100 Bullets Updated Impressions

We take a new look at the gritty, comic-inspired action game from Acclaim Austin.

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We got to take an extended look at 100 Bullets, the new third-person action game from Acclaim's Austin studios that draws from the noir-style comic book of the same name. The premise of the comic book is a novel one. It focuses on a mysterious and shadowy figure named Agent Graves who finds people who have been horribly wronged by another person and presents them with a very interesting item: a briefcase containing evidence that the perpetrator committed the crime and an untraceable gun with which to kill the perpetrator. In other words, these people are presented with a difficult question: If you could get away with murder in order to exact revenge, would you do it?

Sound like a strange premise for an action game? 100 Bullets' creator, Brian Azzarello, agrees. He talked about the difficulty of adapting the sometimes slow-paced noir thriller into an entertaining video game and said the decision was made early on to move the game toward an action focus. You'll take control of two characters: Cole Burns, who hails from the book series, and Snow Falls, a new character created specifically for the game. Azzarello didn't want to divulge too much about the game's storyline but said that it will feature plenty of elements from the series that fans will expect. And of course, Agent Graves will, in some form or another, also be a prominent character in the game.

We got to see a fair amount of the third-person shooting that will make up the bulk of 100 Bullets' gameplay. Snow wasn't quite ready for prime time, but Cole Burns certainly was, as he blasted his way through some rough city streets, fighting off a gang of street thugs with an arsenal that would make Max Payne blush. There are a number of single-handed weapons--pistols and submachine guns, mainly--that you can use, and you can double up on any one of these John Woo-style for extra firepower. Plenty of two-handed weapons, like shotguns and machine guns, will also be available. You can back up against a wall and jump around corners to make quick shots, and you can also use a blind fire attack (as seen in Namco's kill.switch), which lets you spray bullets around corners at the cost of reduced precision. There's also a sticky crosshair that will keep your aim locked on a particular spot even as you strafe back and forth, which makes hitting targets while dodging easier.

What's most striking about what we saw of 100 Bullets' gameplay is the brutal way you can interact with enemies. There's a counterattack system you can use when enemies approach and attack you that will let you turn the tables and end them in some pretty graphic ways. There will be a lot of counterattacks available--we saw Cole grab a thug and slit his throat and knock another to the ground before blasting him coldly with a shotgun. You'll also be able to grab enemies and use them as human shields, and if they start to struggle, you can bash their heads into a wall to keep them submissive. Once you're done with the guy, you can execute him at the touch of a button. It's a little unsettling to watch, but that seems to be the point.

100 Bullets' graphics are still being worked on, and the version we saw featured pretty nice environments and characters. Afterward, though, we got a chance to visit Acclaim Austin's art department to see how some of the final levels will look after all the graphical touches, such as lighting and particles, have been applied. In its closer-to-final state, the game definitely impressed us a lot more, with extra details that made for a much more coherent ambience and gave the game more character. We saw one interesting sequence with a cool effect in which Cole regains some lost memory, and the grungy industrial area he's in dissolves smoothly into the casino scene that he's remembering. We'll be interested to see how 100 Bullets' visuals shape up as its October release date approaches.

The game's designers didn't show us everything today--they claim that an important and innovative gameplay mechanic exists in 100 Bullets that they're waiting until E3 to unveil. We didn't get any hints of what this might be, so we'll have to wait until May to find out what exactly they might be talking about. Even without this mysterious feature, 100 Bullets is looking good, and we'll bring you more updates on the game as they become available.

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