Dead Rush E3 2004 First Look

Activision and Treyarch unveil a new action game with some fresh twists.

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Dead Rush is a new game from veteran developer Treyarch and Activision that puts a fresh, albeit undead, twist on the action genre. You'll play as Jake Walker, a slightly confused average Joe who's having a pretty bad day. He wakes up on a beach in a wetsuit with a bag of supplies, a weapon, and not even the faintest clue about who he is or what he's doing there. To complicate matters, you find that the nearby town of Eastport is currently being racked by earthquakes as well as hordes of evil creatures and the living dead. This, of course, makes for quite possibly one of the crappiest days anyone's ever had. It's bad enough you'll have to figure out what the hell's going on around you, but the added hassle of trying to stay alive really makes things harder than you'd like them to be. While this all sounds like a perfectly fine setup for a standard survival horror game, Dead Rush is anything but standard. We had the chance to get an early look at the game and were impressed by the new spin Treyarch is putting on the game. Much like the new Dawn of the Dead or 28 Days Later have put up a fresh twist on typical zombie films, Dead Rush offers a unique approach to its familiar premise.

The game's story is as much of a mystery as your memory loss at the start of the game. Once you've gotten your bearings on the beach and have rummaged through your sealed bag of supplies, you'll find the one piece of equipment that will wind up being as valuable as your gun: a radio earpiece. The transceiver puts you in contact with Cass, a young woman who is part of a ragtag band of survivors. Your relationship with her will evolve as you progress through the game and find out what the heck is going on.

The gameplay in Dead Rush is a slick melange of mechanics we've seen before, but Treyarch's combination of them makes for a fresh new experience. Your experience in Dead Rush will switch between third-person action on foot and behind the wheel of a car. When you're on foot you'd expect the game to play like Resident Evil, but it doesn't. While Dead Rush certainly has some elements in common with Capcom's classic franchise, the game plays more like a third-person shooter such as Freedom Fighters. You'll have access to a nice array of weapons such as machetes, chain saws, shotguns, and grenade launchers (which you can use to blow zombies apart piece by piece). An unlikely component of your arsenal will be flares--light is deadly to the undead, as you'll discover.

While the on-foot action is looking solid in Dead Rush, the other major element to the game is its driving mechanic. As we've mentioned previously, Eastport's recent population explosion has resulted in an overly generous helping of zombies and demonic creatures that make traveling on foot a bad idea. Thankfully, Treyarch is letting you commandeer cars to get around, anything from muscle cars, buses, and military vehicles, to SUVs and sedans. The driving mechanic manages to walk the fine line between cinematic visuals and playability. As you drive, every critter known to humankind will try to impede your journey, so plan on having to do a good amount of shooting. However, your gunplay won't impede your driving, thanks to a unique autotargeting system that lets you lock your aim to the right, left, front, or back of your car on the fly. The system auto-targets enemies in the zone it's locked onto. The accuracy of your shots will depend on an enemy's proximity.

Due to your reliance on your car, and the zombie predilection to destroy it, your wheels will take damage and become inoperable. However, you'll be able to salvage pieces from other cars to fix your own. We're a little curious as to how you'll be able to safely harvest parts from other vehicles with all the zombies making the rounds, but still, it's a neat idea that should make for some stressful times.

Although the game is still far out from release, Dead Rush's presentation is coming together nicely. The graphics are looking sharp because of an original engine developed by Treyarch. Thanks to the veteran developer's experience in making a variety of games, the tech heads over at Treyarch know a thing or two about getting an impressive amount of performance out of hardware. The city of Eastport is a massive free-roaming environment that is designed for you to explore. Granted, exploring is not the best idea, given the town's zombie and demonic creature population, but the option is there. Treyarch reps demoing the game stated that you'll only see the game load once; after that it will stream everything in--not a bad feature to have given its pacing and the size of the environments. The game's polygon budget is respectably high and pumps out detailed character models, which is especially important given your ability to blast limbs off the undead. The number of characters we've seen onscreen at once has also been impressive considering the speed of the action. The audio in the game is still pretty early. We heard some pretty convincing engine and gun noises along with respectably unsettling cries from your foes.

From what we've seen so far, Dead Rush is shaping up to be a promising title. The game's fast-paced action feels right. At the same time, the varied gameplay gives its familiar premise a fresh twist. Dead Rush is currently slated to ship in 2005 for the GameCube, PlayStation 2, and Xbox.

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