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Developers Synthetic Dimensions have earned a reputation for producing games that look utterly gorgeous -check out the recent Chronicles Of The Sword (published by Psygnosis) if you need any proof of their recent rendered wizardry. It wasn't the most taxing graphical adventure ever released, but visually it was absolutely gobsmacking.
So how do SD get their games to look so good? Well, it might have something to do with the fact that two thirds of the team are graphic artists by trade. Basically, the SD ethos is that if something's worth drawing, it's worth spending ages making it look fantastic. In keeping with this philosophy, they've brought leading fantasy comic artist Kev Walker on board to help create a completely new and complex futuristic environment for their next game that will be completely spoogesville to anyone with even the slightest interest in 2000 AD, Star Wars, Bladerunner and The Terminator. In other words, approximately half the gameplaying planet.
To reveal the plot would ruin the game; suffice to say you control the mighty Charon (a part man part humanoid killing machine) who must kill an alter-ego before he's assassinated himself. In its simplest form, it's a kill or be killed, and save life, the universe and everything before time itself is destroyed (or something) kind of storyline. Only Kev knows exactly what it's all about, and even he has trouble explaining it because it's so damn complicated (and it's his story).
The game... the game
Perfect Assassin isn't just another 3D Doom-clone (thankfully), despite sporting an impressively smooth 3D engine. In fact it's more akin to EA's isometric rpg series Ultima and the delectable Bioforge, though with fewer character control options. Lead artist and programmer Kev Bulmer explains why they opted for the third-person route: "Basically, we thought that Kev Walker's original artwork was too good to have behind the camera. We want the players to be able to see how good Charon looks. We've spent a lot of time making the hero and the other lead characters look and behave as naturally as possible. We think it's important to make our games as visually attractive as, say, a film, or a graphic novel."
Instead of plumping for arcade-style keyboard control however, SD have decided to go with a mouse-driven player interface. This, they feel, will give the player more control over the character, help keep things simple and at the same time lend a more traditional point-and-click adventure feel.
Perfect Assassin may be very combat oriented, but there's a big chunk of adventurin' to be done as well as shootin', and the developers are keen to stress that it's not just another Crusader-style blaster. Although you play an assassin, he's a bit of a sneaky operator, more Edward Fox in Day Of The Jackal than Arnie in The Terminator - which means you'll have to get to know your (very weird and quite vast) surroundings and many of the inhabitants before you decide on your next move. You'll also have to collect various items and weapons (and store them in your 'intelligent' inventory), get information from people by correctly reading their attitude/mood bar (which isn't easy when you consider that each race you encounter has its own language and alphabet for you to decipher), and perform certain tasks (in true rpg fashion) if you want to get anywhere in the game.
More character than Milton Keynes
As well as spending a lot of time making the characters in the game visually appealing, SD have created a 'real', 'living' city inhabited by 'intelligent' characters that are proactive. Whether this is a reaction to living and working in Wolverhampton or simply down to a desire to create a realistic and totally logical real-time 3D world on multiple levels that the player will just itch to be a part of is open to debate.
Whatever the reason, it's certainly very impressive. Stand on a street corner and someone (or something) will try and engage you in conversation. Say the wrong thing and rub the character up the wrong way and you could make life very difficult for yourself later on in the game. Forget to pick up an item that you might need subsequently and it's possible that it won't be there when you go back for it; if it's valuable it's likely that one of the inhabitants has made off with it - and it's up to you to work out how to get it back.
And because all the characters operate to a very sophisticated 'fuzzy logic' routine that encompasses a massive 0-255 probability range, every time you enter the world of Perfect Assassin, different things are going to happen. This means that despite there being an overall aim the game is more episodic than linear. You're free to go to any part of the city at any time and do whatever takes your fancy, but if you want to progress you're going to have to go to certain places and meet certain people at certain times and do certain things, just like in 'real life'.
Style versus content..
So far there hasn't been a definitive third-person action adventure game to get everything right. We've yet to see a developer who Bfey has managed to get the camera angles so that they don't impede the gameplay, produce a combat system that's fluid f and intuitive and at the same time introduce the level of player immersion that you usually get with first-person perspective games. LBA came close, but it was more of an adventure than a strategy/action romp.
SD have proved that they can produce good-looking games, and if as much care and effort is put into tweakingthe gameplay as is put into the graphics, then Perfect Assassin could well fill that gap between Ultima and Bioforge. So far the signs are good: they still play Defender.
Download Perfect Assassin
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP