Hired Guns Aims High

The top gun on the Hired Guns team updates us on the game's progress - and why he hopes the upcoming game will leave other 3D shooters in the dust.

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Does it seem like everyone is trying to build new 3D shooters with nothing really new going on? You get some new weapons, some bigger enemies, new levels, new lighting, but the perspective always seems the same – game looking forward blasting everything in sight. Well the crew at Colorado-based Devil's Thumb Entertainment has been thinking that the 3D shooter genre is due for an adrenaline kick in the polygonal behind with its upcoming title, Hired Guns.

GameSpot News caught up with one of the game's programmers to see where the game is in its development cycle. Devil Thumb's Brett Close (who also happens to be the team leader on the title) told us “the levels are laid out and the backbone of the game is in….We're very much at the stage of working on the polish.” Good news for gamers.

Using the Unreal engine, Hired Guns will allow gamers to control a four person mercenary squad as they go off on a series of missions. What pushes Hired Guns outside the genre is that you actually control all four members of team in a multi-windowed interface. One large window accommodates the character you're currently controlling with three smaller windows that depict what your other team members are seeing. When you're not controlling them directly, a control panel allows you to tweak their AI for the task at hand. If you need to clear room quickly, you could turn up their aggression and see what ensues. Or you could have one soldier run into a room to battle several enemies and retreat when its heath goes below 50 percent. During gameplay, you can take control of any of the players as they combat evil corporations.

While it sounds difficult as a solo game, Devil's Thumb is also working hard to develop the game's network play component. Remember, even in single-player mode, the game is squad-based – the gamer is always working with a squad of four and an option for quad mode gameplay where the screen is spilt into four windows – one for each of your squad members.

Missions bring more strategy to the 3D shooter by forcing you to figure out which mercenary is best suited to a particular task in a mission. Kircher is a Rasta male with spiritual self-healing capabilities, Myriel is a 200-year-old who is mostly cyborg and has an advantage of being able to understand electronics, Rorian is a ex-solider with zoom lens-like optical implants, and Osverger is the bezerker of the crew with a large soldier body and massive strength.

Psygnosis is promoting the title as a Q1 '99 release and Close thought that progress on the title was sufficient to hit that target. There's been loads of balancing going on in the Devil's Thumb offices - they are even at the stage of bringing in gamers to bang on the title to see where it's working and where it's not. “In the area of level tuning and game tuning, there's still a lot to be done,” Close said.

Close was pretty clear that he and the HG team are pushing themselves to create software that moves beyond being merely a 3D shooter. “The 3D shooter is a dying breed,” says Close, who calls Hired Guns part of the developing 3D immersive genre – “a genre that can't be ignored.”

We asked Close if there were any games out there that were influencing the development of Hired Guns. And unsurprisingly he had many things to say about the 3D shooter darling of the moment - Half-Life by “the amazing guys at Valve.” Close continues, “The things that wowed me on Half-Life are things we're trying to do with our game…issues of realism, for example.”

If you're wondering what types of gameplay you should expect in the upcoming title, take a look at these recent screens of Hired Guns. While the team seems to have some lofty goals and ambitions for Hired Guns, we'll find out if gamers will bite when it releases during Q1 '99.

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