Dog Tag Impressions - First Look
This upcoming squad-based shooter will attempt to be gritty and controversial, not to mention creative, as it is being made for the PC, the Xbox, and the Xbox 360 all at once.
A lot of squad-based shooters have been pretty straightforward good guy-versus-bad guy games, usually consisting of an elite military force fighting against terrorists, insurgents, assassins, or what have you. Diezel Power's upcoming Dog Tag will attempt to offer all the action you'd expect from a modern-day squad-based shooter, but it will also pit your squad of elite SpecOps troopers against a platoon of friendlies. According to the game's story (which will figure heavily into the game's 15 missions), this squad of a dozen highly trained Marines disappeared somewhere in Africa, and your four-man fireteam has been dispatched to find out what happened to them. Your team, left at the drop zone, begins surveying the Marines' last-known whereabouts in the burned-out city. They immediately begin taking fire, and your squadmates soon discover that the enemies are heavily equipped with real-world firearms, land transports, tanks, and even attack choppers, and that they have been entrenched for months. Soon after, to their horror, they discover that the enemy is the very squadron of Marines they were dispatched to rescue.
We were able to see only a brief demonstration of a very early version of the game (about 20 percent complete, or so) in what appeared to be the first level. Military helicopters dropped off the four-man squad in the middle of a dingy, abandoned African city whose streets were littered with abandoned military and civilian vehicles (including a very heavily rusted, old Studebaker). Already, this early version seems to use very crisp, high-resolution textures for its environments--which will include cities, military encampments, and "industrial wastelands"--as well as for its soldiers, who are also highly detailed--from their M16 assault rifles to their combat fatigues right down to their earpieces. Although the city was also constantly covered in swirling clouds of dust buoyed by desert winds, we had little trouble with visibility at a distance, especially using the scope on a sniper rifle (all weapons will have a zoom mode, though the sniper rifle will obviously have a much longer viewing range). As we touched down with our squad, we immediately made for the nearest cover, which will actually be a crucial part of Dog Tag's gameplay, along with firing blind from around corners like in Namco's kill.switch. While you'll eventually encounter enemies in M1A1 battle tanks and Black Hawk attack helicopters, your squad will not have a chance to commandeer these vehicles, and they instead will have to rely on shrewd use of cover.
Fortunately, just about every physical object in the game will provide cover, though some objects will obviously be sturdier than others. Dog Tag's physics system is being powered by Ageia's Novodex physics engine, the same technology that powers the fabled physics processing unit (PPU) that may or may not become a standard part of next-generation game technology. In plain English, this means that the game will model the physical properties of everything in the world, so you'll be able to take cover behind just about anything using the game's context-sensitive command system. But you'll be just as likely to have your cover blown right out from under you, since the game's extensive explosion system will provide for highly destructible environments.
Since you won't have the benefit of vehicles or large numbers of soldiers, you'll need to rely on the skills of your team of veteran soldiers. In addition to hearing them bark out battle chatter (such as how your teammates will make contact with enemies or call out warnings when live grenades are brought into play), you'll also learn more about your troops, who will be fleshed out with highly distinctive personalities. As you might imagine, Dog Tag will focus strongly on its single-player story, so throughout the game, even though your small squad is outmanned and outgunned, you'll be able to resupply your guys with weapons and ammo from fallen enemies (and from weapon caches), as well as occasionally use mounted turrets. Otherwise, it's up to you to use the game's streamlined squad commands (which should let you quickly and easily issue intuitive commands like telling your men to advance, lay down covering fire, go prone, cover a position, and so on). You'll also be able to jump to control any of your four characters at once, similar to the Pivotal Games' Conflict series or Illusion Softworks' Hidden & Dangerous series. But once one of your teammates goes down, you may not be able to recover him and you'll then face a much tougher fight (and once your commanding officer goes down, it's game over). The team at Diezel Power realizes that this kind of setup will provide a very stiff challenge indeed (to say nothing of going after an entrenched tank-and-helicopter army with only four guys), and it intends to make sure the game is challenging without being frustrating.
Not many details are available on Dog Tag's multiplayer modes, though we were able to confirm that it should support four-player cooperative play on both the PC and the Xbox, and it should also include some kind of basic deathmatch and capture-the-flag modes. The game already shows promise and has some interesting ideas, like its highly realistic weapons and vehicles, its challenging single-player game, and its co-op multiplayer. And fortunately, the developer has plenty of time to flesh out the rest of Dog Tag, since all three versions of the game are scheduled for release next year. The PC and the Xbox versions will come out a bit sooner, and the Xbox 360 version will follow a few months later.
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