El Matador Hands-On - Gameplay, Slow Motion, and Taking Down Narc Barons

Get ready to take down the narc barons of Central and South America in this third-person action game.

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El Matador may mean "bullfighter" in Spanish, but you won't be taking out any four-legged bovines in this upcoming third-person action game from Red Mile Entertainment and Plastic Reality. Instead, you'll be gunning after drug lords and their armies as a DEA agent on assignment to Central and South America. It's been almost two years since we first saw El Matador, but it seems that this third-person action game has made significant progress of late, and we got our hands on a work-in-progress version to check it out.

It's understandable why El Matador often is compared to the popular Max Payne shooters. Both are third-person action games that feature intense gunplay, and both also feature the ability to kick in slow motion so you can take down a room full of enemies. El Matador has also been compared at times to Far Cry, thanks to some lush jungle environments. However, jungle combat is just part of the game, as we also got to participate in some urban battles ranging from a built-up residential area to a huge construction area.

Take down narc barons and their armies of gunmen in El Matador.
Take down narc barons and their armies of gunmen in El Matador.

Your primary job throughout the course of the game will be to battle it out in a variety of environments as you attempt to take down the narc barons one by one. This may involve you battling alongside teammates powered by the artificial intelligence, but you will also go it alone for large portions of the game. Either way, the gunplay feels satisfying, which is important for a shooter. You really get a sense for the "bark" of the weapons, as well as the ability to cut down opponents with short bursts of a machine gun. Fallen enemies crumple to the ground like puppets that have had their strings cut, so the rag-doll physics are pretty good.

At your disposal will be a ride range of weaponry, ranging from pistols (you can go with a single pistol or dual-wield two pistols for double the firepower), submachine guns, shotguns, assault rifles, sniper rifles, and even a Gatling gun. Ammo is recovered from fallen enemies, and while it would seem to be plentiful, you'll eat through magazines quickly thanks to the high rate of fire on the weapons. Obviously, certain weapons are appropriate for certain tactical situations. The shotgun is good for close combat, while the assault and sniper rifles let you reach out and kill someone from a distance. Holding down the right button lets you "zoom" in a bit with each weapon, depending on its sights, while clicking on the mouse wheel allows you to toss a grenade at the enemy.

Since you can get chewed up quickly by enemy gunfire, the best course of action throughout the game is to use cover effectively, though it's a bit strange that the controls don't allow you to lean or peek from cover to shoot. If you or an enemy hides behind a concrete pillar, gunfire can chip away at the concrete, sort of like the lobby scene in The Matrix. Despite this realistic style of gunplay, don't expect an equally realistic game. This is an action shooter, after all, so your character is equipped with a health bar and an armor bar. Naturally, there are health kits that you can recover throughout the levels to restore your health, and you can rummage around various closets to discover body armor, which replenishes the armor bar.

Of course, El Matador will also feature a slow-motion mode that's also similar to the bullet-time effect seen in The Matrix and other movies. Your character has a slow-motion meter that slowly charges after use, but you can kick in slow motion for short bursts, which lets you deal with multiple enemies a lot easier than at regular speed. As you might expect, your vision blurs when slow motion is enabled, which reflects the time distortion at work.

The character models are quite sharp when viewed up close.
The character models are quite sharp when viewed up close.

The work-in-progress version that we saw featured some notable visuals, particularly when it came to character modeling. Some of the close-ups of the characters are incredibly sharp. Meanwhile, the game also features high-dynamic range lighting and other modern graphical features. There's also a fairly sophisticated physics system throughout the game, though some of the physics felt a bit loose at this stage, as heavy objects such as large rocks didn't quite have the mass that you'd expect they would. Still, the engine is good at rendering both large outdoor areas and complex indoor ones, as well. With its mix of gunplay and graphics, El Matador looks like it could be an interesting action game. It's scheduled to ship later this summer.

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