Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine
Indiana Jones. Stupid name, really. Still, could've been worse. He could've been called Wyoming Smith. Or Utah Sidebottom. Would you go to see a film called Utah Sidebottom And The Temple Of Doom? Of course you wouldn't.
Still, the combination of an unlikely first name and a common-as-muck surname has served this particular fictional hero well -the original triumvirate of Indiana Jones adventures figure highly in Hollywood's all-time Top 20, and rumours of a forthcoming fourth instalment are flying around the Internet. And now there's this: Indiana Jones And The Infernal Machine, a gorgeous-looking computer game from LucasArts, the software house with a track record most developers would kill for.
Of course, the bestubbled derring-do boy has made it on to the PC before, in Indiana Jones And The Fate Of Atlantis, an acclaimed Monkey Island-style graphic adventure which I once got horribly stuck in and never finished. This time around, in place of point-and-click storytelling quirkery, LucasArts are offering real-time 3D action adventure.
Of course, it's all quite reminiscent of a certain popular 3D platform game. Fair dues, really, when you consider how much Tomb Raider 'borrowed' from the Indy movies. But this is no pedestrian rehash of that game -it's a different kettle of whips altogether. LucasArts are promising better puzzles, graphics, action and yams. No, not yams. But almost everything else. This could be something very good indeed.
As with Lara's epic polygonal quests, you'll spend a lot of time staring at a rear view of the main protagonist. Perhaps they should've called it Indiana Jones And The Look At My Arse instead. That would've been funny. Anyway, you spend a lot of time eyeballing Indy's rump because he's trotting around the globe on a quest to prevent the 'infernal machine' from falling into the hands of those pesky Russians. Hang on... Russians? Yes, because Indiana Jones And The Infernal Machine is set in a later time period than the movies - it all takes place after World War II, in fact. Hence the non-appearance of any Nazis (unless there's a Nuremberg Trials sub-game, which we doubt).
Indiana Jones And The Traditional Storyline
The plot keeps firmly in line with the fine Indiana Jones movie tradition. The story runs something like this... The 'infernal machine' of the title is a device which unlocks the gateway between dimensions, thereby unleashing a terrible force - and the Russians are trying to get their hands on it. Are they stupid or something? Didn't they see what happened to the Nazis at the end of Raiders Of The Lost Ark? That was like an extended public information film designed to warn people of the dangers of opening mysterious relics. It'll kill you all, you fools! Anyway, said 'infernal machine' is also missing several vital components, which are scattered around the globe. The race to find them is on and guess where the bits are scattered? That's right: in a series of geographically exotic locations, like the Hanging Gardens of Babylon and the mountains of Kazakstan. Not some dusty museum in Shitcake, Illinois, or a manky bric-a-brac shop in Clapham.
Oh no. Presumably, the missing parts were strewn about the globe by early tourists. And why? In an attempt to prevent future scoundrels from reassembling this incredibly dangerous device. Question: why didn't they simply smash the bits up with a hammer and hurl them into the sea? Answer: because that would have made for a boring game. Of course, someone's got to find the pieces before the Soviets get their commie mitts on 'em. The CIA have chosen Indiana Jones for the job - he is the only man who can save mankind.
Now if this was all really happening, I'd be saying: "You mean the fate of the world rests with one man? Then why the hell is he allowed to run around on his own? If my life depends on Indiana Jones staying alive, I want an army of CIA bodyguards following him around. And I don't want him to have to find weapons en route as he goes about his adventures, I want him armed to the teeth from the moment he gets out of bed. I want him going to the bathroom in a tank. Wrap him in cotton wool! Pay women and children to leap in front of him whenever the Russians open fire! The man shouldn't be taking any risks at all - not even shaving." But nobody listens to me, and besides, if all that was the case, it wouldn't be an exciting game. Which it looks like it will be.
Speaking of which, what of the game itself? Well, we've seen it in action, and it looks damn good, actually. The visuals are slick and impressive, with huge environments to explore and truckloads of enemies bussed in from 'Formidable Opponents-R-Us'. Just like Lara, Indy gets to kill loads of violently disposed animals, as well as a fair number of human aggressors. To this end, there's a full complement of weapons on hand throughout the game (everything from a lowly pistol to a look-out-he's-mad bazooka, natch), and pleasingly, the trademark whip is integral to the action, rather than being just a bit of digital window-dressing. Indy uses it to grab hold of otherwise unreachable branches, and for swinging across ravines, and that kind of thing.
Of course, he's super-manoeuvrable on his own: he can run, jump, swim, crawl, side-step and climb with the best of'em. In addition, LucasArts are alluding to an additional mysterious power Indy will gain at some point in the game, following an encounter with an ancient magical artefact.
The graphics look smooth and fairly detailed, with impressive animation all round, especially when it comes to the main characters (although Indy has less of a wiggle to his hips than Lara). There's loads of puzzles to solve en route, although hopefully none will be as tricky as the one that prevented me from finishing Fate Of Atlantis -speaking of which, it's a damn good sign that Hal Barwood, project leader on that game, is project leader on this game as well.
Indiana Jones And The Low-Fat Spread
The biggest technical bugbear of any 3D platformer seems to have been solved, too: the camera perpetually swoops to find the most descriptive angle, and should Indy get so close his body starts to block our view, he sort of 'fades out', like the Invisible Man, permitting clear, unfettered vision. Doesn't sound like much on paper, but when you're up to your neck in the 700th minute of gameplay, it makes all the difference.
And, of course, there's the sheer Indiana Jonesiness of the whole thing. From the familiar 'rousing' score to the cinematic cut-scenes, the whole thing bleeds Hollywood quality. And in true Indy tradition, there are huge set pieces, such as a white water rapid ride, and a high-speed, rollercoaster-licious, underground mine car racing sequence that makes the one in The Temple Of Doom look tame by comparison.
There are other neat touches, too. You know the 'progress bar' you see when a game's loading in the next sequence? And you know those interludes in the Indy movies, where he's flying from one place to another and they show a red line cutting a path across a map of the world? Well, they're one and the same in this. Cute.
The only thing that did disappoint when we were treated to a recent sneak peek was the use of an actor other than Harrison Ford for the voice of Dr Jones himself. We're still shuddering.
So, then. That's it for now. We'll be reviewing the game exclusively next month, so start flexing your joypad fingers in preparation.
Download Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine
There was a time when archaeology meant straggly old bearded men camping in the desert, sleeping in caravans, eating baked beans from tin pots, dusting stones and farting in caves. The most exciting thing likely to happen to them was discovering chipped kitchen utensils and the odd bone. It hardly ranked in the imagination of schoolchildren across the world as a profession to aspire to, next to astronauts and firemen.
There was also a time when everything George Lucas had a hand in was touched by his visionary genius. And so was born Indiana Jones and the Greatest Trilogy of Adventure Films Ever Made. The James Bond of academia, he single-handedly turned archaeology into the most dangerous and exciting thing on earth. Like Luke Skywalker and Han Solo, he's such a truly memorable character that he has become part of popular myth, making an ideal subject for computer games. It's been over four years since the last one, The Fate Of Atlantis, and things have changed considerably. A certain English girl, for starters, who not only made 3D action archaeology a reality, but stole every idea and valuable artefact she could from the films across four games. Indy has got some catching up to do. And he's not in the mood for tea and biscuits.
Indiana Croft And The Infernal Revelation
Let's get the Tomb Raider comparisons out of the way. There's no denying the similarities: they're both third person with a large element of platform jumping, they have a similar range of movements and weapons and share a fetish for lever pulling. It's hard to imagine The Infernal Machine existing in its present form without reference to Core's bestseller, and yet there's something in there that sets it apart. We'll be honest here and admit that we were a bit concerned that Indy's latest outing would be a major disappointment and would continue the recent spout of inferior LucasArts titles. Early looks at the game elicited murmurs of "It's Tomb Raider with a hat on" and "I've seen it all before". But play The Infernal Machine for more than half an hour and the green latexed woman disappears completely from your mind and you start remembering all the great games Lucas have made over the years.
If we'd played Indy without having seen The Last Revelation, it would have been all too easy to dismiss Lara Croft's outings as inferior and outdated. But, as we said last month, the latest Tomb Raider has made such a noticeable progression towards plot, puzzle solving and interesting gameplay that such comments would be unfair. Let's just say that both games have headed in the same direction, with game engine cut-scenes carrying the narrative forward and lots of character interaction.
What lifts Indiana Jones up a notch is just how damn playable and fun it is. We're all getting a bit tired of Lara's overexposure and, despite attempts to give her a history and personality, she's still loved best for her computer-generated physique. Indy has real character. As soon as you hear the music, use the whip to swing to a far-off ledge and watch the man lift up his hat and wipe the sweat from his brow, you're sucked into it like fat in a liposuction machine. Except that it's considerably more enjoyable. Once you get over the fact that Harrison Ford doesn't do the voices (hardly surprising, considering he's one of Hollywood's highest paid actors), you're in Indy heaven.
REACH FOR THE SKIES
In true Indy fashion, the story concerns a biblical myth, a supernatural artefact and a race against a world military power. The myth is the Tower of Babel, a human construction which was meant to reach heaven itself and the artefact is the mysterious Infernal Machine hidden there. The game is set in the Cold War Fifties, so instead of overweight Nazis there are overweight "godless commies", although the game doesn't quite reach McCarthy fever-pitch paranoia. You're not immediately on a quest to find the missing pieces of the machine - you're drawn in slowly, knowing the Russians are up to something but not exactly what. It's only as the plot unfolds level after level across exotic locations over the world that Indy realises the enormity of his task. The newly established CIA sets you on the trail and occasionally butts in to help you out or to provide that essential romantic interest in the shape of Sophia.
You start off going to Babylon and infiltrating a Russian excavation sight and you're soon shooting soldiers and listening in on the heavily accented ramblings of a madman. It doesn't take long to realise that, while there's the odd bit of action, this is primarily a thinking game, where the only way to move forward is to solve puzzles. Which, given the demise of the traditional adventure genre (at which LucasArts have always excelled), is clearly a very good thing.
It would be silly to have lots of characters to talk to when most of the places you visit haven't seen human life for millennia, although some do pop up to offer essential information, lend a hand or give you puzzle-solving hints (the CIA agents, an ancient monk and a Nubian child, to name but a few). And puzzle solving is exactly what you'll be doing, picking up objects, disarming traps and figuring out how to get ancient contraptions going again.
On one level you need to get a gigantic clock working and then make it strike the hour at a precise moment. On another, you can't find a way into a partially sunken battleship until you've found a detonator, launched a torpedo from the shore and made a great big hole in its side to swim through. There's plenty of head-scratching and "Hmmm"-ing and it's Indy himself, in true adventure fashion, who gives you most of the hints. Whenever you see something interesting, find a strange object or enter a room containing a puzzle, Indy pushes back his hat, scratches his stubble and tells you what he thinks.
You Say Jump I Say How High?
There's still lots of jumping to be done, but as a platform game it is very forgiving, so you don't have to worry about dying all the time. Reaching a tricky level involves finding out the best way to get there, rather than interminable exercises in acrobatics and pinpoint precision. And here's another point where Indy scores highly. His range of movements might be slightly more restricted (no triple somersaults), but controlling him is so natural and fluid that you won't even notice. You can even use the mouse, Hidden & Dangerous style, which is a bonus.
Sudden death and hidden traps aren't a problem, as every time Dr Jones senses something nasty, a haunting tune and a few words of warning let you know to keep on the lookout. It might not sound realistic, but it actually works really well as a sort of gaming equivalent to gut feelings and intuition. The camera also works beautifully, to the point where you don't even notice it. If it gets too close to Indy, it simply disappears, so you can always see everything you need to see. Whenever you enter an area of interest or see something particularly important, the camera swings round in true cinematic fashion. Like in TR: The Last Revelation, the boundary between cut-scenes and actual gameplay is blurred to the point where you feel you're taking part in your own film.
Like members of Tony Robinson's Time Team, Indy is most often unshaven and unwashed. But he's also cool, tough and always gets the chicks - definitely more Bogart than Baldrick.
When he talks about the value of an ancient object, he usually means in dollars, rather than the "for the love of history" approach usually favoured by archaeologists. So, fittingly, there are loads of gold statues and valuable coins hidden throughout the maps for you to get your greedy hands on.
Once a level has been completed, there's a shopping screen where you can spend your goodies on ammo, poison kits and medicinal herbs. There's even a map you can buy that takes you to a hidden level which is supposed to feature scenes from the films (like being chased by a giant rolling rock). But it costs a fortune and we haven't amassed enough pennies to try it out.
But that's not the only incentive to explore every map fully. You're also given an IQ score after each level, based on the amount of secrets you've found out and how long it's taken you to finish. A combination of the stats you get after completing a mission in an FPS and a true old-style points system, it's not entirely trustworthy as an intelligence test. Mine reached over a 100 at one point, which surely can't be right.
Wide Open Spaces
The Infernal Machine was originally supposed to be a PlayStation game as well, but the console version was cancelled. We can tell you exactly why: old Sony-boy wouldn't be able to handle it. While it's apparent that it has its roots in the console-orientated Tomb Raider, Indy's sheer scale is breathtaking. There are great big mountain ranges as far as the eye can see, not just a painted-on background and, while it necessarily needs the confined caves and temples, you feel that there is a world beyond. Like in the Midtown Madness versus Driver debate, it is the PC-only version that comes out the winner, because the depth of scale removes many restrictions. When you drive vehicles you can go all over massive terrains, not just on a preset path. You don't just have to swim in small underground lakes and cave rivers - you get to dive in the sea, fight off sharks and find sunken ships and aeroplanes.
Surprisingly, great big sprawling levels don't mean getting lost and running around not knowing what to do. The levels are excellently designed and you always know where you're going. If you do get lost, there's a handy piece of chalk in your inventory that you can mark rocks and walls with.
People are still going to compare it to Tomb Raider, but what would you rather play, a Star Wars space sim or an equally good space sim featuring indeterminate aliens? Well, exactly. Indiana Jones is more than worthy of bearing its quality name. It has the same sense of spectacular adventure that makes the films so much fun. You'll find yourself humming the theme tune on public transport and getting the sort of looks usually reserved forTourette's sufferers. I haven't managed to complete it yet, but I'm willing to cut down my time playing System Shock 2 and CM3 until I have. And if that's not recommendation enough, I don't know what is.
Indiana Jones And The Rspca
We don't mind killing Russian soldiers, though (we are afraid of them). Or fox-hunters, for that matter
If there's one thing we hate about Tomb Raider, It's having to shoot animals all the time. Being the animal lovers that we are, killing monkeys, gorillas and tigers just seems sick and wrong. It's one of the reasons it's so hard to sympathise with Lara every time she plummets to her death.
LucasArts, having a nice family-friendly image to maintain, have solved this by making most animals run away once you've fired a shot in the air. Not every animal is awarded such honorary treatment, however. Scorpions, fist-sized spiders and piranhas all need to be killed if you want to survive. In one level, you need to kill loads of ugly hyenas before a boy whose help you need will come out of his hiding place. But then not many people like hyenas anyway. If you enjoy shooting animals, maybe you should go out and buy Deer Hunter 2 instead. You sick bastard.
Those Infernal Machines
Technology is the scourge of humanity, Microsoft is the Devil and the Internet is Hell
The title of the game isn't gratuitous - almost every obstacle you encounter is mechanical. Switches, levers, cogs, wheels, clockwork and every type of engine you can imagine up to the ultimate Infernal Machine itself, a futuristic contraption that looks like it belongs on the set of Thtn. We're not suggesting LucasArts are a bunch of technophobes - that would be ridiculous. But there is a Luddite spirit throughout the game which lends a cohesive structure to the narrative.
It's like a reworking of Chaplin's Modem Times with whips instead of walking sticks and a fedora rather than a bowler hat Indy's adventures are all about delving into the deepest past, not the future. He is a character from another age, like those fathers who don't know how to set the video, spend hours trying to get to the right page on Teletext and run away at the sight of a PC. So how come he's still so damn cool?
Indiana Jones And The Fourth Instalment
There's a fourth Indy film on its way. The only question is when
Rumours on the follow-up to The Last Crusade have been slithering over the Internet for ages. So far, the only confirmed report is that Indy IV will definitely be made. Apparently, a script has already been penned with Spielberg directing, George Lucas producing and Harrison Ford donning his fedora once more.
Everything else (title, cast and plot) is pure speculation and conjecture. As you'd expect from three of Hollywood's most influential men, their schedules are heavily booked, so there's no date set in stone. The most hotly tipped plots involve Atlantis (though this seems unlikely, given that it was all done in a game nearly five years ago), Noah's Ark (Indy using his whip to round up animals in pairs?) and The Garden of Eden (which would be stretching the suspense of disbelief in biblical myths a touch too far). Then there's the really outrageous rumours, like a John 'Home Alone? Hughes script set in a haunted house, or one featuring aliens and flying saucers. One thing's for sure: it will be better than The Phantom Menace. At least it's not a prequel.
The computer version of Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine was a bit of a flop; the game was fine and all but it had a horrible control scheme. Indiana Jones was a console game at heart, and now it's finally coming home this December where it belongs: on the Nintendo 64. LucasArts isn't just porting over the PC version though, they've improved the camera, implemented a useful "save anywhere" function, and added many Zelda-like control schemes. Now when you attack a creature, you have a choice between a "loose target" which gives you the ability to easily run away, but at the same time, makes it harder to hit your foe. Or, closer to Zelda's system, a "hard target" which keeps your weapon locked on the enemy, but Indiana's movement speed will be cut in half. Indiana Jones also utilizes the Expansion Pak for improved graphics and framerate.
After disappearing from PlayStation release lists, Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine has been announced for the N64. LucasArts has taken Indy into the realm of 3D as he fights against Soviet Russia rather than Nazi Germany in a very Tomb Raider-esque game environment. Indy sports a huge arsenal of moves and travels the globe in his latest quest to keep the museums of the world well stocked.
Everybody's favorite whip-wielding archaeologist faces his most perilous crusade yet: Taking on Lara Croft for the title of top pop-culture adventurer. If third-person adventure gaming has a name, could it now be Indiana Jones?
Jonesin' for Some Indy
Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine promises to deliver breakneck action through 16 exciting chapters that span the mysterious ruins of Babylon, the dangerous Tian Shan Mountain region in Kazakstan, the sinister Aztec pyramids in Teotihau-can, and the underground labyrinth of the Olmecs.
It's 1947, and Indy has learned of a Soviet physicist who had been searching the Tower of Babel for an ancient machine that could open the door to a parallel dimension and unleash a force of mass destruction. The Soviets have found the Infernal Machine, and they're trying to reassemble it. It's up to Indy to traverse the globe and beat them to the lost parts. If he fails, democracy is doomed!
Raiders of the Lost Parts
Any Indiana Jones adventure has to feature intense puzzle solving, breakneck escapes, and globe-crossing mysteries--and Infernal Machine is no exception. As Indy, you'll crawl, run, leap, swim, climb--and of course swing--through temples, tombs, and dungeons in search of the Infernal Machine's parts. When found, the parts endow Indy with mysterious magical powers that enable him to further unlock the vast mysteries of the game.
The Fast Crusade
Indy's packing his faithful whip and pistol, but he's also bringing along a WWII-era assault rifle, a Red Army machine gun, satchel charges, and a bazooka. You'll plow through Whitewater rapids on a raft, catapult through an off-road Jeep chase in the iunqle, and careen rollercoaster-style on a mine-car ride. Hold on to your brown fedoras--Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine looks like it's going to be one hell of a ride!
When we first saw Tomb Raider, it was obvious that it got a lot of its inspiration from the Indiana Jones movies. Now LucasArts has returned the favor with its latest offering, Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine. Although it doesn’t break any new ground, Infernal Machine creates the kind of game that fans of the movies have wanted to play.
The story for the game gets its background from the Biblical account of the Tower of Babel, then leaps into communist plots, other dimensions, and very bizarre main bosses that are all linked to a creature supposedly worshipped by the Babylonians as a god. The important thing is that all this leads Indy into his normal whip-swinging, gun-toting, narrow escaping, puzzle solving antics. Which brings us to…
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
If you have played any of the Tomb Raider games, you should basically know what to expect. The only big difference comes in the use of the whip and the cigarette lighter as puzzle-solving elements. There is also the novel opportunity to use the treasures Indy acquires to finance your purchase of health packets and ammo, or you can save up to buy a map to the secret level (though can we really call it "secret" now?).
The levels are mostly straightforward and linear (which serves as a vast relief from my experience with Tomb Raider III) and very puzzle-like. Very, very puzzle-like. In fact, every aspect of the game, from fighting scorpions to navigating the whitewater rapids, was like navigating a Rubik’s Cube. But even on the hardest difficulty setting it wasn’t too bad, partially due to the fact that Indy will say helpful little clues at critical junctures to guide you along. Just a few places, here and there, required the "save-jump-save" process. To me, at least, I enjoyed the layout of the puzzles. They were thought out well enough that at the moment I would get sick of jumping on blocks, I would get to swim, or climb, or ride a vehicle, or fight a boss, etc. I didn’t get bored, which says a LOT.
I’ve been dying to say this… The background graphics are gorgeous, filled with breathtaking snow-covered mountains, ominous crypts, lagoons, ancient ruins, and spectacular lava flows. The backgrounds are gorgeous enough that it's easier to ignore the fact that most of the characters in the game, including Indy, aren’t smooth in shape or actions. It’s kind of like the other third-person game from LucasArts, Jedi Knight, a bit jerky and unrealistic in movements. Yes, the spiders and scorpions creeped me out, and the ice-creature’s huge size made me jump, but they almost give cartoony thrills ratherthan any real shocks.
As with all LucasArts games, the high production values shine through in the audio department. The nicely orchestrated theme song, the crack of the whip, and the excellent voice actors (no, Harrison Ford did not voice this Indy either) make it a treat for your ears.
Windows 95/98, 200 MHZ, 32 MB RAM, 4 MB 3D-accelerated video card, and quad-speed CD-ROM drive.
Reviewed On: Windows 95, 233 MHZ, 32 MB RAM, 4 MB 3D-accelerated video card, and sixteen-speed CD-ROM drive.
I wanted to give this game a 90, I really did! But despite the fact that Indiana Jones fans will have a whip-crackin’ good time (especially on the secret level), the background graphics are gorgeous, and it has kept me running back to play one more round, it just isn’t different enough. It reminds me of how much I enjoyed discovering things in the first Tomb Raider (and in MY mind, that is an amazing feat), but this game just doesn’t introduce anything unique enough to rate it at 90. I will keep watch out for the next Indiana Jones game and give this one an 89.
Based on the hit PC game of the same name this could be just what the N64 has been waiting for - its very own version of Tomb Raider*. Admittedly, Indiana Jones has a little more stubble than Lara Croft but he was the first person to glamorise a profession that mainly involves shovelling dirt!
However, this game is a little more complicated than just digging up lost artefacts. Playing as Indy you learn that the Soviets have discovered information about an ancient machine that can open the door to a parallel dimension known as the Aetherium. Thus, Indy being the hero that he is, sets out on his biggest adventure yet. He must go around the world to find all the parts to the machine before the Soviets can.
This action adventure game takes you to the ancient ruins of Babylon, into the bowels of Teotihaucan Aztec temples and across the mountains of Kazakstan! On the way you partake in some white water rafting and even a bit of off-road jeep racing. Oh and this wouldn't be an Indy game if you didn't get to jump into a speeding mine cart, now would it? Keeping true to the films, this title also allows you to use a whip, something you can't say about a lot of other games! Other weapons include pistols, rifles, grenades and even bazookas! Featuring high-resolution graphics and impressive lighting this game is looking graphically stunning and the dungeons and temples promise to keep you locked away in your room for years!
One of the most impressive games on the Nintendo stand at E3, Indiana Jones was a joy to play. It does have a very Tomb Raider-esque feel with the lead character viewed from behind as he runs, jumps, searches, shoots and drives through the adventure. When you think about it things have come full circle - Tomb Raider was an Indiana Jones rip-off to start with!
A favourite section of ours was the jeep driving. The controls are tricky to start with, but once you get used to them it's really enjoyable, whizzing over rickety bridges and running over the bad guys. It looks like LucasArts have another winner on their hands! Anticipation Rating: