Cowering behind cover isn't a concept that most PC gamers are familiar with. Surely, in certain realistic first-person shooters you're required to seek cover. But once you're there, there's not much that you can do. However, seeking cover is at the heart of kill.switch--an action game from Namco that originally appeared on consoles. Publisher Hip Games is bringing kill.switch to the PC, and the new version, like the original game, will be all about battling the odds by seeking--and then shooting from--cover.
The premise behind kill.switch is pretty interesting; you do not play as the soldier on the screen but rather as someone who is controlling the soldier like a puppet via an advanced neural link. Basically, over the course of the game, you have to battle your way through gritty urban environments to achieve your objectives. Since you're controlling a one-man army, you have to rely on cover to give you protection while you blast enemies using an assortment of realistic weapons.
The game is played from a third-person, behind-the-back perspective. Using the controls, you can sidle against walls, peek and shoot around corners, pop up and shoot from behind cover, and even shoot blindly when enemy fire is too thick. When you shoot blindly, your character will poke his rifle out from behind cover and pull the trigger without looking. Though obviously not as accurate as regular fire, it can force the enemy to seek cover and reduce the pressure on you. When you're being shot at, you can also use the space bar to dive and roll for cover, which also makes for a nice dramatic effect.
Naturally, the levels in kill.switch offer all sorts of cover, from abandoned cars sitting in the middle of the street to collapsed walls, not to mention countless corners to peek around. Many of the early levels resemble areas from the Middle East, and with the heavy firefights, they feel reminiscent of many of the urban combat scenes from the movie Black Hawk Down. You can also use the enemies' mounted weapons against them; for example, if you knock out the gunner on a technical (a small, four-wheeled car with a machine gun mounted in the bed), you can then use it against a wave of incoming enemies.
The AI enemies can actually perform the same moves you can; so many times you'll find yourself in a firefight with opponents who are also ducking behind cover. They'll peek around the corner to shoot at you and will even shoot blindly to keep your head down. Weapons in the game include the M4 carbine with the attached grenade launcher, the AK-47 Kalashnikov rifle, the AKU submachine gun, and a sniper rifle. Automatic weapons do have barrel climb; if you fire continuously, the recoil will tilt the barrel of your gun upward. Switching between weapons is easy; you can just use the mousewheel to scroll between your weapons, like in most PC shooters. You can pick weapons up from fallen enemies, which is the primary way you'll replenish your ammunition supply.
Aside from higher-resolution graphics and a keyboard/mouse control setup, the PC version of kill.switch doesn't really seem to have any new PC-specific features, such as multiplayer (like the console versions, the game is single-player only). The PC version will support resolutions up to 1024x768, which means the game will look a lot sharper than the original console versions. We did notice that some areas of the game seem to have frame rate issues, especially with lots of opponents firing onscreen; the game's camera also seemed to have issues adjusting to the close confines of indoor battles, though these issues will hopefully be smoothed out in the final game.
The game's control scheme has been adapted to the familiar WASD controls used in most first-person and third-person action games for the PC. A quick tutorial at the beginning of the game gets you up to speed on how to use all the special cover controls. The PC version obviously benefits from having a mouse, which is more responsive and more accurate than a console controller's D pad or analog sticks, for targeting. In the console versions of kill.switch, cover was extremely important to buy time in order to lock on and shoot hostiles. The mouse makes that task a lot easier. However, if the default difficulty setting is too easy, you can play the game at a harder difficulty level to compensate. The PC version uses the console version's save-game system; you'll be able to save only at the beginning of levels and at certain checkpoints. If you die, you'll have to restart at the beginning of the level.
Overall, kill.switch seems to be a fairly straightforward translation of the console versions of the game, right down to the menu screens. You can expect to see kill.switch ship next week.