Eastern Europe has become a hotbed of cutting edge game development over the last decade, with recent hits such as Operation Flashpoint, Cossacks and Serious Sam coming from what used to be the other side of the Iron Curtain. But by comparison things are a bit quiet in Poland at the moment, with only a handful of studios (such as Earth 2150 developers Reality Pump) getting any attention overseas... "It's hard to say whether being based in Poland is an advantage or disadvantage", we were told by Krzysztof Marcinkiewicz, PR manager of Wrocaw-based Techland. "It's true that financial support for game development isn't very high in our country, but there's no reason to consider Polish companies as less significant business partners, [although] many publishers from Western Europe and the USA still perceive our market in this way."
Techland are hoping that this attitude will change with the arrival of Chrome, a promising looking sci-fi tactical shooter starring a bounty-hunter with the unlikely name of Bolt Logan, and featuring a healthy mixture of on-foot and in-vehicle action. "Sometimes it is much safer and more effective to use a vehicle and take the enemy by surprise or save precious seconds to get somewhere fast", Krzysztof explained. "In Chrome you can find futuristic off-road vehicles, chasers, troop-carriers, shuttles, landers and robots of different size and purpose. The player can get in and drive every vehicle he comes up to. Some of them are typical military units, others perform a specific role in the plot." Each vehicle will have its own unique physics and driving model, which will be "influenced by the shape of terrain and atmospheric conditions on a given planet". And your enemy can also take advantage of vehicles, using them "to transport troops, cover long distances, patrol the neighborhood or chase the player". Other useful gizmos at your disposal include sentry guns, which can be placed around the map to give you covering fire as you carry out missions. "There are many more elements that influence tactics in a similar manner", according to Krzysztof. "The player has to use his brains to finish Chrome."
Your Flexible Friend
How you apply your brains is left for the player to decide. During the course of the game you will have access to a wide range of skills, weapons, vehicles and equipment, and Krzysztof believes that this will give players a variety of approaches to the tasks they are given, rather than forcing them down a specific route. "It is the player who decides what the game should be like, and equipping Logan with suitable implants and weaponry has a huge impact on the gameplay. A mission that you have already completed may appear a new challenge when you start it with a different set of equipment. Ideas and tactics that once proved successful may fail this time." "Chrome allows the player to match the gameplay to his needs", he elaborated. "If you prefer a Quake-like style of action, you can get it by matching different implants. If you are a Counter-Strike, Project IGI or Deus Ex fan, there are many opportunities to adjust the game to your needs. Everyone should find Chrome attractive, all you have to do is optimize the game to your expectations. The player decides whether the game should be purely tactically-based or rather more shooter-like with some tactical elements."
More Human Than Human
An important part of this flexibility is Chrome's cybertech implants, which bear more than a passing resemblance to the nano augmentations used in Deus Ex. "Logan's implants can drastically increase his speed, strength and shooting accuracy", Krzysztof explained. "Some implants provide special abilities such as thermovision and pain insensitivity (which helps him aim when he's hit) while others give Logan additional protection against injuries." "The important thing is that players can't use all of the implants at the same time, because it would bring about a nervous system breakdown. The side effects of using implants can be serious and may result in problems with concentration, visibility, movement coordination, or even cause death. That's why players must carefully think about how to combine the implants so they don't overcharge Logan's body." "On the other hand, well-matched modifications can transform Logan into a killing machine. It's the players who ultimately decide whether Logan should be a superhuman with amazing endurance and poor long-range accuracy or a deadly sniper with low resistance to injuries. If we end up having different implants matching different kinds of equipment, plenty of interesting combinations will be available. Each combination has its advantages and drawbacks, but again it's the players who chooses how and in what circumstances to use them."
While the variety of approaches you can take to the single player missions should give the game some added replay value, real longevity (as always) will depend on the online community. "Chrome provides all of the popular multiplayer modes (including deathmatch, team deathmatch, last man standing, capture the flag, assault, frontline and domination) and introduces an option to configure each multiplayer session. For instance, you can chose whether the game should be a Quake-style shooter or tactically-based like Counter Strike. All of these modes are available for both LAN and internet users." Chrome also has a "powerful built-in scripting language", according to the documents we were sent by Techland, but it's not yet clear whether this will be opened up for modification. "We're not sure if Chrome fans want access to the tools, so we're going to make a survey on the game's website asking if a mission editor should be included in the full version [of the game]. We'll leave that decision to the fans. At present, we're asking for patience while waiting for the launch of Chrome's official website."
In the meantime Techland are putting the finishing touches to the game, and Krzysztof revealed that "we start beta-testing in a day or two", adding that it's possible that players will be able to take part in the process. Either way, with a spring release currently planned, we should know soon whether Chrome can live up to its promise.