Hammerhead Studios

We interview the British developers behind the forthcoming Playstation game "Blade"

Marvel Comics were having a hard time of it about 5 years ago - the price of paper had risen to ridiculous levels, many of their top artists had defected to independent studios, and the stories involving some of the best known and much loved characters in Comiciverse seemed to be going nowhere. To top it all off, any movies made featuring their heroes were low budget rubbish with bad actors in rubber suits - Generation X anyone? The whole situation got so bad that I actually dropped all the X-Men titles from my regular comic collecting - about 10 series, plus any specials! I felt really bad about it, but they were just not worth the money anymore...

Vampire Hunter

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So nobody was more delighted when "Blade" first appeared on the silver screen - a badass Vampire Hunter (Wesley Snipes) who kicks and punches his way through hordes of undead, showing no mercy in an ultra-violent gore-fest of action. But it was also a film that also time to develop the character, his struggle with his own vampiric urges, and his relationship with Whistler, his old, human sidekick (Kris Kristofferson). Marvel had finally made a good move. Blade had a nice budget and looked good, polished, and exciting. And of course, X-Men has followed - 'nuff said about that! So, with their newfound wisdom, Marvel has licensed four games to be made by Activision for the PSX - two X-Men titles, the much anticipated "Spiderman" and, of course, "Blade". What is surprising though is that a British studio is making Blade. Hammerhead are probably best known for their successful port of Quake II to the PSX, which is probably why they were offered the project to begin with, but they have taken great pains to ensure that the comic fans and general gamers will be pleased with the end product. "The story is based on events that happen before the film, to avoid continuity problems should there be a second movie, and to keep Whistler in the mix. The idea is that, when a mission goes drastically wrong for the duo, an ancient evil force is unleashed to cause havoc, enabling the dead to walk and starting a Vampire Clan War, the heroes being trapped in the middle."

Weaponry

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So how are they gonna fight these creatures of the night, I wonder? "Weapons. Lots and lots of weapons. And martial arts, and an ever ready sword." Battery powered? Oh .. sorry. "As it's a third person game, we have had to work hard at getting the punches and kicks looking right, and there are many combinations to be used. Guns include a shotgun, handgun, machine gun, grenade launcher - the usual mix, but with different forms of ammo, which can be more or less effective depending on the target, so the player can't just rush in, there are things to consider first. Enemies will include, obviously, vampires, from the House of Erebus, but with differing traits, some almost human, others bestial and demonic, [as well as] humans, zombies, monsters, sentry guns - there are lots of different types - and of course the ultimate goal, the 'Nightbeast - Mother of all Doombringers'." So does it play like your common fragfest, just running around killing things? "Absolutely not! Strategy and puzzle-solving will play a large part of the gameplay, a large part obviously being to use the right tactics to defeat specific foes, but in a fully realised 3D world based on an updated version of our Quake II engine where the players will be able to jump, climb, operate switches and machinery. The whole thing is a plot-led story, allowing us to integrate a whole spectrum of puzzles and strategies to keep the players enthralled to the very end." "The only sad point is that we have had to restrict the more involved intricacies of Blade's strong characterisation, because he is just too complex. To try would just be foolish, slowing the game down to a point where it would hurt the overall experience. With an involved story and lots of action, we have limited background and character to those that fit neatly into the ongoing plot, like his relationship with Whistler, for instance. It won't deter people though, even fans of the comic will recognise their hero for who he is."

Conclusion

An interesting point actually. Comic book fans are known to be extremely harsh and critical when it comes to other representations of their heroes. Has this had caused the team any problems? "Your source always has to be respected, but it needs to be balanced with your primary objective - to make the best game possible. We have submitted designs, artwork, storyline, and indeed the game itself, to Marvel throughout the whole process. We have never been without Marvel's guidance and contribution." Ah, bless 'em. Well, with the imminent release of the PS2 in November, it's good to hear that what sounds like a quality product is still being developed for the ageing PSX, and more than that, finally some decent games are being made based on comic books. You should look out for Blade on 30th November 2000. You never know, with all the recent good fortune Marvel have had lately, maybe I'll go look at the books again... Wolverine is so cool.

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