At E3 2004, we test-drove this massively multiplayer shooter/role-playing game, which is headed to the PC and Xbox in 2005.
Citizen Zero, which is being developed by Australian game-maker Micro Forté, has been in the works for several years already. Not only is Micro Forté building the 3D engine for the game from the ground up but also the company has been working on the massively multiplayer networking architecture for Citizen Zero. Oh, and it's been making the actual game itself, too. The fruits of these substantial efforts are finally starting to come together, though, judging by the playable build of Citizen Zero that was on display at the 2004 Electronic Entertainment Expo. While Citizen Zero is still a way's off--the game apparently won't ship till the holiday season of next year--we got to take a good look at how it will combine pure shooting action with a massively multiplayer environment. The results look substantially different from other online games out there, so we're hopeful that development will proceed on course from here on out.
In Citizen Zero, players will assume the roles of ex-prisoners let loose in a colony world set up to give them a place to live--and a place to fight. This futuristic Australia scenario gives player characters the context to start their lives as powerful, gun-toting troopers who are ready and willing to take on mercenary assignments to make a buck. As with conventional online role-playing games, Citizen Zero will feature a character-class system based on the fundamental archetypes established by games like EverQuest. As a result, you can expect character classes that focus on heavy defense, heavy offense, the healing and augmentation of the powers of allied characters, and so on. However, the gameplay in Citizen Zero won't be the relatively slow-paced, pseudo-turn-based affair found in other online RPGs.
Citizen Zero will instead play like a pure third-person-perspective shooter. You'll view the action from over the shoulder of your player character, who'll need to take aim before firing at his foes in real time. Characters will have certain other abilities, such as using evasive diving maneuvers, throwing explosive devices or special drones, turning invisible, and more. The gameplay basically feels solid already. In fact, we were able to run about with several squadmates, firing at assorted targets and trying to stay out of their lines of fire. We played the Xbox version of the game, in particular, and it sported some fairly good looks, with detailed environments and powerful-looking characters and weapon designs.
What's interesting about Citizen Zero is that it will not be a pure player-versus-player-focused game. On the contrary, like in other online RPGs, much of the gameplay here will consist of finding player groups and then taking on various missions, which will pit players against computer-controlled opponents. Teamwork will be essential, and many of the player classes' weapons and abilities will be designed to augment one another. The developers cited the classic Quake mod Team Fortress as on of the main influences here.
Yet the key difference between Citizen Zero and your typical online multiplayer shooter is that Citizen Zero will let you play as a persistent character who gains experience levels, new abilities, and greater access to game zones. Different types of game zones will include cities (which will be safe havens for players), the wilderness, and mission areas. In the wilderness, players will be able to run off either alone or in groups to have at it. Missions will be more structured, and the developers are shooting to make these about 30 minutes in length, on average, so that a satisfying game session needn't be overly time-consuming.
Players will also be able to work for various factions and can gain standing with these factions at the expense of their standings with other groups. This is how some player-versus-player elements will figure into Citizen Zero. So, for instance, it may be possible for two different players to each be assigned to take the other out. Player-versus-player elements will be purely consensual, however, so Citizen Zero seems like it'll be more focused on cooperative rather than competitive gameplay--at least at first.
Currently the developers are feeling pretty good about where the action portion of the game stands, and they are fleshing out the role-playing elements so that Citizen Zero has plenty of depth and long-term lasting value. The game's got plenty of time left in the works, since it's not slated for release till late next year, so it seems as though Micro Forté has its work cut out for it. We're looking forward to seeing how Citizen Zero shapes up, since what we played and what we were told about the game certainly all seems interesting.
- Release Date: Canceled (US)