Some reviewers were a bit rough and ready with Pursuit Force, BigBig Studios' PSP action game, including our very own Kristan, who wrote: "Pursuit Force has some really great ideas implemented reasonably well. Leaping from vehicle to vehicle like some sort of crazy offspring of Evil Kinevil and The Six Million Dollar Man is a lot of fun for a while. But then a combination of a horrible driving experience and some tedious difficulty spikes drain all the fun out of it, and you're left scowling about missed opportunities." Returning this year with the sequel - this time for PS2 as well as PSP - BigBig aims to sort out all the bits after the "But" and help Pursuit Force: Extreme Justice reach the critical heights the first game couldn't. We caught up with lead designer Chris Whiteside to find out what's in store.
Eurogamer: Pursuit Force got some amazingly varied write-ups, but everyone agreed it had a solid core. Which elements of the game did you target for improvement in Pursuit Force: Extreme Justice?
Chris Whiteside: Well, firstly, we've tackled several of the main areas of the game that needed improving over the original, including difficulty, repetition and lack of story.
From feedback we found that many players found the first game too hard. We have made numerous improvements for the sequel to fix this; these include areas such as widths of road, mission timings, communication of mechanics and mission objectives. On top of this we've also included a number of difficulty settings. This is so we can cater for those that have not played the original or found it too difficult and also those who found the first game a challenge but an enjoyable one. The last thing we want to do is disappoint those that found the first game spot on.
We also tackled the issue of repetition. With the first game we built upon the core mechanics so that the game would not be repetitive, including elements such as gunning from the chopper as well as a variety of mission types. Still, never one to ignore general feedback, in this one we've really thrown in the kitchen sink. For example, we have built upon the first-person mechanics of the first game allowing the player to gun from the back of land based vehicles, enhanced the mission types that everyone liked and evolved others to ensure that they are more fun (as well as adding completely new ones). We've also bolstered the main game with new additions such as Multiplayer and Challenge modes, and now the player can also upgrade the Cop's abilities to suit their own strengths and weakness. These are just a handful of the additions.
On top of these improvements we've also added a number of new features/modes. Firstly, we're introducing the Pursuit Force Team. In the first game you were basically a one-man-army. Now, in the sequel you're joined by a team of new recruits, each one with their strengths and weaknesses. More often than not they're there to help you out but now and again it's your job to go in and save their ass. Secondly, and specifically due to feedback we have included a 'Summer Blockbuster Storyline' (think Lethal Weapon). However, we want to ensure that the player really does feel like the hero and as such the system is designed in such a way that the player feels like he is driving the storyline rather than it being forced onto him. Last but not least, we'd added interactive boss vehicles. Now, in the first game the bosses were little more than normal vehicles with a boss on them. This time around we've got gigantic beasts of vehicles, some taking up several screens in size. The player has to clamber over and around these vehicles, with his ultimate goal to locate and takeout the boss.
Put simply, Pursuit Force: Extreme Justice is an altogether different proposition to the original.
Eurogamer: This time you've got new gangs, a rival police division and new vehicles to leap onto. What impact do these things have on the way the game plays?
Chris Whiteside: We had loads of cool ideas in Pursuit Force that we just didn't have time to include. We always liked the idea of a Pursuit Force-like division who were even heavier handed and more high tech, so we began concepting Viper and soon found that they fit perfectly into the PF universe. This division works in unison with Pursuit Force and more often than not steals the Commander's thunder. They play a very key role in the story and we think that everyone is going to really enjoy playing with them and seeing them in action.
We have also included the new Pursuit Force recruits who add even more flavour to the Pursuit Force universe, in terms of comedy and story progression. More importantly however they each have their own roles and AI behaviour functionality, for example, Ashley (Pursuit Force Special Ops) will jump to vehicles, blow away the occupants, and then take it over and drive it back to the player. Preach (Pursuit Force Heavy Weapons Specialist) basically just kicks ass whenever he can, including picking up enemies in the on foot levels and pile driving them into the ground.
In terms of vehicles we have included several new types including hovercraft (which drive seamlessly on land and then onto water and vice versa), more aspirational bikes and jet skis and a massive amount of new sports vehicles and SUVs. We have also reworked our physics base to allow for more responsive and arcade handling. In terms of vehicles are biggest addition is the new boss vehicles. In Pursuit Force our boss vehicles were always fought from range and therefore were not as interactive as we would have liked.
Eurogamer: There's four-player Wi-Fi on PSP and two-player split-screen on PlayStation 2. What sort of modes are you offering, and will you be able to play online on either console?
Chris Whiteside: Rather than offering online play, we've focused our efforts on maxing out the fun for players sat together playing the game. So, we're offering four multiplayer modes on each console. Both PSP and PS2 have two unique modes each, plus there are two modes that both consoles share. The modes you'll see on both consoles are Rampage, an Onfoot battle mode, and Ram Jam, a chase mode where criminal players try to escape being rammed by the cop players. Unique on PS2 we have Car Jackers, in which players capture as many civilian cars as they can, whilst fighting and stealing cars from each other. And in Finders Keepers, players fight to capture the most gems from enemy vehicles, but can kill and steal each other's gems too!
Then unique to PSP we've got Survivor - where players work together to survive an enemy onslaught. One player drives the Off-Roader whilst the second player guns from the rear. And there are Cops n Robbers, in which the criminal players try to hijack or kill AI vehicles, and the cops must stop them. We believe we have a nice spread of different types of gameplay, with chases, deathmatches, and a variety of combat types, fighting both each other and the enemies, all specifically designed and tailored to the unique mechanics of Pursuit Force.
Eurogamer: Bigbig's "mummy company" Evolution has obviously been working on PlayStation 3 for a while, particularly with MotorStorm, and PSP games seem to have a habit of turning up on the PlayStation Network Store. Any plans for a downloadable Pursuit Force, or anything like that?
Chris Whiteside: We're extremely excited by both the PSP and the PS3 Store. In regard to Pursuit Force as a downloadable on PS3, we'll have to wait and see.
Eurogamer: Or, for that matter, downloadable content for the PSP Extreme Justice? Or a downloadable demo? Come on, embrace that Internet!
Chris Whiteside: We're trying to embrace the Internet. For example, Extreme Justice was rewritten from the ground up to allow for downloadable content. Completely new packs which can include anything from new stories, characters, vehicles, weapons, environments, etc. Want a side story on the recruits taking down a completely new gang? Well, that's possible with the new system. In principle this game is a portal into the universe of Pursuit Force. It's very extensive.
Eurogamer: Finally, you must be getting quite close to completion now. Any word on a firm release date?
Chris Whiteside: We are currently adding the finishing touches to the game and polishing it as highly as we can. We want to ensure that we give the project the time it deserves. As for a firm release date, expect the European version Q4. Thanks for your time, and we hope you enjoy the game.