Street Wars: Constructor Underworld
|a game by||Studio 3 Interactive Entertainment|
|User Rating:||8.0/10 - 1 vote|
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Gangsters: now there's a decent idea for a game. Gangsters: a game that didn't quite live up to expectations. However, after much chin-stroking, Studio 3 decided to set Street Wars in very similar surroundings, namely 1930s America, a period of prohibition, brutal extortion and extravagant trousers.
Of course, 'borrowed ideas' are nothing new in the games industry, where plagiarism is rife and an original idea sticks out like a sore thumb. Nevertheless, Studio 3 are adamant that they didn't break into someone's house and steal the idea for Gangsters, although they do admit to having played the Eidos game.
"Yeah, we play a lot of games," explains Tim Best, a member of the design team dubbed The Consiglieres (Mafia counsellors). "We like to think that we are very aware of what is out there. We particularly like real-time strategy games. Even the occasional turn-based ones like Civilization slips into our 'must play' list. "Gangsters was okay. It came out quite a long time after the design work for Street Wars was done. We think we have the edge on playability, and we have a secret weapon in Street Wars - dark humour."
Ha Ha Ha
Comedy also played an important part in the excellent Constructor, which was effectively a White Trash simulator, involving genetic engineering in a very English setting. The underworld of prohibition era America is far removed from the Terry and June world of the original, so how did they settle on the gangster setting? "A lot of themes have been designed for the Constructor engine, like '50s 'B' movie scie fiction, the Home Guard during the blitz in the Second World War, the period of the Black Death and a few others we can't talk about at the moment. When we showed the ideas to everyone they all felt the gangster era scenario was best to showcase the enormous changes that had been made to the Constructor engine."
What's so good about it? "We really believe we've got the mix right in the game: solid gameplay, an intuitive control system, and good play progression through a series of missions. The other important thing is that we haven't taken things too seriously - there's more than a liberal sprinkling of humour throughout the game. Just wait till you hear the radio broadcasts when you complete all the missions and you'll see what we mean."
We've had a dabble with an early version of the game, and we have to concede that it is vaguely amusing - as in 'computer game funny', still a world away from real comedy. The humour takes the form of stereotyped characters, overacted voices, and of course the staple of any game attempting comedy - the funny name. Wilfred Septic, anyone? Barney Porkhead? Nurse, my sides...
The playability is certainly shaping up though, and even having the game crash after two hours was considerably more enjoyable than ploughing through the ponderous Gangsters again. For anyone who played Constructor, the interface should be familiar, and even for a newcomer it seems fairly intuitive.
The graphics are similar to those in the first game, Studio 3 sticking with bitmaps as opposed to full 3D. Tim explains the thinking behind this: "The main reason is that we wanted to keep the sharp-edged look of bitmap graphics for the game, and also to make the game compatible with as broad a range of machines as possible. Creating a 3D environment just because it's trendy doesn't necessarily add anything to a game. We did look into the possibility of having a 3D environment right at the beginning, but felt that it doesn't show off the quirky nature of our graphics well enough - yet. Maybe next time, you'll have to wait and see!"
Good graphics are generally taken for granted these days, but a strategy game lives or dies on the strength of its AI, and that's something Tim is confident about. "It works. The computermoderated opponents are really well balanced and often exhibit - metimes frighteningly so - very 'human played actions and reactions. We've spent a lot of time on the AI and, as game players ourselves, we're very happy with the end result." The AI may well be very realistic, but Street Wars is by no means a documentary. How similar to real life do you think it is?
"I think that if organised crime had been modelled on our ideas, then most of the gangsters would have ended up as bad music-hall comedians rather than feared killers and extorters. There are a lot of elements in the game that have been taken from real life - if you can call Hollywood gangster movies real life -but we have tried very hard not to take ourselves too seriously, and to let the player have some fun while his butt is being kicked."