Bloody Roar Extreme Preview
Hudson and Konami bring animal fighting action to the Xbox.
Hudson's Bloody Roar series, first introduced in 1997, has offered a very distinct alternative experience in the 3D fighting genre. Unlike the Virtua Fighter or Tekken franchises, the Bloody Roar games have offered very fast and flashy arcade-style gameplay. The third installment in the series, Bloody Roar 3, has been evolving since it was first released on the PlayStation 2 in 2001. The game underwent some retooling and was renamed Bloody Roar Primal Fury when Activision released it for the Nintendo GameCube last year. History looks to be repeating itself in 2003 as Konami aims to release another version of the game that has been tweaked and renamed Bloody Roar Extreme for Microsoft's Xbox this year. The latest incarnation of the game features all the improvements added to the GameCube release and some new Xbox-exclusive additions as well. We had the chance to check out a build of the game to see how it was coming together.
The game's premise still focuses on the various "zoanthrope" fighters, humans subjected to a variety of experiments by the Tylon Corporation in order to create warriors that have a combination of human and animal traits. Having brought down the corporation in Bloody Roar 2, the various zoanthropes are trying to go about their lives--although it's always a bit hard to go "civilian" when you can morph into a humanoid animal. In Bloody Roar Extreme all the characters are participating in a contest put on by King Orion, who is funding research to discover the secret of the zoanthropes' morphing ability. While there isn't a huge emphasis on the game's story, it is dealt with in a short intro sequence, which gives you a rough idea of what's going on, and in the Xbox-exclusive CG endings for each character when you finish the arcade mode with them.
If you're familiar with Bloody Roar Primal Fury on the GameCube, you'll notice that Bloody Roar Extreme offers all the new modes and characters that were added to the original Bloody Roar 3 game. You'll find the standard arcade and survival modes along with time attack, team battle, and training modes. You'll also find a versus team-battle multiplayer mode in addition to the standard versus mode. The game will also have a few hidden modes that will be unlocked by playing through the different available modes.
You'll find the same mix of old and new in Bloody Roar Extreme's roster and stages. You'll start the game with 14 characters--12 familiar faces and two newcomers. Chronos the bird and Ganesha the elephant are two new faces that were unlockable characters in Bloody Roar Primal Fury. Each character will have two new original outfits for the game as well. In addition to the sizable roster of fighters, Bloody Roar Extreme will feature a new character exclusive to the Xbox. The game's nine stages reuse the old and new locales seen in Bloody Roar Primal Fury. The aircraft carrier, the building rooftop, and the back alley are remodeled environments used in the original Bloody Roar 3. The other six backgrounds--a Chinese temple, an aquarium, a freeway at night, an Indian palace, a laboratory, and a Japanese castle--are original rings brought over from Primal Fury.
The core gameplay in Bloody Roar Extreme stays true to the mechanics seen in the previous games. The characters have the same move sets and handle the same as in Bloody Roar Primal Fury. You'll be able to move your character with the left analog stick or D pad. You'll use A to kick, X to punch, Y to block, and B to trigger your beast transformation. The left and right triggers will let you sidestep and circle your opponent, which is a valuable technique in a fight. Finally, the black button will trigger hyperbeast mode, which can be activated at any time during a match. The move powers up your beast form, generates a portion of your health, and allows for some devastating super moves. The catch to the move is that each hyperbeast transformation reduces your maximum health, which keeps the move from being abused in battle.
The graphics in Bloody Roar Extreme are solid but don't offer a tremendous improvement over what was seen in the GameCube game. The large remodeled characters have been tweaked a bit and offer cleaner overall detail, but you won't be blown away by them. The various stages are along the same lines of quality and sport detailed textures. You'll see solid lighting that offers a range of effects from the subtle glow in the Japanese temple to the dramatic flashes in the laboratory. You'll also see a host of special effects used for the characters' unique attacks and animal transformations. The game's camera can wind up in some disorienting angles in the heat of battle, but it's not any worse than the previous entries in the series. The frame rate in our build of the game stuck to a pretty solid 60 frames per second, which helped keep the pacing of fights pretty smooth.
The audio in Bloody Roar Extreme is probably the most uneven aspect of the game's presentation. The character voices and animal sounds are a bit grating after extended play. The game's soundtrack follows suit with a bland collection of generic rock tunes that certainly had us wishing for the option to use custom soundtracks in the game. The sound effects, on the other hand, are the strongest element in the game thanks to a satisfying assortment of blows.
From what we've seen so far, Bloody Roar Extreme is shaping up to be a solid entry in the 3D fighting genre. Where else can you pit an enormous rabbit against a chameleon in one-on-one combat? The game is fast and reasonably fun and features solid visuals and control as well as a few extras not found in its GameCube cousin. Fans of the series or Xbox owners looking for a change of pace from the 3D fighters already available for the platform may want to check the game out when it ships late next month.
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