When the notoriously bland 3DO first announced Four Horsemen Of The Apocalypse, we were (to say the least) gobsmacked. Here was an adult game where the "heroes" include a serial killer and a prostitute, a game with gratuitous amounts of gore and occasional nudity. Not only that, but it's a big budget effort with famous actors providing the voices and veterans of comics such as Heavy Metal and 2000AD providing the visual style and character designs.
As executive producer Kelly Turner admitted, "we're probably known as the Army Men company [so] this is a major departure for us". And with an $8m budget, "we're sticking our neck out on the line". So is that gamble going to pay off? Well, amazingly enough, 3DO might just be on to something...
Abaddon All Hope
You take on the role of Abaddon, a fallen angel sent to Earth to face the eponymous harbringers of the apocalypse in a showdown of truly Biblical proportions. At your disposal are a wide selection of hand-to-hand and ranged weapons, and your character's skills will improve depending on what kind of weapons you make the most use of.
There's also the promise of over-the-top finishing moves, and some of the early animations we were shown were pretty excessive. In one typical example, Abaddon sliced off a monster's head with twin swords and then held it aloft as blood fountained into the air from his victim's neck. To add insult to injury, Abaddon then thrust the swords deep into the creature's chest, embedding its head in its own stomach. Tasteful. Apparently Kelly wasn't joking when he told us that "some of the violence is so over the top it's almost comical".
On first impressions then, the game bears a certain resemblance to one of my personal favourites of last year, Devil May Cry, and Kelly agreed that this was a fair comparison. 3DO are aiming to take that idea "to the next level" though, grounding it in a stronger and more familiar storyline and adding sidekick characters into the mix. Your mission on Earth is to find three mortals to join you in your battle against the Horsemen, and these Chosen turn out to be Jesse Horner (a scantily clad prostitute), Jimmy Ray Flint (a serial killer on death row) and Senator Anderson Scott (a corrupt politician). Some of the game's levels are based around rescuing or recruiting these characters, such as battling your way through a prison in an effort to reach Jimmy before he's fried in the electric chair. Other times you'll be given a choice of which of your allies to bring along with you, or even be able to take the whole gang along. Each character has its own unique skills - Jimmy can detect demons, Jesse can heal you and Senator Scott can convince enemies to join your side - so knowing how to use them as a group will be an important part of the game.
It's Good To Be Evil
Facing your human detritus are Death, Famine, Pestilence and War, and although we're not allowed to show you any pictures of them yet, the concept art and renders that we saw during the presentation yesterday were certainly impressive, capturing the essence of each character without falling back on clichés. The locations were fairly eye-catching as well, largely thanks to the design efforts of Simon Bisley and friends. From the blood-drenched palace of Famine, complete with bits of raw meat dangling on hooks from the ceiling, to gothic architecture and mean looking prisons, it's all quite promising.
One of the most impressive aspects of the game though is the voice acting and dialogue, which was surprisingly humorous in a dark kind of way. There's a certain degree of type casting involved, but the big name line-up has impeccable credentials, and the actors seem to have really thrown themselves into the job. Lance Henriksen follows up three seasons as world weary Frank Black in the apocalyptic TV series Millennium by providing the voice for Abaddon, while Tim Curry essentially reprises the role he played in Ridley Scott's Legend, taking on the part of the ultimate lord of darkness, Satan. The one big surprise was former porn star Traci Lords, who we had been expecting to appear as prostitute Jesse Horner. Actually she's playing Pestilence, the lone female Horseman (Horsewoman?). The video clips we saw of the recording sessions were really good, with Traci getting just the right mix of evil and seductiveness in her voice, while Tim Curry chewed up the scenery in grand style. As for Lance Henriksen .. well, he's Lance Henriksen. You know what to expect.
While we've yet to see any actual gameplay from Four Horsemen Of The Apocalypse, the concept art, renders, animations, storyline, characters and voice acting are all excellent. If the team that 3DO has assembled to develop the game can pull all of those elements together, they could have a great game on their hands. 3DO and great game in the same sentence? I know, shocking, isn't it.