by Andrew "telarium" Langley
Indiana Jones has always been an eagerly anticipated property from LucasArts. After such critically successful games as Last Crusade and Fate of Atlantis, people have enjoyed stepping into Indy’s shoes and adventuring all over the world. The previous third-person game, Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine, drew mixed reactions from fans and critics. While I did find Infernal Machine to be flawed, it seems that Emperor’s Tomb has really done some things right here.
At the Indy display in the E3 booth, the man demonstrating the game informed us that this new game takes place just prior to Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. In fact, we were told that the game ends with Indy meeting Wu Han, the man posing as a waiter who helps save Indy’s life in the beginning of Temple of Doom. Wu Han then tells Indy that they need to go meet Lao She at Club Obi-Wan (and yes, that is actually in the movie).
But I’m getting ahead of myself. This plot of this adventure revolves around an artifact called the Heart of the Dragon, which has the power to mold minds. Obviously some villainous groups like an underground Asian society called the Black Dragon Triad and German mercenaries (Nazis?) want to get their hands on it. Indy has to find this black pearl before they do and return it to the Chinese government.
One of the things I felt that Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine lacked was a fun gameplay style. Indy seemed stiff and rigid in that game, and the clunky controls certainly didn’t help. Here, Indy is the adventurous and active guy that we know from the movies. The hand-to-hand, brawling combat system looks like great fun. While Indy does have a pistol at his side, the fist fighting style gives a more adventurous feeling and keeps the game from turning into something too similar to Tomb Raider. The animation is really top notch here, and I chuckled many times at Indy’s brutal fighting style. Word has it that Indy will eventually face skilled ninjas as well, so it will be interesting to see how the different fighting styles clash.
Something else that irritated me about Infernal Machine was that it was often hard to know when you could use your whip to swing on something. In this engine, an icon appears on screen that lets you know when Indy is close to something that is whip accessible. Again, this gives more of a smooth, adventurous, and fast gameplay style.
The environments look very nice as well. As Indy, you get to travel to many different places like Prague, Istanbul, and Hong Kong. This leads to a wide variety of level styles that should keep you interested. Looking back at the screenshots, I’m actually surprised at how they look in comparison to the game demo we saw. The game looked very smooth and lush, but the screenshots don’t seem to capture how it really looks in action. I recommend checking out the game’s trailer if you haven’t already to get a feel for how this title moves.
On a smaller note, I was told by the LucasArts employee that the music in the game will be taken from the original Indy movie soundtracks, so unfortunately, it appears at this time that there will be no original music in the game. (UPDATE: It seems that this may turn out to be false after all. Check out this news post. -Ed.)
All things considered, Indiana Jones and the Emperor’s Tomb looks to be a very fun game that I will no doubt be playing this fall. I recommend giving it a chance.