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Outlaws Preview

The Old West gets a slick new look in LucasArts' new entry into the action market


On the whole, the classic Western hasn't been treated very well by the computer/video/arcade gaming world. The arcade spasmodia of Mad Dog McCree worked fine, as long as you were a newbie, or loaded, or in a sports bar, or - more likely - some combination of the three (what little redeeming value that one had died miserably with the translation to PC and Macintosh platforms). And, um, there was Sunset Riders. Mmm. (No fair pointing out Alone in the Dark 3, and most of you know it.) Dust gave gamers a glimmer of hope, and was a fine game, if just the tiniest bit on the nice side. Now LucasArts comes swaggering into the one-horse town of Western computer games with Outlaws, a spaghetti-western first-person action/adventure title that just might make that old hombre Leone proud.

In Outlaws, players take the role of the archetypal Mysterious Loner who rides into town seeking revenge and before long is embroiled in the evil schemes of a railroad tycoon and his renegade thugs. Outlaws will utilize both the 3-D engine from the popular and successful Dark Forces and the INSANE engine from Rebel Assault II in an attempt to combine all the elements of 1960's Leone-esque Westerns in a single game. A very ambitious project, the title is at once a cinematic adventure game and an action-intensive multi-player game - the latter of which was something that otherwise enthralled fans of Dark Forces have been screaming for. In multi-player mode, players can choose between 12 distinct gunslinging characters, each with his or her own characteristics and combat advantages.

In the straight-ahead adventure game component, players take the role of ex-marshal James Anderson, whose life is shattered by vicious desperadoes. Inspired by such films as The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly and A Fistful of Dollars and - oh hell, just about every Old West film Clint Eastwood ever made - designers wished to craft a tale of personal discovery and the personification of evil, wherein the protagonist could face redemption or corruption, in the best squinty-eyed Clint tradition. Like I said, ambitious. No less ambitious than the game's visual presentation - edgy, raw, hand-drawn artwork full of gloomy ghost towns, wind-scoured faces, stark, shifty eyes, and ravaged, weathered building exteriors. Exactly how LucasArts intends to fuse the hand-crafted visuals with the 3-D action of a first-person shooter like Dark Forces is unclear at this moment, but the company has had a run of successful adventure games in the past, and at this stage of the game (so to speak) the savage, lean graphics of Outlaws are as alluring and gritty as a rocky, craggy pass that might just be concealing an ambush.

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