While negotiating the large maps in Iron Phoenix was very intuitive, we found that the combat in the game certainly will take a lot longer to get the hang of--no matter which of the nine weapon types you have equipped. Vertical and horizontal attack buttons are complemented by a block command on the left trigger, a throw command on the black button (used for throwing dangerous stuff at enemies, and vice versa), and an action menu that, when accessed via the right trigger, allows you to activate any "relic" power-ups or additional weapons that you've collected. You'll also be able to perform a number of different special moves that are activated by two or three buttons simultaneously or, in some cases, by tapping the analog stick in a couple of directions and then pressing two or three buttons. Most of the special moves in your arsenal, incidentally, will only be available to you when your chi bar (which appears alongside bars for health and stamina) has reached a certain level as a result of you attacking opponents.
You'll need to master locking onto your enemies with the right analog stick in order to be effective and successful in battle. When you lock onto an enemy, your attacks will automatically be targeted at them, and the camera will do its best to keep both you and your enemy in the picture at all times. In the unfinished preview build that we played, the camera really seemed to be having a hard time keeping up with the action at times--particularly when we were performing various acrobatics in an attempt to avoid enemy attacks. The camera was doing its job adequately for the most part, though, and it will certainly have been improved by the time Iron Phoenix ships to stores next year.
Iron Phoenix is certainly an intriguing and innovative title, but it remains to be seen whether or not a first-person shooter that's played from a third-person perspective, and almost exclusively with melee weapons, will prove to be greater than or even equal to the sum of its parts. We'll bring you more information on the game as soon as it becomes available.