2K Games recently brought the latest build of The Da Vinci Code by the GameSpot offices so we could get a look at the progress of this puzzle-oriented game based on what must be the most popular novel of all time. It might surprise you that the game version of Da Vinci, in development by Getting Up house The Collective, isn't licensed straight from the upcoming sure-to-be-summer-blockbuster starring Tom Hanks and Audrey Tautou. Rather, The Collective has gone straight to the source to work with author Dan Brown in creating the familiar locations and events from the book--along with a handful of new ones to keep things fresh.
If you're a part of the rapidly dwindling percentage who hasn't read The Da Vinci Code, the story centers on one Dr. Robert Langdon and his attempts to chase a centuries-old conspiracy across modern-day Paris while trying to avoid meeting his own untimely end. Fittingly, at its core, The Da Vinci Code is basically an adventure game. You'll travel from one famous location to the next, investigating clues or crimes, outwitting the authorities, and hopefully moving closer to discovering the secret hidden in Da Vinci's masterworks.
To do this, you'll be able to enter "examination mode" when you arrive at a key element of a particular location, such as a dead body. In this mode, you can pan around the scene close-up and get a detailed description of various items, such as the arrangement of the victim's limbs and what it may mean to the greater mystery. While in examination mode, you'll often pick up particular clues that are essential to propelling the storyline along and exposing your next task or destination.
Of course, like any good adventure game, Da Vinci will offer an item inventory and plenty of puzzles that require you to plug in the right object at the right location. But from what we saw, the use of items to solve puzzles will go a little more in-depth than that. For instance, during our demo, Langdon received a business card from the story's female lead, Sophie Neveu. Only by selecting the card in the inventory and rotating it around could the player reveal the cell phone number Neveu had hastily scrawled on the back. The player then had to select a cell phone from inventory and actively dial in the number to establish contact. It's nice to see such a degree of interactivity in inventory puzzles, which can often be somewhat dry.
The game will also offer a visual database to help you out with some of the more complex puzzles. Essentially, all the interactions you have with other characters and all the data and clues you collect will be added to an appendix that you can then pull up at any time for reference. This basically just saves you from having to write down important stuff, but in a game where the puzzles often involve obscure anagrams or archaic alphabets, we'll take all the help we can get.
When you get tired of all the adventuring, there's some fighting to be had, though it's certainly not the focus of the game. As neither Robert nor Sophie is a champion street fighter, you'll want to approach each bad guy stealthily, which will let you pull off a sneak attack before you get into the mix. Once you engage in combat, you've got a "struggle" system to work with that lets you control how you grapple with the enemy. You can eventually enact a preset combo (with the button sequence shown onscreen) that will take the enemy out for good if you pull it off. And, of course, you'll want to move that body into the shadows as soon as possible, lest nearby forces of evil discover it.
The game's Robert Langdon may not look like Tom Hanks (nor Sophie like Audrey Tautou, sadly), but that doesn't seem to have affected its accuracy to the original story material, which is the important part anyway. The Da Vinci Code is due out in the middle of May--just a few days after the Electronic Entertainment Expo, in fact--and we'll bring you more on the game by then.