Martian Gothic : Unification

Spooky action adventure game previewed

Back in 1996 NASA announced that it had found what looked like tiny fossil bacteria in a meteorite that had landed in Antarctica over ten thousand years ago. What made this so exciting at the time was that the meteorite was made up of rock which had been blasted off the surface of Mars millions of years ago...

Vita 1

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A clip from the opening cinematic, showing the meteorite crashing into the Antarctic ice

"Martian Gothic : Unification" flashes you forward to the year 2019. A manned base, Vita 1, has already been set up on Mars to search for further evidence of primitive life on the planet.

But now that base has gone silent. The last transmission to reach Earth from the Mars base was badly garbled, and ended with the cryptic message "stay alive, stay alone". Your team of three has been landed on Mars to find out what happened to the base, but because your bosses are taking that final message seriously you will have to enter the base through seperate air locks and stay away from each other at all times.

And just when you thought things couldn't get any worse, your ship crash landed near the base in a dust storm, leaving you stranded on the surface of Mars to face whatever is awaiting you inside Vita 1.

It soon becomes apparent that something has gone horribly wrong, and that the team manning the base have discovered something far more advanced than the single cell bacteria they were expecting. Corpses litter the corridors as you make your way through the base, and not all of them are happy to just lie there and quietly decay...

Night Of The Living Dead

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One of the three characters you will be controlling during the game

At first sight the game just seems to be Resident Evil on Mars, but there's more to it than that. The biggest difference is that you now control three seperate characters who are scattered around the base, switching between them as necessary to complete puzzles, open doors, and access computer consoles.

Each of the characters has their own specialities. Kenzo Uji is a Japanese computer expert who can repair and operate the base's electronics, Diane Matlock is a British microbiologist sent to identify any organisms found within the base, and Martin Karnee is an American security expert sent to deal with any larger hazards.

At the beginning of the game only one of your three characters is able to enter the base - somebody or something has locked most of the doors and bulkheads, and as a result the other two characters are stuck just inside the airlocks.

As you play through though the game you will be able to release the other characters. Unfortunately they have all been infected by deadly viruses which have some rather bizarre properties when you bring carriers together, hence the final message - "stay alive, stay alone". Once you see what happens to people who don't heed this advice, you will understand why this is so important...

Sound And Vision

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Now there's something you don't see every day - a bloated dead guy floating in mid-air

The graphics in the game are generally excellent, with a mixture of fairly detailed real time polygonal characters and beautifully pre-rendered backdrops, all viewed from a series of dramatic camera angles.

The base itself is a bizarre mix of high tech equipment and Victorian decor, making the settings look like something of a cross between an Alien movie and The Haunting. The result is atmospheric and eerie, and some of the locations and bizarre phenomena you will come across are enough to send a tingle up your spine.

There are also a number of scripted sequences and in-game cinematics to keep the plot moving along, as well as a seemingly huge amount of dialogue, from conversations and recorded messages to comments from your characters as you stumble across something new. And the game will feature surround sound and EAX (environmental audio) support, which should help immerse you even more.

The overall effect is creepy and sinister, relying more on suspense than out and out action to keep you coming back for more - this is really more of an adventure game at heart than your average Resident Evil clone.

Conclusion

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Not tonight, dear

Take 2 and Creative Reality seem to be on to a winner with Martian Gothic, and it looks set to lift itself above the action-adventure crowd.

With an interesting non-linear storyline, plenty of puzzles to solve, three characters to control, and a derelict base and the Martian caves beneath it to explore, from what we've seen so far the game is shaping up to be something rather special. While we're waiting for final review code, why not check out these screenshots of the game in action?

   

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