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Forums Index -> Fistful of Joystick -> Possession- 360-IGN.com
PostPosted: Thu Jun 22, 2006 11:21 pm  Reply with quote

Joined: 22 Jun 2006
Posts: 2
Location: The deepest, darkest region of space

May 11, 2005 - The videogame industry is much like a haunted house built on a graveyard of frightfully constant evils. I'm not talking about obvious evils. Yes, publishers drive developers mad, game journalists drive publishers made, and people on the Internet drive everyone mad. But those little vicious circles are nothing compared to the very basis of the videogame industry. What am I talking about? Ninjas, robots, and zombies -- the staples of videogames. Whichever way you turn, you'll somehow find one of these three game types in hordes.

Is it evil to constantly return to the basics? Is it silly? Is it infuriating? Maybe, robots, ninjas, and zombies represent a little of all of those. I know it sounds silly, but we love our ninjas, robots, and zombies. Metal Arms, Ratchet and Clank, Resident Evil, Ninja Gaiden, Shinobi, these are just the most recent games in the long litany of games based on the standards. You name the system and the era, and you'll find them on the surface, below the surface, wherever you might go, they're there, like a super evil grave just waiting to be built upon.

Blitz Games, creators of the early Xbox party game, Fusion Frenzy, love its zombies. Having studied the great zombie holocaust genre in movies and popular culture -- Dawn of the Dead and Evil Dead being central inspirations -- the English developer has embarked on a remarkable new game based on the world of zombies with a different take. In the new next-generation game Possession, you will take control of a mutated, powerful zombie leader and literally command and control hundreds of zombies in a revolt against a tyrannical capitalist corporation.

Yes, it sounds crazy, perhaps even a little goofy. But we've seen it, played it, and in all honesty, there is nothing quite like unleashing as many as 200 flesh-hungry zombies in real-time (especially when you send them into a crowd of innocent people, watch them transform humans into the undead, and then sick the newly-turned on a squad of corrupt policemen, SWAT members, or soldiers).

The story is a little reminiscent of the movie 28 Days Later. Following four activists who break into a science lab, Possession shows the foursome accidentally unleashing hazardous chemicals and mutating themselves into zombies within hours. You take on the role of the leader, an extraordinarily strong and somehow relatively intelligent zombie -- an oxymoron we know -- who leads the three others on a quest. Your goal? To take control of the city and to crush the evil corporation. The development team tagline is, "Take command of the dead and lay waste to the living." OK, so the game is not quite D.H. Lawrence, but the familiar backdrop and the commanding tagline do serve as the perfect foundation for this intriguing next-gen zombie game.

"We're creating a game that fills the player with a sensation of empowerment through the main character (The Enslaver), their actions, and the game's responses to them," said Nick Dixon, design manager for Possession. "We're designing true emergent mechanics that create excitement, visual variation, and massive replayability. To house the action we're creating a large, open-plan city in which the player can create havoc, destruction, and chaos in a city that reacts realistically to the player's actions."

First and foremost, Possession enables you to quickly and easily control hundreds of highly-textured, high polygon-count zombies across a city equal or perhaps larger than Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. The control scheme is intuitive, instant, and likeable. By pressing a single button (left trigger), you'll instantly be able to send an ever-expanding circle out to immediately select dozens of zombies. Once touched, you can send the zombies to a location. Better yet you can send a group of zombies in one direction, while sending another group in another direction. By using the D-pad, you can command zombies to follow, mutate, attack enemies, or guard an area.

Second, the city is eight kilometers long and six kilometers wide, and consists of three districts, the suburbs, downtown, and the corporate district. You can take multiple paths through the sections, which open up as you progress, and you'll have to employ an evolving strategy to counter the increasingly difficult and powerful enemies that try to wipe out your zombie army.

"We're all huge zombie fanboys and wanted to create a game that honored the best elements of the zombie genre," continued Dixon. "We'll put a twist on things though. Usually the player is the lone survivor, navigating dark corridors filled with a handful of zombies. That's fine and makes for a great game, but it's been done many times. Possession isn't survival horror -- in this you are the horror and the humans try to survive you. We're making something truly different and fresh to play, yet instantly recognizable, representing the best of zombie films and games. The player is the architect of this zombie holocaust. You command and possess hundreds of zombies, and turn a living, breathing city into a place fit only for the dead."

The game strategies will emerge as you progress. At first Blitz wants you to simply get accustomed to the controls. Soon, however, you'll face situations like this: You and a small band of zombies take to the street (I already like the sound of this). On your right is a crowd of scared people, stuck in an alley cul-de-sac. In the distance, you can see a policeman or two. The police are far enough away to ignore you, but you'll need to pass them to progress. You quickly group and command your zombie army to attack and transform the innocent crowd. You'll watch as the NPCs scream and run, only to be mobbed by the zombies, which bite and gnaw, hit and beat the humans until they're dead. In Possession, humans transform into zombies right quick, so within less than 30 seconds, you have doubled or tripled your zombie army from say, 10 to 30.

Now, it's time to take care of the police. One strategy is to power right down the middle of the street. You could send out all you zombies right down the pipe to try and just maul them with numbers. But as you get closer, you realize the cops have rocket launchers. Subtle, isn't it? Apparently, the cops are aware of your zombie shenanigans. What you'll instantly learn is that the rocket launchers will immediately tear up your army of undead, and you'll be left with nothing. A better strategy is to split the army into groups, almost a little like in Full Spectrum Warrior or First to Fight, with each team lining a street side. When the cop attacks one side, the other will come through and maul his ass. To add to the zombie mayhem, you can intimidate your enemies. You can use fear to destroy an overzealous or overconfident police force. It's in these kinds of ways you'll find the game is strategic and tactical. Who would have thought of zombies as soldiers?

Possession takes zombies to new places. The powerful stuff you imbued that initially transformed you grows inside every person in unique ways. People react to it differently and the results are a wide variety of zombies. You'll encounter Shamblers, Runners, Bloaters, Shredders, and Monsters -- plus Enslavers. What the hell are we talking about? Dixon explains.

"We have five main zombie types: The Shambler is the iconic zombie, clumsy and slow with little remaining intellect other than very basic instincts. They have only one real interest... food, and are little more than awkwardly motorized pieces of meat. Whilst slow, clumsy and weak attackers, they are dangerous in large numbers and aggressively determined when in sight of food. Shamblers that originate from armed opponents will become armed zombie units. Possess these guys and you can also fire their weapon from first-person! They can swallow a lot of punishment so Shamblers make great body shields as well.

"The Runner is the modern zombie. Fast, athletic, with terrifying animalistic attacks, they're tactically the polar opposite to the Shamblers. They move at a full sprint and can clamber over objects in order to get to their prey. They can't take as much punishment though and also can't carry weapons. So here you choose speed over resilience, savagery over brute force.

"Then there's the Bloater... my personal favorite. As a corpse decomposes it releases gasses, which become trapped in the body and causing it to bloat to distend proportions. This mutation causes an instant ballooning of the walking corpse with infected gas. When the Bloater reaches its attack position it'll explode, spreading the noxious gasses around, infecting anyone caught within the radius.

"For the final two mutate stages we get pretty nasty. The Shredder mutation re-organizes the dead flesh, producing a unique new killing machine, with the ability to climb any surface. These guys are super-efficient pack hunters - Possession's zombie spec-ops. They've also got a unique 1st-person vision mode that identifies different enemy threats. They're fairly weak though and will fall quite quickly to accurate weapon fire.

"Finally you have the Monster. Standing at around 10 feet tall, the Monster is a mass of fused and mutated dead flesh - a zombie tank. These guys are built for a single purpose, destruction on a massive scale. The Monster can toss around heavy objects such as cars without any problem. Their main issue is that unlike any of the other zombie types, Monsters are unable to spread infection into those that they kill."

With a diverse set of zombies at your side, the game strategies grow more intriguing. Blitz Games cited IO Interactive as a developer it particularly loves. The Hitman and Freedom Fighters series have inspired the team to create multiple paths and creative ways to beat a level. The city isn't just a lifeless set of polygonal buildings. It's a working city complete with media, water systems, electrical systems, and police communications systems.

In some levels you can destroy electrical plants or set fires to crashed gas tankers to eliminate enemies. In others, if you dare, you might be able to take on and destroy entire police departments, eliminating the call for help and even more difficult enemies. The enemy ranks don't just sop at police, either, so taking out high levels systems is totally necessary. The armed forces of this city range from the police to SWAT teams, to the National Guard, and even military air strikes.

Finally, Possession is in the works to be an online game. The online plans are a little less (ahem) fleshed out at this point, but all five zombie types, plus the enslaver, will be available for a multitude of modes. Players can use cricket bats and chainsaws in various modes, and a single Enslaver player can control the horde and hunt down a handful of FPS survivors, or they can grab a shotgun (or even a cricket bat!) and see how long they last against the hundreds of zombies.

"We looked at a lot of classic zombie movies and tried to bring out the real essence of these movies for the player, giving them a chance to experience all the same events in the game," explained Dixon. "We're getting the right balance between teamwork and paranoia. For example, players will be able to get infected with the zombie virus, and their teammates will have to inject them with an antidote. Of course, a bullet in the brain will cure them even faster so if you get infected you might want to keep quiet about it!

"We realized pretty early on that designing a multiplayer game with zombies could create some fairly odd situations. We wanted players to be able to scavenge supplies from dead bodies, but quickly realized that these bodies might well get up and start walking round the level. That's the kind of weirdness that this game can throw up from time to time, and it's what makes our multiplayer games unique.

"We've also tried to make the online game a frightening experience. There are lots of games out there providing adrenalin thrills, but no one has really tried to get survival horror into the online environment - overcoming limited resources, battling against a real horde of zombies and wondering which one of your teammates is going to be infected next! So whilst the single-player game is about you creating the terror, we also have the best elements of survival horror within the online play."

In all, Possession has the potential to be an incredible game packed with both familiar B-movie zombie stunts and the unfamiliar experience of commanding hundreds of zombies at the touch of a button. Dixon and his team have envisioned a sophisticated and highly amusing game that's deep with an evolving storyline, continuously emerging gameplay strategies and tactics, and an impressive technology enabling hundreds of character to stalk the street at your command. The only thing? Blitz Games hasn't quite nailed a publisher just yet. Slated for a 2007 release on next-generation systems and PC (re:Xbox 360 and PS3), Possession poses huge potential that remains untapped. We'll be eagerly anticipating the outcome of this E3, as Blitz Games will attend and hopefully strike a deal with some smart publisher. We'll have more soon.
You can be a king or a little street sweeper, but one of these days you will dance with the reaper.
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 23, 2006 12:07 pm  Reply with quote
Verbal Kaleidoscope/Dread Central Staff

Joined: 21 Jun 2006
Posts: 110

i know Mr Dark went hands on at E3 in 2005, but since the game has been flying under the radar.

as far as i know it's still in development, they're just keeping quiet and getting stuck in. if and when anything new pops up about it, i'll be all over it.
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PostPosted: Sat Jun 24, 2006 8:17 pm  Reply with quote

Joined: 24 Jun 2006
Posts: 149

Yeah I really hope this hasn't been cancelled, it looked sweet.
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Mr. Dark
PostPosted: Tue Jul 04, 2006 11:03 am  Reply with quote
Dread Central Staff

Joined: 21 Jun 2006
Posts: 482
Location: God's Country

I have indeed played it.

It was indeed sweet.

The concept alone is just such a 'why hasn't anyone ever done this before?'

We have squad-based combat out the ying-yang since the 486 days.

We have zombie games out the ying-yang since BEFORE the 486 days.

Why has no one else ever said hey, what if you crossed the two? You control a herd of zombies with squad-based combat controls played completely seriously with hardcore attention paid to the AI and the functionality of those controls?

That's what they did, which really got me going. The graphics and physics were SECOND, after the play mechanic and AI. In short they were, now this is a shock, MAKING A GOOD GAME, then making it pretty.

The 'good game' part was coming along nicely in 2005, but I got the impression that the 'making it pretty' part would take some time as they waited for serious dev kits for the next gen consoles. Nothing specific they told me, just some suggestions that they weren't in a hurry to be a launch-day title for any of the next gen consoles.

If and when it's out, it will be fun. Even if it's just the one simple neighborhood level I played that you can play and replay over and over, it'll be fun.
Mr. Dark
Part-Time Dread Central Gaming Guy
Full-Time Freelance Smartass
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