ECTS 2001: First look: Mobile Forces

Rage has unveiled a new Unreal Tournament-based team game that mixes vehicles into the battles.

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Rage is showing Mobile Forces for the first time at ECTS. The big difference between Mobile Forces and Unreal Tournament's team matches is the addition of vehicles that can carry you and your squadmates quickly around the maps. In the single-player game, the bots are smart enough to jump on board a vehicle you're driving and shoot nearby enemies or to drive the jeep automatically to let you get in the passenger seat and pull out your gun.

Much early effort has gone into making the vehicle physics as fun as possible. We had the chance to drive the jeep around a couple of maps and found it was an enjoyable arcadelike experience, especially on an industrial map with plenty of concrete ramps and tunnels to make things interesting. The jeep's suspension is represented well graphically, and it's bouncy and forgiving enough to get you over some impossible obstacles. But even with a squad of four players shooting from a jeep--or a full complement of six in the larger transports--the vehicles are not unstoppable. It's possible to shoot out each of the tires on a vehicle, which has the expected effect on steering until the tires respawn some time later. An aggressive enemy can run up to a disabled vehicle and shoot the gas cap--the one weak point in the armor--which will blow it sky-high. It's also possible to run around the map on foot, and there are plenty of powerful weapons at your disposal, including a sniper rifle with laser sight and a heavy machine gun that must be set down on its tripod to fire.

Mobile Forces will have eight game types, and to advance from one map to the next in the single-player game, it'll be necessary to win bot matches in six of the game types. In addition to conventional Unreal Tournament game modes--such as domination, deathmatch, and capture-the-flag--there'll be a few that take advantage of the vehicle elements in the game. One of these is trailer capture, where a trailer starts out in the middle of the map and each team has to try to pull it back to base with a jeep to win. The ebb and flow of combat around the center of the map should make for tug-of-war-like swings in momentum. The final game will contain 12 big levels.

Mobile Forces has been in development only since the beginning of the year and already, it's quite playable. As is common with multiplayer games, the team has focused on getting the game together enough to play-test early, so the graphics are still very early. One nice addition to the Unreal Tournament engine that powers the game is the height-map-based rolling terrain system from the most recent version of Epic's Unreal engine. Mobile Forces is scheduled to go into beta testing by the end of the year. The PC version will be complete next spring, and there will be an Xbox version for Christmas 2002.

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