Hands-on: Murakumo

Take a look at our early impressions of From Software's mech shooter for the Xbox.

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From Software's mech action game Murakumo for the Xbox is scheduled to hit store shelves tomorrow in Japan. The company is known for its popular Armored Core series on the PlayStation console, and it has developed other mech-oriented titles in the past, like Frame Gride for the Dreamcast, but Murakumo happens to be the company's first Xbox game. We've played through the first few stages of the game to bring you some early hands-on impressions.

Players take control of one of several mechs called ARKs and then embark on a series of missions. Each ARK has different specifications in terms of speed, maneuverability, armor, and weapons. The objectives of the missions we've played so far are pretty straightforward, such as chasing down and then destroying an enemy target in a specified amount of time. When trying to complete that sort of objective, you must also maintain a certain distance between you and the target or you will lose sight of it and fail the mission. Murakumo structure is similar to that of some of Nintendo's Star Fox games in that the environment scrolls forward at a consistent rate, though Murakumo's screen scrolls more quickly. Some of the missions--such as the ones that take place on an ocean bridge or in the city of Hong Kong--are easy to move around in and generally enjoyable, but other missions aren't particularly exciting. There is one mission in which you have to pass through canyons and valleys, but the path has a lot of twists and turns, making it quite difficult to maneuver when you have only the analog stick to control the mech. The mech has the ability to use forward and backward thrusters, which helps out a bit, but side thrusters for strafing would have definitely helped in this type of terrain. Sometimes you'll get stuck in corner when you miss a turn and lose track of the target.

The targeting system in Murakumo seems to be a little problematic. The game automatically targets the closest enemy in range. In each mission, there's always a primary objective target, but it's difficult to target that particular enemy since lesser enemies are always getting in the way. This is especially aggravating when you're trying to fire missiles, since other enemies have the tendency to jump on the screen just before you're ready to fire.

The graphics aren't stunning for an Xbox title, as there's some noticeable slowdown when there are numerous explosions or when your mech gets caught in a corner. The audio makes use of Dolby Surround 5.1 and complements the game well. From Software's Murakumo on the Xbox is scheduled to hit store shelves tomorrow in Japan. The game is expected to be released in North America, but an official statement has yet to be made.

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