New Legends Preview
We visit the Infinite Machine offices and come back with new details of its upcoming 3D action game.
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While most ardent PC gamers are familiar with Justin Chin's work, the former lead designer of Jedi Knight is relatively unknown in the console community. That will change this November with the release of New Legends, a third-person combat game that's scheduled to launch with the Xbox. The game has been in development for quite some time, and it's undergone more than its fair share of changes, including a drastic jump from the PC to Microsoft's upcoming console--a move that undoubtedly left many PC gamers and fans of Chin's work more than a little disappointed. However, New Legends seems much more at home on a console than it would have been on a PC. "The biggest thing for us in terms of making the transition from PC to console is making sure that it doesn't play like a port," explains Chin. "We took the controller and made sure that the combinations worked well, and we completely redesigned the combat system to make it a fun console game. We also changed the focus on what weapons we wanted to keep, and ultimately, the game came out a lot better because of these changes." We were recently invited to Infinite Machine's offices in Berkeley, California, and even though we've had ample opportunity to play the game at numerous THQ events and trade shows, we snatched the opportunity to do so again.
For those who still aren't familiar with New Legends, the game takes place in a not-so-future China and draws a lot of its inspiration from the Hong Kong martial arts movies that have recently become so popular stateside. China is recovering from a devastating civil war, and signs of peace are starting to emerge throughout the land. The country is reunifying, and warlords who once clashed against each other are now setting down their arms for their nation's greater good under the leadership of Emperor Khan. But one warlord, Xao Gon, doesn't share the rest of his country's vision. He seeks to keep China pinned underneath the heavy heel of war, and soon he builds a massive army of his own, murders Khan, and proclaims himself the leader of "New China." Xao Gon's five sons, demon half-breeds, are the generals leading his army, and they each have characteristics that tie into the five basic elements of earth, wind, fire, water, and metal.
You play the role of Sun Soo, a character who wants to defeat the current dictator of China and restore freedom to his homeland, if for no other reason than to avenge his brother Tao's death at the hands of one of Xao Gon's generals. You travel throughout China and find other warriors to fight for your cause. While you won't be able to assume control over them, these nonplayer characters (NPCs) will travel with you and help you fight off Xao Gon's forces. One of the earliest such characters is Boo, a brawny character who's a mix between a Chinese demon and a human. You'll meet Boo in a Mongolian prison, from which he'll help you escape after learning that you two share similar ideals about the so-called New China. Another character is an old man named Zang, who, in addition to wielding a massive sniper rifle, carries all of your group's weapons in the massive bamboo container strapped to his back. Yet another is Mai Khan, Emperor Khan's daughter, who joins your character to exact revenge for her father's murder. In total, there are eight characters that you'll meet throughout Sun Soo's journeys through China, Mongolia, and Nepal.
Joining the Fight
As we mentioned on the previous page, the control you exert over these characters is extremely limited. In fact, you can't even choose who comes with you on certain missions and who stays behind. That's all decided as the story unfolds. New Legends is a game that's heavily driven by its story and plot twists, and some characters will simply be tied up with other missions, while others might get injured or even die. However, there are certain parts of the game, especially toward the end, when you'll have nearly every one of these memorable NPCs fighting by your side at once. But no matter how many or how few of the characters tag along with Sun Soo, they each play their part in helping you out. The characters use a combination of scripted sequences and AI to progress through the level, provide cover for you, and update you on your mission objectives. If you're slow to plant the bombs that will sabotage one of Xao Gon's war machines in a later level, Zang will angrily tell you to hurry up. In New Legends, this is done in a somewhat unique fashion. All the characters currently on your team will have a small window that pops open when they have something to say, whether they're talking to Sun Soo or having a dialogue among themselves. These windows display the characters in real time, so you'll actually be able to see them move and run around within the window as they're doing so in the actual level. While this seems somewhat insignificant, it goes a long way toward making the action all around seem more believable. The designers at Infinite Machine originally wanted to include radio scratch and static across these windows depending on the distance between the various characters and Sun Soo, but that got in the way of the gameplay. Apparently, in some missions, the NPCs were so far away from you that their dialogue was impossible to understand. Of course, your allies' primary duties will be to help you fight, and fight they can. Each of the characters has his or her own unique weapon, which can be whirled with deadly precision--all except for Boo, who uses his bare fists.
New Legends' 32 levels will take you through a variety of missions, each with a distinct set of objectives. While the game is primarily about combat, you won't be relegated to mindless fighting. Some missions require you to be as stealthy as possible to avoid detection by guards, while other missions involve rescuing members of your party, placing charges, and even hijacking trains. But having said that, New Legends is really about the combat. It's the aspect of the game that the designers have spent the most amount of time on and the aspect of it they feel the proudest of.
As our previous previews have mentioned, New Legends will feature 24 weapons that Sun Soo can find throughout the game, most of which are melee weapons, although there certainly are plenty of ranged weapons as well. Sun Soo does have the unique ability of carrying two weapons at once, and since he can string any two weapon combinations together, he'll be able to perform a myriad of unique moves. Five of these 24 weapons are called the forbidden blades, and Sun Soo will receive them after defeating each of Xao Gon's five generals. Like their owners, these weapons take on the five basic elements--they include the ax hammer, which is a massive weapon that's blunt on one end and sharp on the other; the triple wind, which is a three-sectioned staff with protruding blades; the chaos sphere, a halberd-type weapon; the fire sword, a flaming long blade; and the razor saw, which is a single-edged serrated blade. Each of these weapons will have a particular use by the end of the game, and Sun Soo won't be able to complete his quest without having acquired all of them.
Sun Soo's arsenal will certainly be varied. Chin says that while he'd like for players to try out all the weapons in the game, he thinks that most people will feel comfortable with certain ones over time. But because the enemies in the game range from archers to lumbering tanks, it'll be nearly impossible to get through most levels without actively switching weapons. Doing so is relatively easy, since even though Sun Soo can wield only two weapons at once, he can carry a total of four, which you can see strapped onto his back. Toggling between his weapons is done through the black and white buttons on the Xbox, and if a situation calls for a weapon that Sun Soo isn't currently carrying, hitting the start button will bring up the inventory screen that shows the contents of Zang's pack, and from here you can switch out any of the weapons that you've come across in the game.
With 24 unique weapons and a number of different combinations, you'd think that New Legend's combat system might be intimidating, but it's surprisingly easy to master. Combinations are executed simply by pressing one of the two attack buttons--each attack button controls each of your equipped weapons--repeatedly or by stringing the two buttons together. As soon as you start a combo, you will lock onto the nearest enemy facing Sun Soo, but if that enemy moves, you'll lose your lock on him. Infinite Machine designers were originally going to implement a feature similar to Zelda's Z-lock mode, but that would have made the game too easy. Instead, Sun Soo essentially has to commit to attacking an enemy early on, and if that enemy moves or blocks your attack, then you'll have to reset your motion. After Sun Soo successfully attacks a certain number of enemies, he'll gain enough chi to perform a super attack. Each weapon has a special attack that can be executed at any time. A super attack is an enhanced version of this special attack. For example, the bo staff's special attack causes a small number of bamboo shafts to spring up from the ground, injuring enemies immediately within Sun Soo's vicinity. The super attack, however, creates significantly more bamboo shoots for a wider range and a more devastating effect.
The ranged weapons add even more depth to the game's combat, since when Sun Soo has such a weapon equipped, pressing the right analog trigger will lock his perspective forward, effectively letting you strafe back and forth. This feature becomes particularly useful when Sun Soo has two flechette pistols equipped at once, for example, and a group of enemies are charging him down a narrow area. Additionally, Sun Soo can block melee attacks and kick chairs and vases at enemies. And after all the fighting is over, Sun Soo can pray at any of the shrines located throughout the levels to get some of his health back.
Ultimately, the designers at Infinite Machine hope that New Legends re-creates the combat of movies like Blade (the Hong Kong version, not Wesley Snipe's Blade) and The Matrix. "We want to create epic battles and give the player the feeling that they have the ability to do all the moves they've seen in these movies," says Chin. With 33 enemies, 24 weapons, 32 levels, and nearly half an hour of cutscenes and spoken dialogue, New Legends will do all that and more. And while PC gamers might think it a shame that they won't have a chance to play New Legends, this game is yet another reason to consider buying an Xbox. Be sure to check back tomorrow for more on this promising action game as we talk to lead designer and Infinite Machine president Justin Chin in our video preview. In the meantime, take a look at the brand-new shots of New Legends in our image gallery.