Minority Report Preview

We check out Activision's upcoming Xbox action game based on the Dreamworks film.

Based on the DreamWorks film of the same name, Minority Report is a third-person action game that blends traditional puzzle-solving and exploration elements with fighting and flying sequences based on the events in the movie. The game is being developed by Treyarch, a subsidiary of Activision, and that fact has benefited the game's development in two major ways. First, Activision's close working relationship with DreamWorks provided Treyarch with access to production materials and movie footage that has served as a useful reference over the course of the game's development. Second, Treyarch has been able to use a tweaked and modified version of the graphics engine featured in its Spider-Man games from earlier this year to create a distinct look and feel for Minority Report. After getting a brief look at the game a few weeks ago, we've finally been able to get hold of a build of the game for the Xbox and play through a few levels to see how everything is coming together. Sporting impressive visuals and solid controls, Minority Report is shaping up to be a capable action game for the Xbox.

This Jon Anderton may not look like Tom Cruise, but he still kicks butt.

The game puts you in the role of Precrime Officer John Anderton, a police officer of the future who has it pretty easy. Thanks to the use of three genetically altered humans whose power of precognition lets them see crimes before they happen, Anderton's life is pretty plush. The three precogs kick it in a fluid tank, having visions and supplying Anderton and his fellow officers with the names of perpetrators and victims, video imagery of crimes, and the exact time everything happens. The Precrime division then uses the information to arrest the individuals involved to ensure the crime doesn't come to pass. Unfortunately, Anderton's life takes a turn for the worse when he ends up being accused of committing a crime and has everyone he's worked with turn on him. While the premise is the same as one used in the movie, the game heads off in a direction in order to offer a more compelling game experience. Your goal will still be to clear Anderton's name, but your journey to do so will differ from the events of the movie.

The game's structure is linear, sending you through a series of levels that will vary according to the game's unfolding story, which is told using real-time cutscenes. Each level will feature objectives to complete and offer an assortment of power-ups to collect and secrets to find. As you'd expect, your life as a fugitive bent on clearing your name will be fraught with danger. You'll have to deal with hazards in the environments, as well as a plethora of hostile characters who will require a good beating. As mentioned, you'll be doing quite a bit of exploring on your road to redemption. In some cases, your search will require you to deal with fairly simple puzzles, such as finding an alternate way through a level when a door is blocked or tracking down a switch. Outside of the exploration and puzzle solving, you'll have the chance to engage in hand-to-hand combat and, on certain levels, use a jetpack to get around. The hand-to-hand combat is solid, thanks to a simple but accessible fighting system that offers a decent amount of combos to use. The jetpack is cool to use, although it does take some getting used to. Fortunately, the game features a tutorial option to help you learn the ropes.

You'll find a host of crazy visual effects in the game.

Minority Report controls pretty well using the Xbox controller. You'll move Anderton with the left analog stick and use the right stick to move the game's camera. The A button triggers a quick attack and will also fire your weapon if you have it out. The X button executes a strong attack that is slower but more powerful than the quick attack. The B button will command your character to grapple or block, depending on the situation. The Y button will let you jump, the left trigger will let you crouch, the right trigger will draw your weapon, and the D pad will cycle through your available weapons. Anderton has an array of standard 3D action game moves at his disposal. He can catch onto ledges, shimmy along pipes, and crouch low to the ground to get by obstacles. As you progress through the game, you'll find money that you can use on the black market to buy new combos, permanent and temporary upgrades, and a pleasing arsenal of weapons that will affect how you play the game.

When your fists aren't enough, use a gun--they're handy.

Minority Report's presentation is shaping up well on the Xbox. The game's graphics engine does a fine job of creating large, detailed environments with plenty of destructible elements. The levels we played ran the gamut from cramped interiors to open areas that had us crawling along the side of a building or zipping around with a jetpack. You'll be treated to an eye-pleasing batch of special effects in the game to simulate the cold air in a freezer and the shots from Anderton's various weapons. The character models are well done, the various enemies, both human and robotic, feature clean detail and decent animation. However, there's no mistaking who the star of the show is--Anderton's model sports the greatest amount of detail. He looks nothing like Tom Cruise, which was a conscious decision on Treyarch's part. Minority Report's frame rate is pleasantly high and pretty stable overall, though there are a few hitches here and there. Hopefully Treyarch will be able to tighten things up before the game ships. The game's audio is coming together pretty well, and it features decent voice acting and good ambient sound in the levels. The game's score does a good job of setting the tone and complementing the action.

Judging from what we've played so far, Minority Report is coming together pretty well on the Xbox. The game's graphics and gameplay are solid, and while it differs from the film a bit, it seems to work out well enough. The most compelling elements in the game seem to be the fighting and jetpack sequences, which were very fun. The exploration and puzzle-solving elements were fine albeit fairly unoriginal. In some ways, the game reminded us of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, without the vampires. Minority Report is slated to ship this November for the Xbox, GameCube, and PlayStation 2.

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