Queen: The eYe
The Worlds Of Music And Computer games have been inexorably linked since, well, since that Frankie Goes To Hollywood game came out on the ZX Spectrum 15-odd years ago. In the interim, the likes of Madness, Peter Gabriel and Iron Maiden have all danced naked and stoned in the crop circle of interactive entertainment. If Suggs and The Nutty Boys can do games, there's absolutely no reason why late, "great" stadium rock legends Queen can't...
Send a bolt of lightening
Queen: The Eye has allegedly been inspired by the work of Queen, and features music tracks taken from all eras of the band's career. Curiously, rather than being a game featuring Bicycle Races, Fat-Bottomed Girls, and clog-wearing ponces with giant haircuts, it's an Ecstatical Resident Evil-style polygon beat 'em up-cum-puzzle-type game. And, of course, just to distance things further from the music and lyrics of Queen, it' set in a dark, decaying future where the economic collapse of society has left the world controlled by an insane, self-replicating bio-organic computer called The Eye.
Because it's the sort of thing that always happens in games, you control a lone rebel out to bring down The Eye and restore some semblance of normality to a world driven mad by constant replays of 'Hammer To Fall' and 'It's A Kind Of Magic' over the omnipresent public address system.
Do the fandango
The game begins proper with you fighting for your life within the deadly maze of a Running Man-style gameshow. However, what begins as a simple 3D beat 'em up becomes more adventure-y once you escape the confines of the maze. The surreal world of The Eye is populated by numerous strange characters, most of them with a circus or Far Eastern feel to them. You have to interact with these odd characters in a variety of ways while solving the usual 'use the brown key on the brown door'-type puzzles.
With the dark, pre-rendered backdrops, every one of which could have been taken from the video for Queen's 'Innuendo' video, there's no doubting that Queen: The Eye doesn't look like anything else. That isn't to say the game looks particularly pretty. The spindly polygon characters are far from attractive, and combat resembles little more than a fight between a couple of marionettes; the backdrops, while refreshing at first, don't take long to get annoying.
Gameplay is where the real flaws lurk, however. There's not much here that hasn't been done better before; and even the introduction of flame-throwers can't compensate for the fact that the fights you regularly get into are just plain annoying - enemies leap around you like deranged mudskippers, which makes lining up your attacks far from easy, while irritating camera angles do little to help.
Queen fans may enjoy the music, but there's nothing in the gameplay to make them want to play the game. As far as that's concerned The Eye could have been inspired by the music and works of Lloyd Cole or The Communards (though, bizarrely, the in-game speech is provided by members of the cast of Blake's 7).
Download Queen: The eYe
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP
Okay, Let's Get The 'Funnies' Out Of the way. Queen: The Eye does not feature a re-animated Freddie Mercury floating around, twanging monsters with his mic-stand. Brian May does not materialise as an end-of-level boss, trying to strangle you with the greasy ringlets of his bubble-perm or melting you with deadly 18th-fret guitar solos. Blah blah. Anita Dobson. Blah blah blah. Men dressed up as women with vacuum cleaners. Blah blah. Gordon's alive?! Blah blah.
OK, now the straight stuff The Eye is a flick-screen, Alone In The Dork-style arcade adventure 'inspired' by the iconography and music of Queen. It's set in a lugubrious Dystopian future, where all vestiges of creativity have been suppressed by a bio-mechanical despot, The Eye. You play Dubroc, a hard-nosed ex-cop who accidentally discovers hidden archives of music and is sentenced to death in The Arena - one of five surreal worlds to be traversed before Dubroc can unleash this repressed creativity and free his world. Hmmmmmm. Each gloriously 3D-rendered environment on each CD is based around a handful of images, locales and characters either lifted from Queen lyrics or depicted on their album sleeves. So in The Works Zone, for instance, you will see the tower from Radio Ga-Ga and find yourself dealing with the machinations of The Killer Queen. In the Innuendo Domain, which is set in a fairground, there's a whole bunch of Grandeville illustrations and you are stalked by Death On Two Legs. Each CD has 20 minutes of Red Book audio of 'new' Queen music - remixes, snippets and instrumentals, none of which has ever been heard before.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, it sounds incredibly... naff. We know. But in reality it's actually pretty good. The geezer behind the project is Richard Ashdown, ex-MicroProse, ex-Electronic Arts producer. About two years ago, he recruited a bunch of industry talent - artists, programmers, animators - pitched an idea at Queen and then spent 18 months trying to make a game out of what is, on paper, a pretty hokey concept. "Yeah, we had a bit of stigma to negotiate," Richard says. "There were moments of black despair. It was bigger and harder than anything I'd ever done before."
With the not-insubstantial coffers of Queen behind him, Ashdown decided to create a hardcore, genre-straddling epic. The team rendered more than 600 camera angles and jammed in over 30 characters and 100 real-time objects. They then set up a motion-capture stage and spent a week recording 1,000 motion-captured combat moves. Then, in a moment of inspired casting, they got Jackie Pearce and Paul Darrow (who played Servalan and Avon in Blake's 7) to do the voices and have their faces motion-captured so the characters would have full facial animation. They then squeezed in over 55 tracks of Queen's music, plus 30 clips from 15 videos. Finally, they beefed it all up with the Brender engine, adding dynamic lights and shadows, texturemapping and z-buffering. The end result is a weird mix of beat 'em up, adventure and puzzler replete with coffee-table Myst-style visuals and a rather spiffy atmos. : The next obvious question then, is how much input did the Queen band members have?
"They think it's great," says Ashdown. "They're interested in seeing their music in a new medium. They've spent hours here, looking at everything and they're really pleased. They each have their own individual opinion." The only thing Queen apparently vetoed was a smattering of gore that was originally coded into the fight routines. Dubroc has a healthy range of combat moves, based around Aikido rather than the overblown martial arts of Tekken or Virtua Fighter. He performs palm, elbow and knee strikes, executes judo rolls and somersaults. He also picks up blades, spears or pipes and goes through a broad range of Bokken moves. He can grab weapons too - handguns, crossbows and machine guns - all satisfyingly throaty and messy.
In between all the scrapping and exploring lies a healthy vein of puzzle solving and interaction. Major characters often have to be placated with objects obtained from deadly crypts or monster-infested chambers. These in turn offer clues to a larger puzzle and there'll often be alternate solutions to each diplomatic and smooze your way to the end. Dubroc is frequently presented with a moral choice, either to save this person or rescue that. As the story unfolds, he gradually grows in skill and makes allies, notably Kazan, a female assassin sent after him by The Eye. She slowly comes round to Dubroc's way of thinking and becomes a kind of 'helper-bot', a non-player character to show objects to and throw questions at. Dubroc is relentlessly pursued throughout all the zones by Death On Two Legs, a hideous Monsty-Baddy which takes on a different form in each domain and attempts to lure Dubroc to an untimely death. With ten or more characters per level, Dubroc has to sift through visual and narrative clues to work out who's who.
It all looks pretty interesting and quite unique. There's no doubt that the rendered visuals are stunning. Each zone is about a mile square, textured and lit in slick detail, with huge towers, pock-marked dungeons, slime pits, wheat fields and an overall Victorian, Industrial revolution meets Cyberpunk feel, if you catch our drift.
The five CDs of music are bound to get greasy Germanic Queen fans slavering. The visuals should get the Myst crowd damp, while the combat/puzzling elements should make it moderately interesting for us professional gamers. Queen: The Eye is currently shuffling up to a Christmas release.