A few weeks ago we were lured down to the central London offices of PR agency Bastion to view a mysterious new Unreal-engined action adventure game developed by Germany's Westka Interactive. While we were somewhat disappointed by their last effort, Arcatera, we're happy to report that their latest game, known only as "The Y-Project", is shaping up to be something special...
Bug Powder Dust
The Y-Project is set two hundred years in the future on an alien planet which has been colonized by human settlers. Unfortunately they are not alone. Attacks by giant insects forced the colonists to retreat within a glass-domed city, but as the game begins that dome has shattered and the insects are once again threatening to destroy the settlement. Naturally it's up to you to discover what lies behind these attacks and put a stop to them. The game itself is a story-led first person shooter with some lightweight role-playing elements, allowing you to chat with other survivors of the attack and to customize your own character by choosing from a range of equipment and weapon upgrade modules which become available as you progress through the missions. What really seperates it from other similar shooters though is that two rival factions have developed amongst the survivors and are trying to win over your character. Both sides ultimately want the same thing - to fight off the insects and restore the colony - but the ways in which they go about it differ. As a highly qualified agent you will find them constantly trying to recruit you to further their own agenda and give them greater influence in the town council once the current threat is over. While you will follow the same basic storyline whichever side you choose, the missions you are given will vary. The game is split into five chapters, and each has a main mission provided by whichever faction you are serving. The militaristic faction is more gung-ho, relying on big guns and rapid attacks, with very action-oriented objectives. The scientific faction, on the other hand, prefers a stealthy approach, with more puzzle solving and clinical strikes with sophisticated weaponry.
Two Sides To Every Story
Each chapter sports a selection of smaller subquests as well, and these don't always have to be completed in a preset order. Westka are aiming to have mission objectives which intertwine, so that completing one may help you with another, while still allowing you the freedom to choose which to complete and when. For example, you may be tasked with finding a secret door and killing a group of monsters. If you choose to kill the monsters first you may find a map which will help you to find the hidden room, while doing things the other way round may reward you with a weapons upgrade to help you dispatch the monsters. There's also more than one solution to every problem, depending on your faction and the equipment you have at your disposal. The example we were given involved a survivor sitting precariously on top of a statue in the town museum, surrounded by hungry monsters. If you are playing a military-focused character you might charge in, guns blazing, slaughter the monsters and rescue the damsel in distress. A more scientific character may find their way through the ventilation shafts to a balcony from which they can pick off the insects in safety. And if you're feeling really selfish you could just ignore the poor civilian entirely and leave her there to fend for herself. To make things more interesting, there could be a fire in the ventilation shafts blocking your path. The game does include a fire extinguisher, but it's only available from the scientific faction. At this point a military character would be stuck. Unless of course a nearby scientist offered him the fire extinguisher he needed in exchange for his support.
Weapon Of Choice
At various points like this in the game you will have the option to switch sides, giving you access to the other faction's technical expertise and gadgets. Military characters will gain access to upgrades such as damage enhancers and systems to increase the firing rate of their weapons, while those choosing the path of science may get gizmos like motion trackers and optical equipment to help you fire around corners. Each side has its own source of energy though, and the longer you spend with one faction the more of their energy you will gain, helping to power more advanced gadgets and weapon upgrades you will discover later in the game. This means that sticking to one side will give you a more powerful character in the long run, but constantly switching between the two will give you a more varied selection of equipment and weapons to use in the short term as everyone tries to bribe you to join forces with them. You must also decide which weapons you want. There are five neutral weapons which can be found by exploring the levels, while each of the factions also has its own selection of five specialist guns. If you take one weapon from the scientists, the equivalent military gun is no longer available to you, so although the game features fifteen weapons you can only ever get ten in a single game. If Westka can properly balance this it should prove to be an interesting trade-off, as depending on the path you take through the game you could end up with a completely different set of weapons, tools and upgrades by the time you're finished.
Hey Good Looking
Of course, the one thing we haven't mentioned so far are the graphics. The Y-Project is based on the latest version of the Unreal engine, so it almost goes without saying that it's drop dead gorgeous. Both the levels and the character models are highly detailed, beautifully textured and dynamically lit, while the game also sports an advanced particle system which makes for impressive looking fires, sparks, smoke and foaming water. All of this isn't just pure eye candy for the sake of it either. As the particles are all tracked by the engine and effected by its physics system, they can be moved around by passing objects. This means that if you fire a rocket through a smoke-filled room you will see the particles being blown around by it. It also means that if an invisible monster runs through that room you will be able to see where it is by watching the smoke swirling as the creature moves through it. The game's visual style is also very eye-catching, from the bizarre almost Tim Burtonesque insects to the futuristic costumes of the characters, which were apparently inspired by the work of Jean Paul Gaultier. When it comes to architecture the game sports a variety of big chunky looking buildings with plenty of exposed pipework, steaming grates, metal walkways and giant fans, giving it all a bit of an Aliens atmosphere. And to ensure that the world looks and feels real, Westka have employed architects to lay down designs for the human colony, from the dank underworld of waste incinerators and power plants to the shining Fifth Element inspired upper levels filled with shops, museums and government offices.
Although the Y-Project has only just entered full production at Westka after a year of pre-production design work, it's already looking very promising. The graphics are impressive, the artwork stylish, the settings nicely detailed and the gameplay innovative enough to make it stand out from the first person shooter crowd. With a 2003 release currently on the cards, expect to hear a lot more about this game in the coming months.