Deadly Creatures Updated Hands-On

We explore the arachnid-infested underground labyrinths where only the strongest survive.

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Nature can be cruel, but at the same time it can be downright fascinating. You don't have to be a fan of creepy crawlers to at least be curious about whether a tarantula would survive against a scorpion, or a rattlesnake. If you find yourself drawn to nature shows in which you watch aggressive critters with six or more legs wrestle to the bitter end, then Deadly Creatures should have plenty of fights for you to feast your eyes on. Like a nature documentary, the game follows a nimble tarantula and a deadly scorpion as they travel through dangerous subterranean channels beneath the desert to a man-made wasteland. But on top of the day in the life of two arachnids, there is also an overarching story about two men (voiced by Dennis Hopper and Billy Bob Thornton) told in a film noir Coen Brothers style, who are searching for something--or someone--in the arid desert.

That tarantula has a spring in its step.
That tarantula has a spring in its step.

In our previous hands-on experiences early last year and at E3, we were able to get a quick feel for the combat. This time, lead designer Jordan Itkowitz came by to show us multiple levels of the near-final build, and we are impressed and intrigued by this arthropod-filled action thriller. The idea from the team at Rainbow Studios originally began with a snake, but soon they realized its limitations and decided to go with these two eight-legged bundles of joy. However, the snake idea was not lost; within a few minutes of starting the game, we came face to face with a hissing and pissed-off looking rattlesnake who could clearly take us out with ease. But with some deft movements and well-timed attacks, our tarantula protagonist would live to see another day. As we watched our furry friend skitter through the underground, every now and then we'd hear voices overhead as the two men passed by, causing a minor earthquake below. The back-and-forth chatter between the men is intriguing because you're trying to uncover a mystery from a completely different perspective.

The story is divided into 10 chapters, and you switch off between playing as a tarantula and a scorpion. The switch in roles will tie into the game, in which you get to see the events unfold from a scorpion's point of view in the next chapter. Due to the different skill set, you'll be able to access areas that a tarantula can't, and vice versa. The combat differs completely as well. The tarantula has the ability to jump out of the way and dodge attacks, whereas the scorpion is a more lumbering creature, relying mostly on blocking to defend enemy attacks. The scorpion seems much harder to handle, given that you must time your attacks or you'll miss completely. For example, the scorpion has a burrow strike that lets you dig beneath the sand and then pop up to attack. The tarantula has abilities that also need to be timed, but it is quicker and more maneuverable so that you can set yourself up in a more advantageous position. You also have a web shot with which you can fire the white sticky substance to launch yourself onto existing cobwebs, letting you "Spider-Man" your way to higher ground. When aimed at an opponent, the web can stun them long enough for you to body slam them. The scorpion may not be as nimble, but what is very cool about this arachnid is that it has some stylish skills. Although it may be slower, it can do some painful-looking cinematic finishing moves, executed by quick-time events that will make you squirm. To get a better idea, check out this video. Itkowitz told us that the team watched King Kong and Jurassic Park to get a feel of the battle between beasts. Pulling wings off of a tarantula hawk, skewering a lizard or ripping off the limbs of a spider may be mean, but they most likely deserved it.

One of the levels that we explored was a narrow path through a mesh of thorns and other unpleasant obstacles. Crawling through brambles isn't something that we do every day, so it is interesting to see it from a tarantula's perspective. This elaborate underworld is a perilous place, filled with insects, rodents, reptiles, and other unfriendly creatures that are ready to pull off your legs. We also jumped to a later level in a pile of junk lying in the middle of a desert. The level design is worth checking out more closely because everything flows together nicely in one cohesive area. Beyond the gnarly roots of trees and the intertwining branches, the well-put-together mound of garbage also created a fun and tricky terrain to explore, from bullet-hole-ridden water heaters to old arcade systems, from dirty mattresses to the dingy bed of a truck. Although not exactly the kind of place you'd go to for fun, it is attractive in its own way, enhanced by the rays of the harsh setting sun filtering in through the cracks.

Not sure which is creepier: scorpion or one-eyed baby doll head.
Not sure which is creepier: scorpion or one-eyed baby doll head.

Visually, the game is quite impressive, and it has the detail and textures needed to create a realistic-looking environment to explore and subsequently clear out. Watching bug squatters come out of old shoes, or coming face to face with a garden gnome, are just some of the nuances that make the experience worthwhile. The sound and music are done in-house and set a dark and often chilling atmosphere as you make your way through the game. Some leeway was given in terms of giving creatures a mixture of animal sounds so that your tarantula can sound deadlier when it strikes.

Deadly Creatures may not cater directly to the casual market, but it relies on relatively simple movements for combat so that newer gamers can always jump in and not feel overwhelmed. There are three difficulty settings to choose from, and considering what we've experienced, normal isn't exactly a breeze. We were told that the game will last about 10 to 12 hours if you fully explore your surroundings, or eight if you decide to rush through. Be sure to take a closer look at the latest screens as well as exciting new gameplay footage. You can step into the many shoes of these arachnids when Deadly Creatures is released on February 9.

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