GDC 07: Warhound First Look

We check out a work-in-progress version of Techland's upcoming first-person shooter.

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Tentatively scheduled for release toward the end of this year, Warhound is a ChromeEngine-powered first-person shooter in which you'll assume the role of a modern-day mercenary for hire. Members of the Techland development team are in San Francisco for the Game Developers Conference this week, and they graciously agreed to stop by the GameSpot office and demo a work-in-progress PC version of the game for us a couple of days early. We didn't get to play on this occasion, but after being treated to an action-packed demonstration and getting lots of new info, we came away from the meeting feeling suitably impressed.

Perhaps because there aren't too many professions that combine world travel with weaponry, being a mercenary is a competitive business. Your goal in Warhound is to become the best mercenary in the world, and so while dealing with the enemies of whoever is paying you, you'll need to keep an eye out for your business rivals, as well. Although Warhound will purportedly feature a strong storyline, your progress through the game will be anything but linear. After completing the first mandatory mission, as well as every mission thereafter, you'll be presented with a world map showing the locations of jobs that are currently up for grabs. Clicking on a job icon will open a window with more information in it, including mission objectives, how much money you'll be paid upon completion, and any skills that you'll need before being allowed to accept the assignment.

Warhound's environments look great, and offer hiding places aplenty for you and your enemies alike.
Warhound's environments look great, and offer hiding places aplenty for you and your enemies alike.

The three main skills in Warhound's role-playing-game-like character-progression system are alpinist, mechanic, and weapon specialist. Spending points on improving these will make you better at negotiating rough terrain, handling and maintaining vehicles, and using heavy weapons and explosives, respectively. Secondary skills will also prove useful on certain missions, though the only example cited during today's demo was an electronics specialization that will let you crack security codes, steal data from hacked computers, and the like. Quite how you'll earn the points necessary to level up your skills isn't clear at this time, but how you spend them will obviously have an impact not only on which missions you're permitted to take on, but also on how you tackle them. We're told that there will be at least three quite different routes through each mission in Warhound, and it seems reasonable to assume that each will favor a different specialization.

Since you'll effectively be running a one-man business in Warhound, it should come as no surprise that finances are going to play a large role in the game. You'll be able to augment the income that you get from completing missions by selling any weapons, vehicles, and other items that you obtain along the way, though it's worth noting that the amount you can carry will be realistic, so don't expect to be lugging your entire arsenal around and stashing extra rocket launchers in your pocket. You'll also have plenty of expenses to consider, of course. Weapons and ammunition don't come cheap, and it's a safe bet that buying and maintaining vehicles will hit your bank balance pretty hard, as well. More interesting expenses will be incurred during your preparation for any given mission, when you'll have the option to purchase additional mission information in the form of satellite photos showing enemy positions and such. The more money you spend, the more reliable the information will be, so you might get to choose between a photo that's a week old and one that's only a few hours old, for example. While preparing for a mission, you'll also need to spend some money securing an escape route for yourself, and, again, you'll get what you pay for. Having a helicopter meet you at an evacuation point close to the mission area won't be cheap, so if you're feeling thrifty, you might prefer to hike to a village on the other side of the map where some guy with a beaten-up old car has agreed to give you a ride.

Based on what we saw of Warhound today, your objectives will vary a great deal from mission to mission. Destroying weapon stashes and taking down drug lords were among the more predictable objectives that we saw, while more interesting examples that we were told about included rescue and escort missions as well as a trip to Africa to protect rare elephants from poachers. The enemies that we saw during our demonstration already appeared to be behaving quite intelligently, and when they weren't busy moving in and out of cover, they were putting their weapons to good use. In the finished game, enemies will purportedly work together in groups, and if you're close enough, you'll be able to hear them conversing and giving each other orders in their native languages.

During certain missions you'll have to deal with rival mercenaries as well as enemies.
During certain missions you'll have to deal with rival mercenaries as well as enemies.

Spicing up certain missions will be other mercenaries whose reasons for being in the same area as you might not become apparent until your paths cross. Every other mercenary in the game is essentially a business rival, but that doesn't necessarily mean that you'll be gunning for each other. Sometimes your objectives will clash--a good example of which would be your being tasked with assassinating a target that another mercenary is trying to protect. It sounds like there will be plenty of occasions when the presence of another mercenary will be beneficial, though, and we're told that in at least one mission you'll have a competitor providing cover for you with a sniper rifle. In other missions you might find that a number of your rivals are working on the same assignment as you are, so you'll be racing to complete the key objectives before they do.

All of the locales that we saw during our Warhound demo had a natural feel about them and were devoid of all but the most basic manmade structures. The environments were filled with great-looking trees and foliage, and although not all of them are physics enabled just yet, those that were reacted quite convincingly as the player brushed past them or decided to use them for target practice. Other neat visual touches that we noticed during our demo included water lapping on a beach, stray bullets kicking up dust, and a great depth-of-field effect that blurs objects in the foreground when you zoom in and focus on something far away.

In addition to the single-player game, which promises to offer plenty of replay value with its nonlinear structure and randomized enemy locations, Warhound will support a number of different multiplayer modes for up to 32 players. The game's multiplayer content hasn't been finalized at the time of writing, but we're told that conventional deathmatch and capture-the-flag-style modes will be complemented by objective-based games that are somewhat reminiscent of the single-player missions. The maps used in multiplayer games will be smaller than those you get to explore when playing solo, and Techland plans to include an easy-to-use map editor with the game.

Warhound still has several months of development time ahead of it, and we'll be keeping a close eye on it. We look forward to bringing you more information as soon as it becomes available.

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