Run Like Hell Hands-On

Interplay stopped by with its take on survival-horror, Run Like Hell, for the PlayStation 2.

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RLH: Run Like Hell
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New survival-horror games for the PlayStation 2 are announced at a pace of about one per week. Interplay has decided to take its first shot at the genre with Run Like Hell, a sci-fi adventure for the PlayStation 2. Interplay recently stopped by the offices with a very early version of the game, and it already looks like it's more than just another Resident Evil clone.

In Run Like Hell, you play as Nick Connor, a precognitive ex-Naval commander who has been exiled to a mining satellite, called Forseti, in outer space. Upon returning to the satellite after an exploratory space mission, Nick and a coworker find the base crawling with aliens and being overtaken by a sick biomass. The pair is immediately confronted by a hulking extraterrestrial that snatches up Nick's female coworker, bites off her head, and defiantly spits it at Nick. As Nick runs like hell into the main part of the ship, the ship's head of security, Dag-Rek, attacks him. After a few awkward moments, Nick and Dag band together to find the survivors, rescue Nick's fiancée, Samantha, and rid the ship of the parasitic biomass.

While Run Like Hell's gameplay is much more varied than that of most survival-horror games, its tank-influenced control scheme remains the same. Holding up on the directional pad always makes Nick walk forward while holding left or right will make him pivot on an axis. Though many of the controls have yet to be fully implemented, Nick will eventually be able to perform the spin-around move, fire weapons while moving, sidestep, walk backward, and quickly cycle through enemies when targeting. The puzzles included in Run Like Hell involve combining several items to make one useful gadget. This often requires the use of computer terminals located throughout the ship. You use the terminals to remotely control droids and use them to lure enemies to their death or combine items like grenades with the droids to provide a surprise bang. The only weapons included thus far are the machine gun, pistol, and shotgun. Additional weapons to be added include grenades and a rocket launcher, among others.

Travis Williams, senior producer for Digital Mayhem, claims that his company is shooting for a different type of scare in Run Like Hell--a different one from what players have grown accustomed to in the Resident Evil series. Instead of the sporadic shock effect scares found in Capcom's zombie games, Run Like Hell will perpetuate a constant sense of fright and suspense. This is primarily accomplished by the inclusion of corridor-stalking, indestructible enemies called brutes. It's best to avoid brutes--one swing of their massive arms can spell doom for Nick. This is where RLH's "run games" come into play. Similar to Shenmue's quick-timer events, the run games ask you to push any of the Dual Shock 2's face buttons when prompted. According to Williams, "The only wrong button is not pressing a button." The run games take place in real time, and the actions that Nick performs depends on which face button you press. One may make him duck under an obstacle while another may make him hop over it or knock it into the path of an enemy. There will be other instances in which the gameplay is mixed up a bit--another special event, for instance, has you press a button as quickly as possible to open a door while the enemies are bearing down on you.

There are seven chapters in Run Like Hell, with each chapter representing one day on Forseti. Interplay is promising a minimum of 30 hours of gameplay each time you play through the game. Each chapter begins with a mission briefing that outlines the objectives to accomplish. While the enemy AI has yet to be fully implemented, the intrinsically linked aliens will eventually adapt to your battle tactics. If you're constantly shooting them in the chest, they will grow body armor. If you're targeting their heads with regularity, they will grow plates over their eyes for protection. Aliens will also rip the heads off your shipmates and implant them into their bodies to obtain information. As the game wears on, the biomass slowly takes over the entire ship--in the game's final chapter, the ship is basically one huge pulsing entity.

Run Like Hell's graphics are very premature, but it's still possible to see the direction they're headed. The game takes place entirely on the satellite, so there are a lot of air locks, as well as corridors lined with grating and pipes, command centers, and docking bays to explore. Many of the textures are missing, and some of the stages aren't yet running in high resolution, so it's difficult to determine just how the final levels might look. The biomass that gradually encompasses the ship will eventually include body parts that it or the aliens have absorbed. Nick's smoothly curved character model is composed of 5,000 polygons and already features a great deal of detail, such as teeth and a tongue. Real-time facial animations that are synched to the dialogue are used for the frequent real-time cinemas, and FMV is used for the more plot-twisting sequences, such as Nick's premonitions and flashbacks. The levels are constructed entirely of polygons, facilitating alternate camera angles besides the static views that are so prevalent in survival-horror games. While doing battle, the camera will swoop in behind Nick for a better view, and there's also a first-person camera that comes in handy while you're examining Nick's surroundings. There are just two different enemy types included in RLH so far: lumbering brutes with mouths full of razor-sharp teeth, and smaller, nimble-footed cutters with blades for arms. They too are built with plenty of polygons, resulting in a very convincing look. Like the majority of the graphics, the animations for both Nick and the enemies are still very early. Special effects are also on Digital Mayhem's to-do list, but Williams has promised abundant real-time lighting and particle effects for the finished product.

The most impressive aspect of Run Like Hell thus far is its voice acting. Interplay made the sacrifice and went out to recruit some top-notch talent, and it's already paying dividends. Lance Henriksen, who played the android Bishop in Aliens, and Clancy Brown from Starship Troopers are both on board to provide voice work. Even though Interplay stated that the dialogue included is the first take, the voice work already eclipses the quality found in 90 percent of video games. It sounds like the voice actors have taken the time to memorize their lines instead of stiltedly reading from a script. Considering RLH is being developed for the US market first, any fears of a poor translation can be cast aside.

At its heart, Run Like Hell is a survival-horror game, but its run-game events and unique approach to puzzles manage to give it a refreshing edge. While the build that Interplay dropped by to show us is a long ways from being a finished game, it shows enough promise to generate excitement for the promised updated E3 burn. If Digital Mayhem can make the entire game as unique as the few scenarios included thus far, it just might have a winner on its hands. Run Like Hell isn't scheduled for release until the end of this year, so you can expect plenty of coverage in the coming months.

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