Omikron Preview

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Those of you in search of a fresh take on the stale action-adventure genre - take note. In terms of innovation and design, Omikron may be one of the most ambitious action-adventure titles ever conceived. Its unique engine and gameplay revolve around third-person-perspective exploration and adventure, first-person action, and Tekken-style fistfights (replete with combos and special moves). Although the Dreamcast conversion of Omikron will purportedly remain unchanged from its PC progenitor, gamers who haven't already uncovered its secrets on the computer are sure to find plenty of gameplay features and a unique story to interest them.

Quantic Dreams announced a few months ago that the popular title would soon release on the Dreamcast. Though without any DC-exclusive additions, Omikron promises to accurately represent the variety of gameplay found in the PC version while maintaining a very smooth and manageable 60 frames per second. The Dreamcast's developer-friendly interface and powerful processor lets gamers enjoy a picture-perfect conversion of Omikron that would be comparable only on the high-performance (and very expensive) PC gaming rigs. Essentially, Dreamcast owners are getting a game that in many ways was begging to be ported to consoles. Though Omikron had relatively stiff system requirements that stretched the average PC to the limit, the Dreamcast will display everything the designers intended, as they intended, with room to spare.

Beyond the different perspectives and modes, perhaps one of the most intriguing gameplay features of Omikron is your character's ability to assume the bodies of other characters in the game world to assist him in the completion of mission goals and further the mysterious and nonlinear storyline. The ability to change player traits and access in the course of the game certainly adds a whole new element to the action/adventure genre. So, despite the fact that Omikron will purportedly remain unchanged from its PC brethren, gamers who haven't already uncovered its secrets on the computer should find plenty of new and varied gameplay here to interest them.

By providing plenty of characters that you can assume, Omikron uses the idea of possession as a method to advance the storyline. Though you may not notice a distinct difference in abilities between one character and another, you will find that many characters own apartments that are accessible only to that character. Following through with this idea, Omikron gives you plenty of opportunities to jump into different characters, access different areas of the game, and pilfer special items that may be useful to your quest at some later point.

Breaking down stagnant bastions of gameplay isn't all Omikron is attempting either. Enlisting the aid of senior pop-music genius David Bowie and guitar guru (and Bowie's band partner) Reeves Gabrels, Quantic Dreams wants to redefine what gamers think of when they think of video game music. Featuring several tracks from Bowie's latest CD, Hours, and several tracks written exclusively for the game, Omikron has no problem creating a definite mood. In fact, Bowie's involvement with Omikron runs startlingly deep, far beyond what's normally expected in a celebrity-endorsed product. Beyond providing the game's incisive soundtrack, Bowie consented to letting the designers use the likeness of himself, his band, and his wife (supermodel Iman), to the game as well. Bowie stars in the game as an eclectic, futuristic musician known as Boz, the Virtual Being. Boz and his band can often be found in the game world's various bars and other nightspots, performing his songs in choreographed routines that display motion-captured animations. They are entertaining to watch - though eventually superfluous to the main plot. The game ties the soundtrack to the gameplay experience further by letting you buy Bowie's music in the stores of Omikron and relax to it in your apartment. Even the strange-looking face on the cover art bears a striking resemblance to the younger Bowie of the late '70s/early '80s.One may assume that the graphics and gameplay would suffer as a consequence of all the attention Quantic Dreams lavished on getting Bowie for the soundtrack and in-game character. But a few glances at some of the startlingly detailed game world will probably convince most gamers otherwise. 3D models are believable (especially in the multitude of scenes featuring well-acted voice-overs). Omikron takes a page out of Zelda 64 and other action-adventure RPGs by offering a fully functioning, completely simulated world.

Though this game world may appear dark, industrial, and foreboding, a cursory exploration of the surroundings reveals that Omikron's world isn't necessarily that much different from our own. There are the usual assortment of shops, deserted alleyways, houses and apartments, bustling streets, and restaurants, in addition to the aforementioned nightclubs and bars.

Exploration, in fact, proves to be the central way the story of Omikron is revealed. You act out the role of a computer hacker who inadvertently stumbles on another world (known as Phaenon) as he is attempting to break through the coding and firewalls of the mysterious Ix Network. Somehow, you are drawn in to the game world without your corporeal body and are seemingly doomed to wander the planet as the Nomad Soul. After mastering the ability to possess (you can assume the role of more than 40 different characters eventually), you will embark on a quest to make sense of what's become of your true identity and past life - eventually discovering and attempting to put the evil mastermind behind Ix Network's nefarious machinations to an end. As you progress through the game, you will eventually realize that you are not the only one who possesses the knowledge and means to ensure Phaenon's salvation.

Revealing more about the story and the true nature of Omikron and the Nomad Soul will ruin the experience and the mystery that Omikron is all about. Suffice it to say, the game will provide you with a great amount of diverse gameplay. If an action-adventure title that offers (among other things) puzzle-solving, first-person shooting, 3D fighting, and out-and-out exploration sounds like something to write home about, then you have one more reason to take note. Eidos Interactive, Omikron's publisher, has recently confirmed that the game will be available on the Dreamcast by May 2000 at your nearest software outlet. Despite what preconceived notions some gamers may have about the increasingly vapid third-person action-adventure genre, even the most fickle gamers will find it difficult to name a title that offers as much promise of gameplay variety, while maintaining a focus on the enigmatic story at its heart, as Omikron: The Nomad Soul.

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