Ecks vs Sever is perhaps not the most obvious movie to base a game around. For starters, it isn't even in production yet, and isn't likely to arrive in cinemas until late next year or even some time in 2003. Secondly when you ask most people about it, they look at you all puzzled and say "Ecks vs Who"? Which was our own reaction when Bam! and Crawfish first announced they were making a game out of it. So to satisfy our curiosity we spoke to the game's producer Tim Mawson...
The Story So Far
The most obvious question has to be why Ecks vs Sever? "BAM! has a fantastic relationship with Franchise Pictures where the company is given the option of making games from any of the scripts that Franchise receives", Tim explained. "Sometimes they'll get a script that makes a good game, sometimes they'll get a script that'll make a good film, and sometimes it'll make for a good movie and game - as is the case with Ecks Vs Sever." "The film is based upon the lives of two secret agents; Ecks (an ex-FBI agent) and Sever (a rogue NSA agent). The two trained killers are involved in a government conspiracy that's bigger than either of them. This leaves them skulking about in dark alleyways, storming hotel lobbys, shooting down bars and causing mayhem throughout the city with some big weapons at their disposal." "The reason it was decided not to wait until the movie release was that both BAM! and Crawfish were hugely confident that Ecks vs Sever was a good enough game to stand on its own two feet. Rather than being a direct port of the film, the game is based in the world in which the film is set, and throughout the game key characters, locations and props appear to reflect the atmosphere of a feature film."
Of course, developing the game so long before the film's release does have its problems. A little research revealed that almost half the action stars in Hollywood have been attached to Ecks vs Sever at one point or another, from Wesley Snipes and Sylvester Stallone to Antonio Banderas and Chinese kung fu legend Jet Li. This has inevitably caused some setbacks in the game's development, most notably when the character of Sever underwent a sex change... "Originally both lead characters were going to be male, so it came as quite a surprise when we heard that the film's producers had decided to make the Sever character female", Tim admitted. "This was a bit of a headache as all of the panel graphics for the weapons had been rendered with a man's hand and forearm, so new graphics had to be produced, which obviously took more time and made it harder to fit the game onto the cartridge." Indeed, with the film yet to begin shooting it's entirely possible that the latest rumoured line-up (Antonio Banderas and Lucy Lui) will change again by the time the movie reaches cinema screens. Luckily this shouldn't prove too much of a problem for Crawfish, unless one of the characters changes gender again. "Ecks and Sever are not based on any specific characters which, considering the cast turnover in the last few months, is probably a good thing!"
Everything Is Under Control
So far the screenshots of the game we have seen have all shown men in blue shirts and men in camouflage uniform, but the final game includes a wider range of characters, "including security guards, FBI agents, SWAT officers and NSA agents, plus Gant and his henchman Mills, and not forgetting Ecks and Sever too". Also available is a wide selection of semi-realistic weaponry to mow down these characters with. "There are ten different weapons that the player can discover throughout the game, including machine-guns, rifles, a shotgun, grenade launcher, frag grenades and proximity mines. Sniping mode is activated by pressing the A button whilst carrying the sniper rifle. The player can then zoom in and out using the shoulder buttons, whilst aiming using the D-pad." For those of you who are curious, the rest of the controls look something like this... "The D-pad allows the player to move forwards and backwards and to turn, the shoulder buttons allow the player to strafe left and right, and when held down together the player will crouch - ideal for taking cover and negotiating tunnels. The weapons you are carrying can be cycled through using the Select button and fired using the A button. The B button is used to open doors and ativate switches. Pressing Start pauses the game."
We Have The Technology
The game itself is based on Crawfish's own homebrew engine, which was shown running the opening level from Doom 2 on the GameBoy Advance in the run-up to the console's launch. "It's a pseudo-3D engine, so sloping floors and rooms above rooms are not possible, and the floors and ceilings are not textured to allow the game to run as quickly as possible", but it's a good demonstration of what the GameBoy Advance is capable of. Ecks vs Sever will also take full advantage of the GBA's link cable. "There are three different multiplayer modes, each supporting two to four players, all of whom will need a cart. The first is Deathmatch mode, which I think everbody is familiar with by now. The second is Assassination mode, where one player is an assassin trying to kill a VIP and the other players try to stop him. The third mode is Bomb Kit mode, where each player has to find the pieces to a bomb and place it in a specific place to win." Of course, Ecks vs Sever isn't the only first person shooter coming up in the next few weeks. Are Crawfish worried about the arrival of the all-conquering Doom on Nintendo's portable? "Not at all, as the games are very different", Tim told us. "There is plenty of room around the Christmas table for both! Ecks vs. Sever is a much more realistic game both in terms of setting and pace, and the game follows a solid storyline, so the players can really get to know and understand their characters whilst carrying out various tasks necessary to the completion of the game." With Ecks vs Sever currently due for release on December 7th, we should know soon how it stacks up against Doom. But with more varied multiplayer options, more realistic weaponry and settings, and the inclusion of an actual honest-to-god storyline, it may well be worth getting hold of both games this Christmas.