by Andrew "telarium" Langley
At the RTX Red Rock booth at E3, we had the opportunity to meet producer Reeve Thompson. Reeve, as you may know, stopped by our E3 forums a while and go and expressed his opinion about how adventure fans will like this game. He immediately said the same thing when we met him, discussing this kind of gameplay mix. “It puts a lot of combat in, a lot of action,” Reeve said enthusiastically, “but it still has that adventure underneath which I think you guys will like.” Of course, having Hal Barwood of Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis fame directing this project can’t hurt either.
The game is set 100 years in the future when Earth has just successfully resisted and invasion from a brutal alien force. However, the celebration is cut short when Earth’s Mars colony goes quiet. Everyone assumes that the aliens have invaded Mars, so it’s time to send in the Radical Tactics Expert (RTX).
Enter Eugene Zeno Wheeler, although everyone calls him E.Z. for short. E.Z. is kind of the alternative to the Navy Seals in the future, only he’s just one man instead of a team. He was wounded in a previous battle, so he has a synthetic eye as well as a robotic hand ala Bionic Commando. Wheeler has a futuristic palm pilot referred to as an Independent Removable Information System, or IRIS for short. Hmm, there are a lot of acronyms in the future, it seems. Anyway, IRIS has a female personality who is kind of in love with Wheeler and easily gets jealous of other women. Despite this, IRIS is there to help you. She gives you hints, she tells you where to go, she provides maps, and she allows you to take control of other robots.
The demo level we saw starts out on Mars with Wheeler in his space suit. Right from the start, we encounter a puzzle. Your path has been blocked by a giant pile of rocks, so you must use some of the tools available to shift the rocks and cause an avalanche. This wipes your path clear, but now there are aliens who are shooting at you. Thankfully, the combat seems to have improved since Hal’s last game, Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine. In addition to having to combat aliens outside and solve puzzles, you must keep an eye on the oxygen levels in your suit. Wheeler also has a jet pack available. While the jet pack can’t let you fly around free and clear, it provides sort of a double-jump effect and can help cushion a large fall.
Once you get into the space station on Mars, you have to remove your suit to continue exploring. One of the things that really impressed me about this game was the amount of detail in the levels. 3D games tend to recycle flat walls and textures over and over again, which gives a sort of an uninteresting and mass-produced feel to the interior levels. Not RTX Red Rock. The levels we saw have a lot going on in them. The surfaces are cluttered and filled with objects, not just flat walls with textures painted on them like you see in most games. My main concern, however, is that the environments may be too limited. While the levels we saw looked great, it might become tiresome to just explore space stations and the Mars surface through the entire game. Hopefully LucasArts still has some tricks up their sleeve.
The gameplay, however, seems quite varied. “You know, we have all this adventure stuff,” Reeve continued, “but we also take control of robots. You drive rovers, you fly a blimp, you take over a speeder at one point, and then you’re riding around and doing a lot of combat. So it’s going to have different modes of pretty much everything.” In the demo level, Wheeler eventually took control of a rover on Mars, which you can use to travel greater distances, steeper inclines, and even jump canyons.
So what more do LucasArts adventure game fans have to look forward in this game? “Well I think first of all,” Reeve began, “we have really strong characters. I mean, you saw IRIS. Personally I think she’s going to steal the show when you actually play the game. She’s really cool, really interesting dynamic between her and Wheeler. And then you meet a lot of different characters. The story takes some interesting turns as well. You discover why the aliens are actually invading. They’re not going to conquer, they’re looking for something. And then it sort of takes on an Indiana Jones mystical side to it as well.”
Unfortunately, we missed Hal Barwood at the show, but it was nice to see people being so enthusiastic about the game. Personally, I think this game has a lot of potential. RTX Red Rock will be out in the spring of 2003.