New Legends Hands-On

Read about the weapons and story-driven gameplay of New Legends, a game with melee weapons, elemental generals, and an engaging story.

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New Legends is a third-person action game that has a heavy dose of melee combat and storytelling. In many ways, it is a natural progression from designer Justin Chin's previous work, the award-winning Jedi Knight. In New Legends, there are a host of weapons at your disposal, all with varying attributes that will make combat more exciting and deep.

There will be about 18 or so weapons in New Legends, although you will only be able to carry four at a time throughout the game and in multiplay. That means you'll have to make choices about the weapons you use and a carry. Should you use one slot for the tankpuncher, in anticipation of having to take out some heavy vehicles later in the game, or take a sword, which is much faster and more versatile, for taking on the infantry you know are in your way? Among the many melee weapons in the game are a Chinese triple staff, broad sword, axehammer, chains, and more.

There will also be traditional ranged weapons though, among them a shotgun, a flechette gun, rocket launcher, and a bow and arrow. To balance the two types of weapons - melee and ranged - Chin says that you'll be weighed down more with ranged weapons. When using a rocket launcher for example, you will move a little slower than someone wielding a sword. Ranged weapons will also have to punch through armor before they can damage your health, as in first-person shooters, but that melee weapons will bypass armor completely. Finally, ranged weapons will also be a little slower in general. There will not be any skills, like the Force powers in Jedi Knight, but Chin says that your character will indeed grow in the story and in appearance, although not in gameplay skills or powers. It is the melee weapons, which you acquire gradually, that will be the focus of the action in the game.

One feature of New Legends is that you can wield two weapons, one in each hand. You can have a sword in one hand and a shotgun in the other, allowing you to dice close-range enemies and fire away at long-ranged troops. The two mouse buttons, right and left, will control the firing of these weapons. There will also be two-handed weapons, like the heavy tankpuncher or the massive axehammer, that will take up both hands but do much more damage. Different weapons, of course, will have different speeds and attributes. The dragon claws, for instance, which are three-pronged claws worn over your hands, are the fastest weapons, but require you to get into very close range. The tank puncher, for instance, can actually punch through walls, letting you take out people who hide behind cover. It is also the weapon of choice for destroying heavily-armored vehicles. Some weapons will also have secondary fire.

In addition to melee and ranged weapons, you'll also be able to hold a shield, which will further protect you from ranged fire.

As for the storytelling in the game, it will come in the form of numerous in-game cutscenes. In the very first mission, for example, you will begin in your home palace, but soon find yourself in the middle of a scripted battle, as the villain XaoGon sends his soldiers to invade your home. You'll have to wind your way through the family compound to find a signal flare and help a wounded soldier. However, just when you reach your objective, a tank will bust through the walls and come at you.

As you rush past the tank, you'll transition to the next mission, the city beyond your family palace. What follows is a chase through the city streets as you flee from soldiers and tanks. A combination of scripted events and cut scenes will tell this story and present these events to drive you forward in the game. Later, when you get captured and thrown in a Mongolian prison, you'll meet the first NPC, the half-demon Boo. This meeting will also be told through an in-game cutscene.

In one mission, Boo and your elderly mentor, the sniper Zhang, tell you how to destroy a power generator. As the camera pans to a more cinematic angle, the two tell you that you have to set off charges in different locations of the generator to take it down. The camera then resumes its normal perspective and our two companions assume their positions to help you; Zhang climbs up a central tower to provide cover, sniping at flying enemies that come to you, while Boo follows you to provide backup and to guide you if you need help. As you run across catwalks, you'll see enemy flyers (you can see them in our screenshot index) bearing down upon you, only to see them crash to the ground, as you glimpse a muzzle flash from the central tower that tells you that Zhang just shot down your would-be assailants from afar.

Cool visuals and scripted events like this will make you feel like you are traveling with live allies and that you are in a living world. For example, if you drop off a charge in the wrong location during this mission, Boo will walk over to the misplaced charge, pick it up, and it back to you, telling you that you placed it in the wrong area. These allies will also help you, so if enemy soldiers visit you, Boo will rush at them, blue arms and chains ready to pummel anyone in your way. Of course, these characters are meant for support, and you'll obviously be at the center of the action. But the presence of your allies will certainly help.

Throughout the game, when characters talk to you or to each other (there will be banter between the characters to set mood and provide information), their animated heads will show up at the top of the screen, complete with lip synching.

New Legends is slated for an early 2001 release, but it already looks very good. Most of the levels are done, as are the weapons and characters. Right now, a lot of polish and refinement needs to be done, levels need to be populated, and the weapons and such need to be balanced. GameSpot will bring you more information on New Legends as it becomes available.

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