New Legends First Impression

Jedi Knight designer Justin Chin is working on an action game with lots of melee combat, fantastic locales and characters, and a compelling story.

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Justin Chin is famous for being the designer of Jedi Knight, although he will be the first to tell you that he does not share the credit alone for that game. Many others, including Ray Gresko - co-founder of Nihilistic - and many of the team members who left to join Chin at Infinite Machine, contributed substantially to the game as well. However, much of the focus on story, which was one of the best points of Jedi Knight, can be credited to Chin.

His next game is New Legends, the debut title from startup company Infinite Machine, which Chin co-founded with Che-yuan Wang, who was a programmer on Descent and Jedi Knight. With this game, Chin hopes to take the storytelling he started in Jedi Knight to the next level. He also hopes to expound on the melee combat that was in Jedi Knight courtesy of the lightsaber, and evolve that into a deeper and more rewarding melee combat model in New Legends. GameSpot was treated to an hour and a half demo of New Legends, and here is what we learned.

New Legends is an action game driven by plot and story that takes place in the near-future in China. Warlords have gained power and now rule the provinces of China. Your character Sun Soo, is the son of one such warlord. However, an evil warlord with territorial aspirations has decided to make China great again and launches an attack to conquer all the warlords and their provinces. One of the many to fall is Sun Soo's home province. This evil tyrant, named XaoGon, quickly consolidates power, and Sun Soo, imprisoned in a jail in Mongolia, must race back to free his home province and defeat the power-hungry XaoGon. Along the way, he will journey across fantastic locations in China, some culled from the real-world China and others derived from the fancy of the designers.

At each turn in his journey, Sun Soo will meet a great cast of characters, including half a dozen non-player characters who befriend and follow him, and a host of evil generals who oppose him. Among the friends you'll meet are a blue half demon named Boo, a wizened man with a sniper rifle named Zhang, and a girl who commands a 170 feet long dragon named Talos. The boss characters opposing you - think the dark jedi in Jedi Knight but much cooler - come from the five classic Chinese elements: earth, wind, fire, water, and metal (Chin says there is some debate as to what the final fifth element is in classic Chinese culture, but he has settled on metal). These elemental generals all have powers that come naturally from their affiliation with their element, such as flight for the air general or massive strength for the earth general.

New Legends is undeniably an action game and is viewed from the third-person perspective, but in many ways it plays like a first-person shooter. It has the speed of a first-person shooter, and the precision weapons of a first-person shooter, rather than the auto-aiming or splash damage of a game like Tomb Raider. The targeting reticle always stays centered, so you don't have to worry about manipulating your character to fire or moving the reticle around the screen. As you move, your reticle moves. Chin also showed off the impressive animation in the game. The head, torso, and lower body can move independently, so if Sun Soo turns to face something, his head and torso move first, and then his legs follow. This looks more natural and gets rid of the annoyance in other third-person games where your feet and whole body turn slowly if you want to turn around. There are a lot of animations for attacking with the different melee weapons, which include both melee and ranged weapons. Chin says that these weapons will be balanced, so you'll want to use melee and ranged weapons in different circumstances and you won't suffer for doing so.

The graphics in the game look very good. New Legends uses the Unreal engine, but there is a lot of proprietary technology going into New Legends to make it look amazing. There are a lot of outdoor environments, which should be taxing but doesn't seem to affect frame rate. These levels are expansive, including lots of rope bridges across wide mountains and a series of walls lining a snowy mountain range. There are also night missions in large Chinese palaces, and perhaps even a jaunt into the Forbidden City. The characters themselves look good, with a low 2000 polygon-count model that thanks to Infinite Machine's proprietary software technology can scale to an even more detailed 5000 polygon-count model. All the characters look well-detailed and have smooth animations that are animated and not motion-captured.

Look for additional impressions of New Legends with even more information. We have 29 screenshots, including concept art and exclusive screens, accessible through the continue box screenshot to the right. In addition, you can click on the game title in our continue box to jump back to the New Legends gamespace, where you'll find a hands-on impression of New Legends with information on the weapons and some examples of the story-driven gameplay.

Although this is the first time that Infinite Machine has really demonstrated its game to the public, the game has been in development for over a year and looks on track for its early 2001 release.

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