kill.switch Preview

We get a closer look at Namco's upcoming third person shooter.

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The third-person shooter is a fairly common sight on consoles--so much so, in fact, that the genre is starting to get a little stale. While the basic premise changes from game to game, there hasn't been a whole lot of variety in the gameplay. Fortunately, Namco seems to be trying to mix things up with kill.switch, an upcoming third-person shooter that features some genuinely unique gameplay features. We recently had a chance to get a closer look at this ambitious game to see what we can expect from it.

The game features a military theme and puts you in the role of an operative who is dispatched to various international locations. While the concept isn't exactly unheard of, kill.switch's execution draws more on the real-world military action games seen on the PC than the straightforward action games generally found on consoles. The specifics of the game's story are still relatively vague at the moment, but the team did say that it's hoping to ensure that kill.switch's storytelling blends seamlessly with its gameplay for as immersive a single-player experience as possible.

The offensive cover system is very useful.
The offensive cover system is very useful.

Speaking of gameplay, kill.switch offers an impressive mix of tried-and-true third-person shooter elements and new features. You'll be able to run, jump, and shoot your way though the levels, as you would in most games in the genre. But kill.switch features an impressive new "offensive cover" system. The system lets you use just about anything around you for cover, and it will require you to be much more aware of your surroundings in a firefight. In addition to allowing you to take cover whenever you're being shot at, the system will let you return fire in two ways. You'll be able to use the conventional method, which requires you to pop out and fire off some shots, although such an action is an invitation to be plugged full of lead. Alternatively, you'll be able to use a blind-fire technique that is safe but inaccurate.

Blind fire can be a real lifesaver in tough situations.
Blind fire can be a real lifesaver in tough situations.

The technique allows you to stay hidden behind whatever object you're using as cover while shooting off rounds in a general direction. Although not very accurate, the move affords you quite a bit more safety and can still be effective. You'll be able to increase your chances of taking out foes if you throw grenades blindly, thanks to their larger area of effect. While the offensive cover and blind-fire techniques are certainly very useful, they can't be used cheaply, thanks to the game's aggressive AI. You'll also have to pay special attention to which objects you choose for cover. While you'll want to use anything that's handy when the action heats up, objects such as barrels or cars, which can be blown up, are decidedly mixed blessings. Another cool gameplay element is the use of your senses. Your eyesight and hearing will obviously be vital to identifying threats, which is why you'll want to take care when throwing grenades. If you're too close to a grenade you've thrown or stumble onto an enemy grenade, your vision and hearing will be seriously impaired, and you'll need to be extra careful until they clear up. There's nothing more embarassing than stumbling out, deaf and blind, into a hail of gunfire.

The graphics in kill.switch are a little rough around the edges, but they complement the gameplay quite nicely. The game looks good overall but is inconsistent in some places--especially in the texture detail on the structures and environments. The main character model is detailed, although some of his animations are still a bit stiff. The environments we saw were large and detailed, with a solid variety of objects and interactive elements strewn about. Little touches such as particle effects from dust and debris added to the atmosphere. The effects used to convey vision loss were well done and suitably irksome as they slowly faded away. The game's audio isn't quite as polished yet, but the assortment of gunfire and yells that have been implemented so far are promising. As you'd expect, the Xbox version of the game is sporting a bit more polish and visual flash than the PlayStation 2 version, but there isn't a dramatic difference in visual quality between them at the moment.

Never underestimate the value of a good explosion.
Never underestimate the value of a good explosion.

From what we've seen so far, kill.switch is shaping up to be a very promising entry in the third-person shooter genre. The gameplay is solid, and the new gameplay elements keep the action fresh and varied. The game is currently slated to ship this fall for the PlayStation 2 and Xbox. For more on the kill.switch, check out our interview with producer Chris Esaki here.

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