Metal Combat First Impressions
Junkyard fighters come alive in this offbeat fighting game.
We recently had the opportunity to get a demonstration of and get hands-on with an early PC version of Solar Studios' upcoming 3D fighting game, Metal Combat. The game promises to offer dozens of different, customizable characters to play, a fully fleshed-out story mode, and the ability to fight against your friends online.
Metal Combat's setting is a junkyard run by an unscrupulous owner named Scrappy Muldune. He's approached by government officials who offer to pay him in exchange for dumping tons of toxic, radioactive, and otherwise hazardous waste in his yard. Muldune greedily accepts, but as the junkyard becomes more and more contaminated, the piles of scrap come alive. You'll take the role of one of 44 different "machines" as you work your way through the game's story mode while trying to, ultimately, fight your way out of the junkyard.
Based on what we saw in our demonstration, the characters in the game will run a wide range of different designs. Some will be in a standard humanoid form, such as one creature made of broken car parts, which features shocks for its legs and a flame-belching muffler for its head. Another creation was a massive bipedal monster made entirely of 55-gallon barrels. Some of the more unusual character designs include an insectlike creature with a car engine as its body and lead pipes for legs. Another fighter had a base that consisted of a single car wheel. Yet another monstrosity fought with two chainsaws for hands.
The animated junk fighters will be further differentiated by the type of fuel they use. Some will be gas-powered, while others require electricity or radioactivity to function. Your fuel drains constantly throughout play (although this is a separate element from your fighting stamina), so you'll need to find fuel caches as you explore the junkyard, or you'll need to recover energy by defeating machines that are powered by the same type of fuel. Your fuel also serves as currency in the game, so at certain points, you'll be able to trade excess fuel to upgrade your fighter's stats, including speed, strength, jumping ability, and more. The manner in which you upgrade your fighters carries over into multiplayer mode, so even if two persons pick the same character, the way in which they've upgraded their fighters should affect their playing styles and strategies.
The game's story mode doesn't play out quite like your standard fighting game, which abruptly jumps you from match to match. In Metal Combat, you actually start out in the middle of the junkyard, where you'll walk around as if you were playing an action adventure game. The environments include interactive elements, so you'll be able to jump on top of car bodies and kick them around. Fighters with hands will be able to pick up small objects, like car wheels or barrels, and can use them as weapons or throw them at enemies. Multiple pathways will be available, some of which may only be accessible to certain fighters. For example, the character we chose had jumping ability, so it was able to traverse a high ramp, which wouldn't be accessible to the multilegged, insectlike machine, because that character can't jump at all. As you pick pathways and move around the junkyard, you'll encounter other machines in arena-like areas. From here the game plays out like a regular 3D fighter, as you'll punch, kick, and jump your way to victory. However, it may be possible to run away from certain fights. Aside from enemy junk fighters and limited fuel, you'll also have a limited number of lives to manage. So, fortunately, when your stamina runs out during a fight, you'll be able to get right back up with full health...so long as you still have at least one life remaining.
Metal Combat's game mechanics also differ from most fighting games in that most animations are not canned. The game includes a full physics engine and collision detection, which calculates the effect of each blow you deliver and receive. The result is that the damage you take from, say, a high punch won't be exactly the same every time. Furthermore, the visual animation of the machines getting beaten up is variable. We had a chance to test the game out by playing a couple of rounds against its producer, and we did indeed notice some variability in how the game animates combat, in addition to how the fighters collapse to the ground in piles of junk. Further tuning on the game is required, though, as the controls in this early PC build weren't quite as responsive or crisp as we're used to in most fighting games.
The game will, of course, include head-to-head fighting on the same PC, as well as online scrapping. Solar Studios is planning a PlayStation 3 version of the game and has noted that it intends for PC players to be able to go against those on the PlayStation 3 version. At this point, however, there's no release date for the PS3 version of Metal Combat. The PC version is slated to ship this fall. Stay tuned to GameSpot for more details as they become available.
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