Full Throttle: Hell on Wheels Impressions

LucasArts updates its classic adventure and mixes in some action elements.

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LucasArts showed off a few levels from its upcoming 3D adventure game Full Throttle: Hell on Wheels at this year's E3. The original Full Throttle, released in 1995, remains one of the quintessential PC adventure games with its stylistic graphics and likable biker punk protagonist, Ben. The square-jawed hero was just as quick with his wit as he was with his fists, making for a memorable adventure experience. Ben is back now in full 3D, and LucasArts has plans to incorporate more action elements into his repertoire, making Full Throttle: Hell on Wheels a hybrid action-adventure game. This time around, Ben has to stop a nefarious plot to tear up and destroy the roads of the wasteland.

The first portion of Hell on Wheels we saw involved Ben in a bike race with a villain named Perkins. Perkins doesn't like to play fair, so we stooped to his level and tried to knock him off the road with kicks and punches. After successfully whacking him off his bike, we ended up at Perkins' gang's hideout, where he arrives later and isn't happy. Despite being totally outnumbered, Ben decides to agitate Perkins' boys, resulting in his bike getting stolen. In this portion of the game we got to see how the action and adventure elements play together.

Immediately after a few cutscenes that showed Ben picking the fight, the game switched into action mode, where we had to beat up some of the gang members. You can use combo attacks by pressing the attack button in rhythm--the better you fight, the higher your mojo meter goes. As the mojo meter rises, you grow steadily more powerful and have the ability to execute more powerful moves. The surrounding environment is pretty interactive too; it's possible to pick up objects like chairs and smash them over people's heads, as we saw in the demo. It will also be possible to slide foes down a bar and utilize the environment in other creative ways aside from picking up objects and bludgeoning people with them.

Eventually we ended up stuck at a door, and at this point the adventure elements of the game kicked in and we had to solve a puzzle. The man guarding the door wouldn't let Ben in, even after we tried to imitate Perkins' voice, because the doorman could see through the peephole. The only solution was to bring Perkins to the door. After a bit of exploring, we found Perkins jamming it up with his band, thinking that the other gang members had taken care of Ben. After beating up the band members and Perkins, we dragged the gang leader's body to the door, and finally, Ben was able to fool the doorman into letting him in.

The addition of action elements does make Hell on Wheels stray from its pure adventure game roots, as far as gameplay mechanics are concerned. LucasArts will have to take extra care that the humor and personality of the original game are retained in order not to alienate longtime fans. Full Throttle: Hell on Wheels is scheduled to be released in late 2003 for the PlayStation 2, the PC, and the Xbox. We'll have more details on the game as they become available.

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