Ubi Soft shows off Rayman Arena

The company's colorful mascot character will be featured in this forthcoming multiplayer action game. Details inside.

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Although Ubi Soft has developed products in a variety of genres, its identity has been tied closely to its mascot character, Rayman. Particularly following the release of Rayman 2, which is regarded by many as one of the best 3D platform games to date, the limbless hero has taken center stage in the company's lineup. Today, at its ongoing Gamers Week, Ubi Soft showcased the latest game in the Rayman series, titled Rayman Arena. This multiplayer game serves as a bridge between the release of Rayman 2 and the upcoming Rayman 3, and as such, it doesn't have a plot of any kind. Ubi Soft wants to emphasize a competitive spirit with Rayman Arena, and stated that a storyline would only take away from it.

Rayman Arena features two distinct modes of play: race and battle. The race mode is essentially a two-player race, depicted in a horizontal split-screen perspective, through levels teeming with a variety of obstacles. As they race through the lengthy levels, players must platform jump, balance on slides placed over chasms, climb walls, and dodge enemies and other obstacles, all while staying in front of their opponent. In this mode, racing through the specific levels themselves, whose designs share various elements from familiar levels in Rayman 2, takes precedence over player interaction. Players are able to shoot at each other, but the races are more about mastering the course than slowing down your opponent. Additionally, according to Ubi Soft, the more risks players will take in these racing levels, the faster they'll be able to progress. Three races are available at the game's onset, but there are a total of 12 racing levels in the game. One of the racing levels shown was inside a sunken pirate ship, reminiscent of the pirate ship level in Rayman 2. Ubi Soft highlighted an impressive effect in this level, where the boat swings back and forth as the players raced through the map.

The arena-based battle mode features deathmatch-style gameplay, complete with weapons and health powerups, relatively confined arenas, and win/loss records. Played from a third-person perspective, up to four players can compete at once in the battle mode. The PlayStation 2 version of the game uses a split-screen perspective, while PC players will be able to take part in online battles. Additionally, the PC version of the game will have an online global ranking system that will automatically update with the best Rayman Arena players in the world. Eight playable characters, both old and new, are available in the battle mode. Familiar characters such as Rayman, Globox, Tinsies, Pirate Henchman, and Razorbeard are joined by newcomers such as Razorwife, new Henchmen, and a female character named Tily. All of the characters in the game have the same exact moves and abilities. So, for example, Globox is able to jump, shoot, roll, slide, climb, and helicopter exactly like Rayman. The only difference is that each individual character has its own unique move animations. The decision to give all of the characters the same ability stems from Ubi Soft's desire to leave the game's outcome up to the player's individual skills. According to the company, the races and the battles are more interesting if the player's skill, rather than the individual character's ratings and abilities, are used to decide the winner.

The Rayman 2 engine is being used to develop Rayman Arena. As such, Rayman Arena shares some of its level design and much of its control scheme with that game. According to Ubi Soft, only the graphical and sound libraries have been tweaked. The game has been in development for more than two years and is currently running at a relatively consistent 60fps, although we did notice some slowdown. However, the final game should maintain the smooth frame-rate throughout. The game is currently on schedule for release in November for the PlayStation 2 and in December for the PC. GameSpot will have more on Rayman Arena in the coming weeks.

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