Those of you with Silver subscriptions to Xbox Live can now get your hands on the Monster Madness demo.
It was released on last Friday for Gold members and is completely free to download. The demo weighs in at 434MB and contains a single-player and multiplayer map.
Monster Madness is a top-down comic book inspired shooter, which lets four of you tackle hordes of stylised beasties in glorious cooperative beauty. It gives a great big nod to b-movie horror films and classic games like Zombies Ate My Neighbours, and we can't help but love it. Well, I can't. Tom won't speak to me.
So, to celebrate all this we went and had a brain sandwich-fuelled chat with Jeremy Stieglitz, president of developer Artificial Studios. It turns out that he had quite a lot to say about the game, so we thought we'd share his words just below these.
Eurogamer: What is Monster Madness and where did the idea come from?
Jeremy Stieglitz: Monster Madness: Battle For Suburbia is exactly as the name suggests - madness with monsters in a suburban setting!
Basically, it's a third-person action title that supports up to four players in co-op. You're a high school student and your peaceful town is suddenly being overrun by hordes of horror-themed monsters. You've got to fight your way out and find the source of the invasion. We've got over 70 unique monster enemies for the four teenage characters to wade through, a fleet of vehicles to commandeer, a set of monsters that you can actually transform into, and a bucketload of tools for destruction, ranging from melee items and environmental objects to insane special weapons that players have to collect parts for.
The game concept has several influences: comics and horror films for the subject matter, old-school brawlers and shooters for the gameplay. The major gameplay influences come from multiplayer classics like Gauntlet and Powerstone, although we've really tried to innovate that genre with our level layouts and pacing, as well as make it a fun challenge for solo players.
Eurogamer: Lots of our eagle-eyed and really quite responsible readers have said Monster Madness might work better as a Live Arcade title. How much does the full-priced game offer?
Jeremy Stieglitz: Well, the full game has 18 Adventure levels - all with 4-player co-op - and is way, way over the Live Arcade limit in terms of size. It takes about 15 hours to get through on a single pass, and there's a lot of replayability involving unlockable content. Then there's the pretty deep weapon building system and the various difficulty levels, including a "remix" mode with different enemies and objectives. On top of that are the various multiplayer modes. Aside co-op, we've got deathmatch and capture the flag modes over Xbox Live, over 10 unique competitive levels, which can feature up to 16 players, as well as 4 player versions on a single 360. You can bring your profiles into the online games to make use of the hidden costumes and weapons you've unlocked, and every Adventure and competitive match includes full online Leaderboards so you can see exactly where you rank on any given level, difficulty, and game mode. I don't think you'd find that amount of content in a Live Arcade title!
Eurogamer: Monster Madness was first shown at E3 2005 as one of the first games on Xbox 360. Why has it taken until now to bring it to retail?
Jeremy Stieglitz: Well, that's development for you, I guess! Actually, the 2005 version was a prototype demo that we were kicking around internally while we worked on internal technology and some other game demos (you might have heard of "CellFactor"). We finally hooked up with SouthPeak in April 2006, development began anew on Unreal Engine 3. Since then we've been going really deep on tweaking and balancing the game, as well as making sure it's up to date in technical terms. The 16-player deathmatches have been a big timesink. With that amount of potential chaos, you have to pay attention to all the details to make sure all's fair in love and war. That's not including modeling and animating the sheer number of enemies, all of which have their own dedicated attack patterns and strategies - not a bunch of models with similar characteristics underneath.
Eurogamer: What is the strongest aspect of the game, and why will we go bananas for it?
Jeremy Stieglitz: The key strength is Monster Madness's sense of fun and mayhem, both in solo and multiplayer. On your own, it'll be a blast, but with three other friends, it's a riot and a blast at the same time. I can't think of the right words to describe the 16-player deathmatches, but rest assured you'll have a whale of a time - it's pure insanity, and very easy to get into! We've tried to make Monster Madness as accessible as possible, so you don't have to be an FPS master to score some serious kills. It'll be easy for just about anyone to pick up, play and get involved.
Eurogamer: How much extra life will the multiplayer modes breathe into the game?
Jeremy Stieglitz: There's a long list of great games with multiplayer that are still being played today and we want Monster Madness to join them. When multiplayer modes are done right, they add thousands of hours to a game that would normally be done with in a month or less. We're pretty confident that our multiplayer modes will see Monster Madness still being played in a year's time. The in-game Lobby literally features hundreds of customisable settings that you can configure to create all sorts of strange game variants, and we've added a "randomise" feature which will randomly choose options for you to create unexpected game types. We've certainly crammed just about everything plus the kitchen sink into our beloved multiplayer game, and we'll be adding content after the game's release, including a brand new multiplayer level on the day that Monster Madness hits store shelves.
Eurogamer: Do you have more Monster Madness planned for the future, and will we see downloadable extras for the game?
Jeremy Stieglitz: We've really grown attached to the cast and characters of Monster Madness and we would love to take them through other adventures, adding some new friends along the way. Let's just say that the game's multiple endings leave it pretty clear where the zany story will go. We are also planning on adding downloadable character costumes, multiplayer levels and other game enhancing content through Xbox Live.
Eurogamer: How important has Ageia's PhysX technology been in making the game?
Jeremy Stieglitz: Well, we're using PhysX for all of our in-game dynamics. With the amount of deranged action we've crammed into Monster Madness, we needed a physics API that would be up to the task of throwing a lot of stuff around (i.e. hundreds of simultaneously moving objects) and still keep framerate. We've got a great relationship with Ageia thanks to our work on CellFactor, so it was a no-brainer to use PhysX again. Let's just say that a good number of the challenging bosses involve use of physical weaponry to defeat them, and many of the weapons and secondary items directly make use of physics (such as a massive vacuum cleaner which can suck up bunches of objects and shoot them out as projectiles, ala CellFactor)...
Eurogamer: Will PC players using the PPU see a marked improvement over the Xbox 360 version?
Jeremy Stieglitz: PC players will get a framerate boost at higher resolutions, but there'll be no difference in the mayhem and fun to be had.
Eurogamer: Monster Madness is built on Unreal Engine 3. Do you think Epic's technology is the next-generation market leader?
Jeremy Stieglitz: Quite possibly. We gave a speech at GDC about Unreal Engine 3, which underlines how highly we regard the technology. It's made it very easy for us to develop the PC and 360 versions in parallel and we think Monster Madness shows that the engine is amazingly versatile - it's not just for FPS titles and traditional third-person shooters. Frankly, it's due to Unreal Engine 3 that we've been able to develop the current game in about a year without any technical hitches.
Eurogamer: Has Microsoft's new console been easy and intuitive to develop for?
Jeremy Stieglitz: As with all new hardware, especially using multi-core stuff effectively, there's a learning curve to climb at first. However, the talent and sheer enthusiasm in our team, combined with the support and tools from Microsoft, make the 360 a great platform for game development.
Eurogamer: Will we see Monster Madness on PS3 or Wii?
Jeremy Stieglitz: We would love to bring Monster Madness to other platforms. We're definitely looking into possible PS3 and Wii versions, but I can't say anything definite just yet.
Monster Madness is due out for PC and Xbox 360 on 25th May. Head over to our Monster Madness gamepage for all the latest trailers and screenshots.