Crash Bandicoot: The Wrath of Cortex Hands-On
Everyone's favorite Bandicoot is now in the hands of Traveller's Tales, a development house known for its cartoon-inspired games. We recently had a chance to sit down with a pre-alpha version of the first PS2 Crash game.
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Crash Bandicoot is right in the middle of a transitional period. Not only does the charismatic mascot have to deal with his first PS2 game, but he also has to deal with a completely new developer. Naughty Dog Studios, the creator of the Crash Bandicoot series, is not developing the latest Crash Bandicoot game, Crash Bandicoot: The Wrath of Cortex for the PS2. Universal Interactive Studios, the company that owns the rights to the Crash series, has instead put the series in the hands of UK-based developer Traveller's Tales, a development house known for its cartoon-inspired games. We recently had a chance to sit down with a pre-alpha version of the game and see how the series is taking all the changes.
Crash Bandicoot: The Wrath of Cortex continues the storyline of the series. After suffering a horrible defeat at the hands of Crash in the last game, Uka Uka and Dr. Cortex regroup and rethink their strategy. Cortex has been hard at work building a vile secret weapon that will ultimately destroy Crash, but his progress has been slow and a bit disappointing. Cortex realizes that he needs something special to really aid him in his work, and that's when Uka Uka helps Cortex discover the ancient elementals. The four ancient elementals exists only to cause chaos, and they roam the world unleashing their devastating power in the form of monsoons, tornadoes, volcanic eruptions, and other natural disasters. Cortex deduces that if he can somehow harness the power of these elementals, he can use their energy to create a device lethal enough to do away with the orange-brown bandicoot altogether. It's up to Crash and his sister, Cocoa, to stop Cortex and Uka Uka by defeating the four elementals and then taking on Cortex and Uka Uka.
Crash Bandicoot: The Wrath of Cortex is spread across 30 levels, and it features several of the gameplay elements made popular by previous games in the series. Crash has all of his trademark moves, and he even sports a few new attacks. Additionally, the game features Cocoa as a playable character, and she actually moves through the world as a character in her own right, instead of simply being a quick departure from the standard gameplay as she was in the last game. The game will feature plenty of new vehicles, including a jeep, a mech, and an ultralight airplane. Traveller's Tales knows what Crash Bandicoot fans want, and it's working to deliver those experiences in The Wrath of Cortex. All the classic Bandicoot level designs will be present in this game, including the levels where Crash runs at the camera.
At this point, most of the levels seem like they're designed in 2.5D--similar to the levels in games like Klonoa. While the game features 3D graphics and levels that explore a 3D environment, the levels are still linear and force Crash to adhere to a certain path in almost every scenario. The levels do feature branching paths, so Crash can explore certain parts of the them at his leisure. Still, the game is definitely not an open-aired fully 3D platformer like Rayman 2 or Mario 64. The levels look very nice, even at this early stage, and they feature extremely detailed and colorful environments. The game has a slick cartoon feel to it, and it really jumps off the screen. At this point, the levels are only half-done at best, and most of the character animations are simply placeholders. Still, the game does look very good, and it promises to have the best-looking Bandicoots ever. Most of the sound effects aren't in the game yet, and there was no music, so we were unable to evaluate the game's audio.
Although there was some doubt in the minds of die-hard Crash fans when it was announced that Naughty Dog Studios wouldn't be working on the PS2 debut of Crash, from what we've seen, the loveable Bandicoot appears to be in good hands. The Wrath of Cortex is currently scheduled for a November 2001 release, and we expect to see more of the game at this year's E3.
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