Will Rock Preview
Saber Interactive's first game looks quite a lot like Serious Sam, but it has you fighting angry Greek demigods. We check out an early beta build.
There was a point when nearly all first-person shooters closely resembled Doom, but the genre has diversified enough that nowadays the games following the shoot-roomfuls-of-monsters model stand out from the crowd. Ubi Soft's upcoming shooter, Will Rock, bears an obvious resemblance to Croteam's Serious Sam, but instead of fighting odd creatures in Egyptian surroundings, you'll fight monsters inspired by Greek mythology and even a couple of angry ancient gods. The game hit beta a couple of weeks ago, and we recently had a chance to play through a few levels.
PC publishers have increasingly turned to Eastern Europe to find undiscovered programming talent, so it's not much of a surprise that Ubi Soft picked the game up from a new Russian studio, Saber Interactive. Will Rock has been in development for just around a year, and in that time the team has put together a proprietary engine that can produce some neat deformable geometry effects, which a couple of the weapons take advantage of.
Since Will Rock doesn't try to be more than a conventional shooter, you wouldn't expect there to be much of a story, and there isn't. But as the game opens, there are a series of hand-illustrated images that work to justify why you spend the game fighting animated Greek statues, minotaurs, and satyrs. As it turns out, the Greek gods were imprisoned in a deserted temple after the Romans invaded Greece, and they're none too happy about it. When the main character, a happy-go-lucky archeology student named Will Rock, unwittingly helps to open the gates to the temple, his love interest is whisked away, and he starts a quest to rescue her. Apart from some occasional wisecracks, you don't see or hear much of Will Rock once the action starts.
There's just a 9mm handgun and a shovel to use against the minotaurs that attack as you enter the temple. The trick to these first creatures is that smaller, weaker minotaurs spawn from the gore and gibs left behind when you kill the big ones. Soon enough you'll find some weapons that pack more of a punch, like an old Winchester shotgun and a machine gun with a round, top-mounted magazine. But much more interesting are the weapons that deform enemies before blowing them up, such as the sniper crossbow that fires flaming arrows that desiccate enemies and make them shrivel up before crumbling altogether a couple of seconds later. There's also an acid gun that inflates enemies before they explode into a ball of green gas. The odd weapon theme continues down the line, with a fireball launcher that sends out exploding, rocketlike projectiles and a big minigun with a big iron sight that makes it look as though it were taken from a WWI biplane. There are a total of 11 weapons, and they seem to be suited for fairly distinct purposes.
No matter how well armed, you won't ever feel safe going up against Will Rock's monsters. What each enemy lacks in cunning is often made up for by the sheer numbers of monsters. And always keep an eye on the pretty rows of statues, as quite a few will zap you, and there are atlas statues that will come to life and start hurling rocks your way. There are quite a few threats to deal with in the wide-open areas, such as dynamite rats with tails burning like lit fuses that will rush at you in big hordes, tigers with a fast claw attack, and centaurs with tridents that can pitch you high into the air. There are a few different bosses to contend with, including two gods--Hephaestus and Zeus--as well as a giant cyclops and a medusa.
Will Rock's levels seem to contain a good mix of indoor and outdoor scenes. There are some notable set pieces to lend some Greek flavor to the game, such as a Trojan horse that's a part of a later level, but most locations don't have such distinct elements. As compared to Serious Sam, the level design features more wide arenas and fewer of the narrow chokepoints that gather herds of monsters. To give some levels a vertical dimension, there are trampolines, which act like Quake III jump pads, instantly propelling you through the air. The game has a number of puzzles, including key hunts and jumping puzzles based on the trampolines.
The game will have multiplayer cooperative and competitive modes in addition to the fairly lengthy series of single-player levels. The multiplayer modes cover the conventional bases--deathmatch, capture the flag, and rocket arena--and there's a new treasure hunt mode where players hunt for treasure pieces scattered throughout a map or frag other players to pick up the treasure they're carrying.
Even though the game is already in beta, Will Rock could use an extra layer of polish before release. We noticed a few odd glitches when taking out flying enemies, and a few of the creature models, particularly the skeletons, aren't as nicely designed as the rest. We'll have to wait until later this spring to see if Will Rock ships with the fit and finish that can make even a conventional shooter a lot of fun. What we do know is that the game won't have the $19.99 price tag that helped make Serious Sam so attractive. Several online sources have the game listed for preorder at $29.99.
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