E3 2008: Deadly Creatures Updated Hands-On

We crawl through underground passages as a scorpion and a tarantula, terrorizing small insects, battling formidable foes, and fleeing things that are way bigger than us.


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Deadly Creatures is a game for anyone who ever watched a nature documentary about nasty insects and thought, "Whooooa! Cool!" Playing as both a scorpion and tarantula, you'll make your way through nine different environments that range from natural desert landscapes to junkyards full of oversized human refuse. It is an action game at heart, and all the while you'll be battling myriad other species who aren't happy that you've invaded their territory. We take charge of these deadly creatures and see just how we'd do if we were small, nasty arachnids.

When the game begins, you are a tarantula. Crawling through underground tunnels, you kill hapless crickets and larvae as the game introduces you to the revamped combat system. No longer do you lock on to enemies and attack them; instead, you face in their direction and unleash any number of attacks. Pressing the A button will trigger a quick strike, while shaking the Wii Remote will deliver a more powerful blow. These attacks can be chained together in combos, and you'll gain more abilities as your creature levels up. The tarantula can gain a poisonous bite, as well as the ability to shoot webs, which can be used to immobilize foes or traverse difficult terrain. We watched as our presenter battled his way through a number of beetle foes on his way to the level-ending confrontation with the other playable creature--the scorpion.

Unlike the agile tarantula, who can jump and attack with speed, the scorpion is slow-moving and quite powerful. It can use its pincers to block and attack, and deals heavy damage with its large, deadly stinger. Throughout the game these two creatures' paths will overlap, and you'll often see the same events from different perspectives as you alternate between them. We got to see the scorpion perform one of the many creature-specific finishing moves. These are quick-time events in which you must follow the onscreen prompts to dismember and disembowel your foe. We watched as the presenter made the scorpion flip a wolf spider on its back, pin down its legs, and deliver a deadly stinger strike to its weak underbelly. The subsequent splatter of green blood is why Deadly Creatures will be rated T for Teen.

During our time playing as the scorpion, we had little trouble defeating most foes, though the nimble spiders did provide a bit of a challenge. The combat moves are definitely exaggerated for the sake of entertainment, but not so much so that it kills the realistic vibe of the game. We really felt like a creepy arachnid when we were able to crawl up the walls of the tunnel with ease. The camera followed us as we went, so what once was the ceiling became the floor. In a tunnel, this was weird; outside under the open sky, it must be even weirder. And when you're playing as a nasty arachnid, weird is good. The smoothly animated legs and subtle exoskeletal clicking helped flesh out this weirdness, and the ominous ambient music helped as well.

There is a story that lends structure to your adventures, and you get the first hint of it early on. The ground shakes all around you and, looking up through a hole in the ground, you see two men tromping through the desert. One is ranting on about his troubles with women while the other searches for something. Eventually one man asks, "So who we diggin' up?" and you get your first hint of the twisted desert mystery beginning to unfold. Later in that level, as the tarantula crawled past the skeletal remains of a human, the developers told us that these were the remains the men were searching for, those of a Civil War deserter who fled with a lockbox full of gold and was never heard from again. We asked if we'd ever be able to sting these guys in the foot and the developers responded, "Oh, a lot worse than that," and left it at that. They did mention an epic final battle fought in and around an old gas station, and we hope it will involve an abundant amount of biting, stinging, and other such nastiness.

Your scorpion and tarantula will run across other creatures that tower over them, and we saw two boss fights in which our heroes fought to stay alive long enough to escape. The tarantula ran afoul of a rattlesnake and had to attack its vulnerable rattle, dodging the snake's strikes until an escape route opened up. The scorpion came upon a hungry gila monster and had to frantically dig its way to safety while dodging the lizard's charges. These monster foes really helped add a sense of scale to the world, and reminded us that we weren't the only deadly creatures around.

Destroying the creatures you come across--crickets, black widows, wasps, rats, and the like--will earn you points that go toward unlocking your new abilities. Many of these are mapped to appropriate gestural controls, like inverting the remote to burrow under the ground as the scorpion, then thrusting upward to pounce on unsuspecting prey. Throughout the 10 chapters you'll unlock a substantial array of abilities that will hopefully help keep the action fresh and challenging.

The concept behind Deadly Creatures is unique and intriguing. Developer Rainbow Studios hopes to create a busy insect world in which life surrounds you and reacts to your presence. The new combat tweaks have improved things a good bit since we last saw the game, and we're looking forward to seeing what they do in the run-up to the late December/early January release date. Keep an eye--or eyes--here in the coming months for more arachnid action.

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