Kameo: Elements of Power E3 2005 Impressions

We meet with Rare to compare the latest Xbox 360 build of Kameo with a version of the game originally destined for the Xbox.

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One of our earliest appointments on day one of E3 this year was a meeting with Rare, who gave us lengthy demonstrations of both Perfect Dark Zero and Kameo: Element of Power. The first half of the Kameo demo was spent directly comparing the Xbox 360 game with the almost-finished but never-to-be-released Xbox version, while the second half was devoted to checking out portions of the Xbox 360 game that have been added since Kameo's latest (third) platform change.

Before we got a look at the game, the Rare representatives on hand were quick to point out that the Xbox 360 game was actually running on a development machine with only around 35 percent of the power that will be available on the finished console. The visuals did a fine job of impressing us for the most part, though, especially when one of the Rare guys pointed out a wall that appeared to be constructed of large, irregularly shaped rocks, complete with realistic textures and real-time shadows. The wall was, in fact, a flat surface, and its appearance was the result of some clever "parallax-mapping" technique--a more advanced version of bump-mapping.

The two locations that we were shown both on the Xbox 360 and on the Xbox were Thorn's Castle and Enchanted Kingdom--an evil-looking castle with dragons flying overhead at night, and an idyllic countryside scene, respectively. The differences between the visuals on the two systems were even more pronounced than we expected them to be, though that's perhaps partly because there are plenty of better-looking games on the Xbox than Kameo.

On the Xbox 360, the colors were much richer, the lighting was much more dramatic and realistic, particle effects for smoke and such were much more impressive, and we were able to see that all of the game's once-disjointed environments have now been joined together so that you're literally able to see miles into the distance at times. The Xbox 360 environments were also teeming with life, whether it be fish in a river, squirrels (with great conker-style fur effects) running across a path, butterflies flapping their way across a field, or dragons hurling fireballs through the air as they flew over the castle. Anyhow, the fact that the Xbox 360 version of Kameo looks significantly better than the Xbox game is no surprise, so, without further ado, we'll talk about some of the actual gameplay that we got to see, including the new Xbox 360 content toward the end of the demonstration.

One of Kameo's most unusual features is its titular lead character's ability to transform herself into any of 10 (very) different warriors. The warriors' skill sets are every bit as varied as their odd appearances, which today included an armadillo, who could roll around and impale enemies on its spikes; a yeti, who could pick up and throw enemies or pound the ground to summon ice shards from the sky; a dragon, who could breathe fire; a pile of rocks, which could roll around and throw bits of itself at enemies; and pugilistic plant life of some kind, which fought enemies using moves that will look more than a little familiar to fans of the great Sugar Ray Leonard.

By far the most impressive part of our demonstration, though, was a battle between armies of trolls and elves that comprised approximately 3000 units each. The battlefield environment will serve as some kind of central hub in the finished game, but on this occasion it was basically a chance for the company to show off just what the Xbox 360 is capable of. All of the trolls and elves (as well as some giant ogres and a handful of tanks) looked every bit as good as the other characters that we'd seen in the game, and we know for certain that the demo was real time, because one of the Rare reps was controlling Kameo as she charged across the battlefield on horseback.

Rare estimates that around 20 percent of the Xbox 360 version of Kameo is new content that simply couldn't have been done on the Xbox. We'll bring you more information on Kameo as soon as it becomes available.

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