Elevator pitch: Cross Rez with Devil May Cry and you’re about halfway there – it’s a hyperkinetic third-person action game with an emphasis on style over substance. You fight in time with a thumping dubstep track in a robot-strewn future; if you attack in rhythm, mad rewards are yours. And if you don’t, well, it still looks pretty.
It’s all about the beat, the beat, the beat
Non-Elevator pitch: It’s free-to-play, probably developed by some Korean studio. You play a badass futuristic gladiator in a massive arena, dominated by a monolithic DJ booth in the centre. Cameras hover around you as crowds all over the world watch you fight deadly robots in time with a massive dubstep beat.
The tune starts out fairly tame, but the more enemies you kill in sequence, the deeper and wubbier it goes – there’d be around three or four levels of the same song (which loops continually) with deeper base and additional effects on top which would unlock at a given point. Say, one increase in depth every three baddies killed. As you increase in combo multiplier, the screen goes fucking crazy and the special effects and kill-moves increase in spectacle – this is the sort of game you should be able to play on a massive screen whilst people dance. Ideally.
As you destroy robots, you earn Drop Points; you get more if you push the attack button in time with the music, and less if you don’t – there’s potential for additional ones to reward particularly tricky moves or entertaining environmental kills. Your drop points decrease continually from the moment you earn them, so you’re encouraged to either spend them as soon as you can or keep racking them up so you don’t end up losing them.
They work a bit like a power bar, and they power Drops: smart bombs, to give them their proper name. Drops harm every enemy in a given radius, and their range and power is determined by the amount of Drop Points you earn as you play. They’re accompanied by a suitably-cool animation and, of course, the track dropping hard.
Drops can also – perhaps – function as secondary powers, like brief invulnerability, demolishing walls, attracting or repelling foes, or whatever. Not entirely sure on that front though. Players are scored for speed and – somehow – style. Scores are matched online.
(It’s possible for the track to enter into a fill as the drop increases in anticipation, maybe worked out by the number of enemies in range: this would act as a neat audio indication that it’s a good time to use your Drop)
Trying to fight using rhythm is hard, especially when you’re trying to react to enemies that might, for whatever reason, not act in time with it. Here’s my attempt to fix that.
Combat takes place in alternating patterns. In phase one, play proceeds similarly to Rez – you swing your reticule over your targets (helped by a neat auto-aim) and, by pushing your attack button, you mark them for death. Doing this in time with the music is encouraged by rewarding you with Drop Points.
Whilst doing this, baddies will attack you. Attacks range from bolts of energy from hovering sniper bots, to big lumbering attacks from massive colossi, to thundering dashes from wolf-like pursuit bots. You’ll need to defend yourself against these by dodging or parrying the blows; this is done by pushing your control stick in the correct direction (towards for a parry, away for a dodge) and pushing the relevant button.
You can lock on to up to four targets – or one target four times, or two twice, whatever – and then, when you’re ready, attack. When you attack the game switches to a quick, dynamically-produced cutscene where you attack the bad guys, a bit like the assassinations in Assassin’s Creed but faster-paced. You may well additional damage bonuses for tapping the attack button again in time with the beat, so you have something to do during the cutscene.
The cutscenes allow the action to take place in time with the music, and don’t punish the player for not keeping rhythm. They also allow some pretty cool shit to happen, like running up the chest of a giant enemy robot, blinding him with a slash from your vibrosword, and then vaulting backwards off it and shooting two smaller enemies with your autopistol on the way down.
Depending on your weapon choice, your position, and your character stats, there’ll be optimum ways to use your lock-on. However, as you increase your combo meter and Drop Points, your effective range will decrease and your power and speed will increase, hopefully pushing you into close-combat for an exciting finish and an excuse to use your Drop to maximum benefit.
Show me the money
It’s free to play, initially, and downloadable. This radically lowers the barrier to entry and means that we don’t have to worry about shoehorning a story into a game which is, at heart, about exploding robots in time with electronic music.
You’ll earn better weapons and armour as you level up – the standard fit, as shown in the pictures, is a sword and pistol combo – and you can modify these to tie in with your play style. Certain weapons might be lighter and have an easier/faster lock-on, whereas others have increased range or damage but are harder to wield. They range from heavy revolvers to shotguns to giant electrified mauls to shimmering emberbladed glaives to hovering sentry bots. Seeing as the actual mechanics of using them is abstract, we can afford to play fast and loose with what they are.
The money comes from two sources. Firstly, you can buy tracks. Although the first songs will be from struggling dupstep producers looking for exposure, popularity should hopefully bring established artists creating or modifying songs to fit in the game.
(Also – MAYBE – there could be tools to put your own music into the game, and distribute it. Although that’s such a clusterfuck of licensing issues I don’t think it’s worth the bother)
Secondly, you can pay to get more avatars, new weapons, and new spangly effects in the game to show off your skills. And hats, of course. Gotta have hats.
SO. Basically this game needed to be made about four years ago, but a man can dream, can’t he? I imagine this might be fun to play much in the same way as a racing title might be – to get the fastest time/highest score – but also comes with the fun ability to remix music AND have a kickass third-person fight AT THE SAME TIME.
It’s the sort of game they’d play on full volume at parties in a future that won’t exist.