Scrapland Impressions

Take an advance look at designer American McGee's futuristic action adventure game for the Xbox and PC.


Action adventure games can be pretty open-ended with regard to what they offer, especially in the wake of the groundbreaking and controversial Grand Theft Auto III of 2001. They can offer, among other things, third-person shooting action, logic puzzles, character interaction, and vehicle races--just like Scrapland, the upcoming action adventure game from Enlight Software. The game's development is being headed up by designer American McGee, who has worked previously on Alice for the PC and on the Quake first-person shooter series. Unlike those other games, Scrapland will tell a futuristic film-noir tale about a planet full of robot citizens that are mysteriously being murdered by an unknown culprit.

Welcome to Scrapland. Population: a bunch of robots and you (also a robot).
Welcome to Scrapland. Population: a bunch of robots and you (also a robot).

It will be up to your character, the robotic reporter D-Tritus, to solve the mystery of the murders by investigating the Chimera orbital station. You'll have to survive attacks by vicious mercenaries and gangs and pilot a number of different spaceships before you can finally, as McGee puts it, "get the girl and ride off into the sunset." To this end, you'll explore the station both on foot inside its spacious skyscrapers and in speedy vehicles in its varied outdoor areas. The gameplay will bear some resemblance to the Grand Theft Auto games in that you'll have regular missions to undertake along with side quests and minigames that you can play at any time to earn extra cash. D-Tritus will need all the cash he can get to trick out his many spaceships, which he'll use to fly through the outdoor skyways of the station, fight in arena battles, run races, and even start up impromptu skirmishes in the city by opening fire on other vehicles. Other ships can be a good source of spare cash, ammunition, and extra weapons and other items. However, attacking too many random passersby can get the attention of the local police, who will crack down on you unless you can escape long enough for the heat to die down.

The game will have a decent variety of vehicles with different characteristics, like speed and differing numbers of slots to equip weapons, engine boosters, and other upgrades. You'll be able to take your hard-earned cash and use it to buy up rocket launchers, lightning guns, and railguns for use in the game's aerial dogfights. McGee explains that the game's combat will have simplified physics and streamlined controls, since the development team wished to avoid vehicular combat in which everyone is always turning--turning around to get another shot, that is. Collecting and equipping vehicles won't be an incredibly complex business, since the game is intended to focus on accessible, fast-paced action rather than on having you wonder of you've collected every last kind of laser gun. As it turns out, vehicular combat and races will be key parts of the game's online multiplayer both for the PC and on Xbox Live.

You'll be able to assume the form of just about any robot on the planet.
You'll be able to assume the form of just about any robot on the planet.

Aside from using vehicles, you'll also explore various futuristic environments on foot, with the help of one very special ability. It seems that D-Tritus' camera, which is also a talking robot, "isn't much of a camera," but is able to impart to our hero the power to become any other robot on the planet. That is, you'll be able to target just about any other robot on the Chimera station and seize control of it, assuming its appearance and any and all of its abilities. The game will have 15 different robots you can change into, including a diminutive hopping "stapler" robot whose greatest strength is reaching high places undetected, a sly thief robot with the ability to pick pockets, and a police camera robot with the ability to zoom in on another robot or character and set off a police alarm against it. In many cases, assuming the form of another robot will also act as an effective form of stealth so that you can put that robot's particular abilities to good use unhindered. The game's designers are crafting its missions to include different robots with different abilities at the right places, so once you become familiar with their skills, you can capture the right one to complete your objective.

Scrapland has been in development for some two years, and the early version we saw featured graphics with a colorful, futuristic look. While the game's story focuses on a murder mystery, you can also expect to see a good deal of humor in the game--in its dialogue, missions, and even the graphical design of some of its goofier characters. If the game can make good on its unusual premise, then Scrapland will be a more lighthearted, futuristic version of Grand Theft Auto. The game is scheduled for release on both the PC and the Xbox later this year.

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