E3 06: Reservoir Dogs Hands-On Impressions

Eidos is getting the gang back together in this action-game interpretation of Quentin Tarantino's cult classic film. We check it out at E3 2006.

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LOS ANGELES--When you're dealing with a film that has as rabid a fan base as Quentin Tarantino's much-beloved crime drama Reservoir Dogs, trying to expand on such a license often is a good way to get reamed by that fan base. People like the movie the way it is, so why futz with it, lest you somehow dishonor it with your vile marketing ploy to capitalize on a successful product. Undoubtedly, this is the attitude many Dogs fans have taken with Eidos' upcoming action game for the PlayStation 2, Xbox, and PC based on that very film. For what it's worth, the developer of the game seems to understand the cult-classic status the film has achieved and proclaims to be more interested in fleshing out an already great story rather than just tossing together a cheap cash-in game for the sake of slapping a recognizable name on it. To see for ourselves, we sat down with the developer at Eidos' E3 2006 display and took a peek at the progress being made.

The opening sequence we saw was a shot-for-shot CG recreation of the film's opening credits, with the infamous Dogs walking along in slow motion, decked out in the proper suits and generally looking badass. The developer claims that for any scenes taken directly from the film, they've done their best to re-create them via CG with as many specific camera angles and lines of dialogue as possible. Another CG scene we got a look at was the scene in which Mr. Brown sits in a car, dying, and Mr. White and Mr. Orange discover him, which of course leads to Mr. Orange taking one in the stomach just a short time later. This sequence seems pretty accurately re-created as far as camerawork and dialogue go, although none of the voice actors here are the ones from the film, though they are rather reasonable sound-a-likes.

One actor in particular is lending his voice and likeness to the game, and that would be Michael Madsen, AKA Mr. Blonde. Sadly, none of his voice work was shown in the demo we saw. We did hear a good bit of the film's soundtrack used, however, and the developer says that every song from the film is on hand here. Considering how big a part of the film the soundtrack was, that's bonus.

But what of the gameplay? This is, after all, a movie that consists almost exclusively of angry men talking to one another for almost two hours, and the few bits of gunplay certainly aren't enough to carry a full game. To remedy this, the developer has fleshed out things that are only mentioned in passing in the film. What, exactly, happened to Mr. Blue in the diamond exchange? How did Mr. Blonde escape, and what did he do during the heist that made everyone say he "went psycho"? Did Mr. Pink survive the final seconds of the film? All this is explained in the game via full-on gameplay sequences that you'll get to play through.

The game is broken up into 10 third-person shooting missions and six driving missions. We got to see one example of each during our demo. The third-person bit was the aforementioned Mr. Blue section. Here, Mr. Blue is trapped in the diamond exchange in the middle of the heist. The cops have arrived on the scene, and he's trapped in the top floor of the building. Here, we got a look at the game's hostage system. Basically, you'll be able to take any random character in the game, from civilians to cops, hostage at any point. While you have the person held hostage, you can use that person as a human shield as necessary or as a negotiating tactic against aggressors like cops. If you happen upon anyone while holding a hostage, you can order them to surrender. Normal people likely will, but cops tend to take more convincing, so you can then injure the hostage somehow (without killing them), and the cops will take heed and put their guns down. Also, you'll be able to take direct control over the actions of some specific hostages, such as the manager of the diamond exchange, who can open otherwise locked doors for you.

The developer claims that you can, if you so choose, play Reservoir Dogs without ever firing a single bullet or killing anyone. It's tough to imagine pulling that off, but the way you play the game, be it run and gun or through hostage-taking and intimidation, will play into an end-of-level rating that shows how professional or psychotic you truly are.

The driving sequence we saw was the section immediately following Mr. Orange getting shot after trying to steal a car from a passing motorist. You play as Mr. White, driving the car to get Mr. Orange to the hideout before he dies of blood loss. The driving didn't seem too terribly involved, save for bits where White could lean out of the car and fire at any nearby cop cars. Otherwise, it seemed to just involve some fairly fast stunt driving around various obstacles and highways.

It's tough to gauge exactly how Reservoir Dogs will end up based on what we've seen thus far, but we can say that it seems like the game does have a few interesting takes on the standard action genre, and the developer is at least doing due diligence in paying homage to the source material. If that homage turns out well remains to be seen, but we'll be sure to bring you more on the game as it becomes available.

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