Restricted Area Hands-On
Restricted Area is essentially Diablo with guns. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
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With Whiptail Interactive and Master Creating's Restricted Area due out in stores soon, we had the chance to check out the game one last time prior to the review. The easiest and most accurate way to describe Restricted Area is that it's a very Diablo-like game. But instead of hacking apart monsters with swords and axes, you're blasting away mutants and other creatures with psionic powers and guns. Oh yes, lots and lots of guns.
As we described in our earlier preview, Restricted Area is set in the late 21st century, with the earth's surface rendered all but inhospitable due to contamination. Governments collapsed, and in their wake rose the megacorporations, which you, playing as one of four characters, will interact with. These four characters, two male and two female, will let you play through the game's plot from slightly different points of views. Each has his or her own unique skills and backstories to explore. You can select from the Neo-esque Johnson, the sword-wielding Kenji Takahashi, the vinyl miniskirted Victoria Williams, and the tech nerd Jessica Parker Thankfully, you get to choose a code name for your character, so you can rename them, in a way.
After you've got your character up and running, you can take a quick jaunt around the city neighborhood to meet the various "shopkeepers" and contacts that will give you missions throughout the game. Your first job is to retrieve some microchips that were left behind at a remote desert outpost overrun by creatures. Before you know it, you're jumping on board a flying car for a trip out to the desert. Restricted Area generates the entire level randomly, much like Diablo does, but the general idea remains the same: You run around blasting everything in sight while picking up loot, opening up chests, and delving deeper into the mission.
Restricted Area gives you a huge range of weapons to play with, from different styles of pistols, submachine guns, shotguns, and more. There are almost countless variations, as one SMG might give you additional damage, while another has a faster rate of fire. You can also go to the weapons expert in the game to customize or enhance each weapon...for a price, of course. You don't have to worry about ammunition, either, as Restricted Area doesn't bother keeping track of bullets. This is a somewhat strange element in the game, as you run around with an infinite number of bullets and don't have to worry about running out. As such, the only reason to return to the main city during a mission is so you can unload all the various loot cluttering up your inventory.
There's fairly strange loot in the game, too. One of the ideas of Restricted Area is that human beings can modify themselves with cybernetic or genetically engineered parts, such as arms, brains, eyes, legs, and more. Like weapons, these can have all sorts of different modifiers. Some legs may improve your speed by a certain percentage, while others might grant you more stamina or dexterity. You can pick and choose which part to slap onto your character, or a button will automatically select the best available parts and attach them. You can then sell the remaining parts off, which is also a bit strange when you're staring at a window full of detached limbs. And, like the weapons and armor in Diablo, these body parts can deteriorate, so you can have them all repaired by the appropriate person in town.
In addition to guns and limbs, you may also have access to psionic powers, which are basically mind powers that let you heal, damage an opponent, and more. These are very much like magical spells, and you can invest your skill points (earned every time you level up) into enhancing an existing power or gaining a new one, such as the ability to freeze enemies in place or the ability to brainwash them into fighting for you. Or, if you're playing Kenji, the samurai sword-wielding character, you may have some outrageous martial arts skills, such as a flying drop kick that can level groups of opponents.
Restricted Area uses what Master Creating calls the IRIS graphics engine, which it touts as the fastest and most powerful engine ever written for an isometric game. In truth, it looks very much like Blizzard's Diablo and Diablo II in terms of graphics, though it does have better shadow, light, and weather effects. The art style straddles the line between Fallout and Diablo, so you'll explore lots of vast, empty wasteland, along with dark, dungeonlike facilities. Unfortunately, there are minor typos and translation errors throughout the game, but an even more worrisome problem is the pause that occurs anytime you try to manipulate anything in your inventory. You can do nothing but wait five or six seconds for the game to resume, which makes selling lots of items in the store a pain.
Since we had a preview copy of the game, we didn't get a chance to try out any of the multiplayer modes, including the cooperative gameplay one. Co-op was one of the best modes in the Diablo games, so it'll be interesting to see how Restricted Area comes across. And on that note, it'll be interesting to see how Restricted Area does, as this is a game that tries to mimic Diablo in terms of gameplay and look. Restricted Area should be in stores shortly.