E3 Coverage: Sammy Studios

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posted 5/17/2004 by Charlie Sinhaseni
other articles by Charlie Sinhaseni
Watch out gaming world, Sammy Studios is in the house and it has something to prove. Forget about the publisher of third party titles that you used to know, this formidable studio has opened up a number of studios on the west coast with a new commitment towards developing quality in-house titles. We were able to sample a few of them at the show, a couple of which were real show stoppers.

Darkwatch

I know, I know, the story of a vampire cowboy who sets out to destroy legions of zombies in the old west isn’t exactly the most original idea on the planet, but Sammy is adding just enough to this wrought and clichéd genre to separate itself from the hordes of look alikes on the market.

Darkwatch has a significantly darker tone to it. In it you play as the cowboy Jericho who was bitten by a bloodthirsty vampire. He survives the attack but finds that Hangtown is being overrun by a number of zombies and sets out to save the townspeople. We were given a demo of what to expect from the finished product and although it was brief, we can wholeheartedly say that it was one of the show’s biggest surprises.

While everyone was showing sequels to yesterday’s most beloved titles Sammy decided to show off the theme of tomorrow. This shooter features all of the elements that everyone was touting at the show but in a significantly varied setting. You’ll have a number of different and entertaining weapons to utilize as well as a number of vampiric enhancements. Some of the neat ones that we saw was an alternate viewing mode that caused your enemies to glow brighter and another which allowed you to jump farther than usual.

Not to be outdone, Darkwatch also features this year’s biggest theme, physics. Instead of going the easy route and incorporating Havoc 2 like everyone else Sammy has created its own physics system from the ground up. Calling it impressive would be an understatement. Havok is nice but it generally only affects objects in the near vicinity of the action. So if you throw some dynamite into a pile of boxes you’ll see them scatter realistically, but what about that light fixture up above? Sammy’s physics engine takes this into account, so while you’ll still see the boxes scatter you’ll see the chandelier sway in a realistic manner as well. This is evident throughout the town of Hangtown as you’ll the bodies hanging from the railings sway as they come in contact with your actions.

In addition to the technology the action seems to be up to snuff as well. There is a healthy amount of action to be had here including a third-person horse-mounted element. If the action can keep up with the technology Sammy will be winning plenty of awards with this title come 2005.

The Shield

Ever heard of FX’s award-winning police drama? Well apparently so have the folks at Sammy because they’ve green lighted a video game based on one of their favorite programs. At first we were expecting to see a mediocre game that was hoping to succeed on the basis of the license, but as we watched the demo we realized that it was a game destined to stand on its own merits.

From what we’ve seen, The Shield would be a fun game even if it were to lack the blockbuster license. It has a number of very interesting gameplay mechanics that we’ve yet to see in this type of game such as the interrogation system. So let’s say some punk is giving you a hard time. You look down and realize that you’re wearing a pair of steel toed boots so you “negotiate” the information out of him by giving him a swift kick to the midsection. You’ll have two bars to watch out for, the interrogation and the health meter. The key to success is to break the NPC’s will without killing him. Go too far and you risk compromising the mission. Since you’re a cop killing an innocent will result in failure so finding a good blend is the key to success here.

You’ll play as a number of the game’s different characters but the main focus will be on Mackey (whose voice and likeness is also featured in the game). Our demoer showed us an extremely impressive build of an adult toy store that featured some excellent texture work and architecture. We were told the build was pre-alpha but the quality of the level was that of a near final build. All of the textures, design elements and animations were practically in place; including the gunplay and hand-to-hand elements. Even at this early stage the combat was fun and engaging, the developers are currently planning on adding in a ground grappling system before the game ships.

Other elements planned for the game also correspond with the themes of the show. So while you may participate in a traditional 3rd person assault to nab your perp the next scene may shift to an interrogation setting with the department’s other officers. It looks to have plenty of depth and the project is shaping up quite nicely.

Quick Takes

Guilty Gear is shaping up quite nicely for the PS2 with four-player simultaneous support and some additional characters thrown into the fray. If it sounds frantic it’s because it really is, but it’s also a hell of a lot of fun. It’s kind of like Smash Bros. with some depth and strategy and that’s all right with us.

Admit it, the stealth-action title is getting pretty stale. For every Splinter Cell Pandora Tomorrow you get two Mission Impossible: Operation Surmas. Sammy sees it this way too, that’s why it’s unleashing Spy Fiction upon an unsuspecting populous. It takes everything that you love about the genre and builds upon it with cool new gadgets like the stealth suit which makes you invisible for a limited about of time. This game ships soon so we’ll hold off on further comments until we get the final build.

The last title on display was Iron Phoenix, an Xbox Live-enabled martial arts brawler. We saw it last year but it’s come a long way from the days when it was positioned in the back of Kentia Hall. Sammy has taken the game under its wing and slapped on a fresh new coat of paint to really beautify the game. It runs much smoother now and the look and feel of the game is much more professional. Iron Phoenix also drew large crowds thanks in large part to its tournament-like atmosphere.