Preview - a sprawling underwater adventure that looks and feels second to none?
Welcome to The Abyss
The first game to use this amazing, expertly researched oceanic kingdom was "Archimedean Dynasty," a critically acclaimed albeit rather complicated strategy title from Massive Development in 1996. The good news is that the sequel, "Aquanox", is almost ready. The bad news? We don't think anybody will be able to touch the deep-sea adventure genre until the world thaws out again - Aquanox looks like it will finally create something worth paddling around in. It's been five years since the conclusion of Archimedean Dynasty. The world is falling apart, with a civil war gripping the capital of the Atlantic Federation, and armed forces conducting dangerous military experiments, causing seaquakes that unlock mythical, god-like creatures from their sleepy holes at the bottom of the ocean. At the centre of the furore is a mercenary called Emerald Flint, hell bent on discovering the secrets of a dangerous gang of pirates, the "Crawlers". With conflict engulfing the world and Flint in serious danger, the game begins. As Flint, you set out with your wingmen on a mission that could be your last. Aquanox is an underwater adventure of the highest calibre. Full of lively computer-controlled characters and a plot as thick as the noxious fumes that envelope the world above, it looks like a real hit. Its scaleable graphics engine can take full advantage of the GeForce 3 GPU's new pixel and vertex shading technologies too, and that's nothing to be trifled with. From what we've seen of the game, the scalability is such that you can model the game on whatever specification you like, cutting down texture memory, anti-aliasing, texture detail and such. The game features a world of options.
Although it's set underwater, Aquanox heralds a very energetic, three-dimensional world, where every current is important and each port a new adventure. A very streamlined game (ha!), it features some 30 single player missions, but that figure is academic - the game itself will be one broadly defined adventure. During the course of Flint's epic, you can take the helm of any of nine playable vessels, and battle over 40 enemies including god-like sea creatures released by the military's ill-conceived experiments. Also on offer are several multiplayer modes, with deathmatch and teambased battles - think "X-Wing Vs. TIE Fighter" underwater. GeForce 3 developers nVidia are using Aquanox to showcase their chip's versatility and power to the press. The Massive developers we spoke to believe that Aquanox can push the GF3 to the limits of its current capabilities, and we didn't find it hard to believe them. Creating a believable underwater kingdom is something they have done with room to spare. The screenshots barely do it justice - Aqua is a living, breathing planet. Through a combination of vertex and pixel shading, the Aquanox world looks stunningly realistic. Plants flap in the currents, creatures crawl on rocks, bits of coral break off in your wake as you pass by them. Custom skinning and motion effects set it apart from any underwater game we've seen before… It was easy to see how rich the textures were too, despite the various cocktails nVidia had been plying us with all evening at the Aquanox demonstration. Again, the screenshots barely do it justice - head over to nVidia's website and download a video of the game to see what we mean. Aquanox is still several months off, but we have no doubt it will land with a splash (come on, that was almost obligatory). Seriously though, through its rich storyline and equally rich graphical engine it should take no prisoners. We await its arrival with baited breath.