It's an indisputable fact: simple ideas often make the best games. And deathmatch is one of the simplest and best of all. There is but one objective - kill everyone else. Obviously to do this you'll have to draw on a generous arsenal of heavy ordnance, learn your way around your chosen arena and establish how best to keep your own health points on the plus side of the morgue, but despite the numerous advents of clans, cliques, mods, hacks, bots and config files, it remains one of the purest multiplayer options ever dreamt up. It's surprising, really, when you realise we've yet to see the definitive online deathmatch game for the home consoles...
And that, or so Sony's London Studio hopes, is where Hardware: Online Arena comes in. This slightly ambiguously named vehicle-based shooter is undiluted deathmatch purity for PS2 Online, with jeeps, buggies, tanks and other desert, turf, tundra and concrete-chomping petrol guzzlers all tooled to the exhaust hatch with weapons - and unlike some of its PC-based brethren, Sony reckons anyone can pick this up and go, and will be pushing it hard in the run up to Christmas. Keen to find out what makes Hardware tick, tick a bit more and then explode, we tracked down producer Tom Holmes recently and asked him a few questions...
Eurogamer: Which games has this studio produced previously?
Tom Holmes: The London Studio has an extremely impressive portfolio of games, recently including the likes of The Getaway, EyeToy: Play and This Is Football [not to mention Dropship! -Ed].
Eurogamer: Can you explain briefly what Hardware is, when it's out and why gamers should rush out and buy it?
Tom Holmes: Hardware represents a new evolution in PS2 gaming. It is the first game of its type developed in Europe exclusively for the online community. We wanted to create a game that would appeal to everyone and not just the hardcore gamer. The game on the surface seems simple - drive a tank or a jeep and destroy your opponents before they destroy you. Its straightforward 'pick-up-and-play', but with a great deal of hidden depth as you learn to use the best weapons and master each of the maps. So if you are eager to get online and play against a wide variety of different people from all over this continent then Hardware's for you.
Eurogamer: What's been the biggest influence during the development cycle?
Tom Holmes: Undoubtedly the Beta Trial Group (the 10,000 members of the public who helped us test the game) have been the biggest influence. Their feedback has been so valuable to us - it's been like the game was developed by 10,000 people as opposed to the usual 30 or so. They've helped us develop a product that we are all really delighted with and I'd like to take this opportunity if I may to thank them.
Eurogamer: When did development start on Hardware?
Tom Holmes: The game started out some 18 months ago.
Eurogamer: Was it always planned as an online game?
Tom Holmes: Oh yes. The online market was one that we really wanted to tackle head-on in order to dispel some of the myths about online gaming being geeky and nerdy by bringing it to the mass-market. That was always the goal. I'd like to think that we've achieved it too.
Eurogamer: Is it as much fun offline?
Tom Holmes: The offline mode is only really a training mode designed to prepare you for your first foray online. Nothing compares to pitting your shoot 'em up skills against another real gamer.
Eurogamer: Has the online element of the game been a challenge to implement?
Tom Holmes: Definitely - but the real challenge has been making it as accessible as possible to the everyday man (or woman for that matter) on the street. It's easy to drown people in technical jargon (as is so often the case with PC online gaming) but we really wanted to open this up for everyone to be able to play and enjoy. Online gaming shouldn't be a chore - the emphasis should be on fun.
Eurogamer: Tell us about the online multiplayer modes, and any special features.
Tom Holmes: Well you can play online simultaneously with up to 16 people. There is a Deathmatch game mode (which is free-for-all warfare) and a King-of-the-hill mode (which involves capturing strategic positions within an arena). You can play each of these game modes solo or as a team and communicate with team-mates and enemies alike via the USB headset in order to co-ordinate attacks and goad victims. Each game mode can be played out in any of the five vast arenas - some of which contain special pickups designed to enhance gameplay - one example of this being the ability to call in an air strike.
Eurogamer: If you overheard someone in a games store saying it 'looked a bit like Twisted Metal Black' what would you say to them?
Tom Holmes: The subject material may be quite similar to TMBO on the surface (i.e. they both fall into the 'vehicle based combat' genre) but Hardware is much more evolved, both graphically and in terms of gameplay. Your comparison is a bit like comparing Doom to Quake I suppose. In a screenshot they look similar, but Quake added real depth and perfect online play to a genre that was looking flat.
Eurogamer: Are you already planning other PS2 online projects?
Tom Holmes: We have some extremely exciting online projects in the pipeline yeah, but for more info you'll just have to watch this space...