Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines Hands-On

We check out a playable build of the upcoming Half-Life 2-engine-based gothic RPG from the makers of Arcanum.

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Though the main attraction at the ATI booth at the Electronic Entertainment Expo has to be the behind-closed-doors demonstration of Half-Life 2, Troika Games' upcoming Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines is on display and playable at the company's booth, and it's also drawing plenty of attention. And with good reason--it's looking beautiful. We recently previewed the game, but were able to see more of it in action on the show floor today.

Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines is based on White Wolf's pen-and-paper role-playing series, and despite the game's dramatic good looks, developer Troika maintains that it will stay very true to the material and will feature a real-time implementation of the rules and systems that define Vampire's pen-and-paper gameplay. However, unlike with the source material, in the game you won't exactly need to use your imagination to conjure up the setting. Vampire takes place in a gothic, richly lit Los Angeles populated by vampires, those who feed them, and those who wish to kill them. Much like in Half-Life 2, the character models are obviously one of the main attractions, as they feature lifelike facial expressions and convincing lip synching as they speak their lines. The game uses a traditional dialogue-tree conversation system, but the dialogue seems concise, and the game looks rather fast-paced for an RPG.

We tried out some great-looking vampire abilities and were pleased to see how the game seamlessly transitions between first-person and third-person perspectives. We snuck up behind one unsuspecting victim and took a bite from the back of her neck, draining all her blood and leaving behind a pale husk. Later, we weren't as hungry, so we crept up behind and opponent and snapped his neck. We also tried picking a lock and some good old-fashioned boxing.

A Troika representative told us that the developers recently implemented some of Half-Life 2's advanced artificial intelligence routines, and that the development has come a long way since the project started about a year ago. Indeed, Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines looks like an extremely promising RPG, not only for its good looks, but also for its subject matter and big, detailed setting. Stay tuned for more on the game.

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