Preview - a hands-on look at Rage's Transformers-inspired Xbox actioneer
Despite their widespread appearance in computer games and anime cartoons, the idea of using giant robots to wage war is pretty silly when you stop to think about it. And at the very height of daftness are Transformers, the amusingly dubbed "robots in disguise" which spawned an extensive range of cartoon series, animated movies and action figures in a fit of near-Pokemon scale marketing insanity during the 1980s.
We Meet Again
Flash forward to 2001, and Liverpudlian developers Rage are hard at work on Gun Metal, a third person shooter for the Xbox starring a remarkably familiar looking mecha capable of transforming itself into a jet fighter at the touch of a button. Naturally this unlikely vehicle forms the last line of defence for your futuristic society, and so it is up to you to save the universe. Or something. It might not be the most inventive of concepts, but from what we have seen so far it does appear to be an entertaining one, featuring a healthy mixture of on-foot and free flying combat, and of course the ability to switch between the two at will. Generally you will be stomping around in the more resilient mecha form, with a jet pack to help you navigate any awkward terrain, but at times you will want to take to the skies for some aerial combat, or simply to get to another part of the map in a hurry. It's not all about blowing stuff up either, although this does obviously play a major role in the proceedings. The game's 25 missions, many of them with multiple objectives, vary from destroying enemy positions and helping out allied units to rescuing civilians. Apparently there are even some more stealth-oriented missions, although the mind boggles as to how you make yourself stealthy while piloting a giant robot.
You're Going To Burn
This being an Xbox game, the visuals are obviously top notch. Never before have the words "smooth" and "rolling" been so aptly applied as they are in describing the grassy hills and valleys of Gunmetal, while many of your other favourite clichéd settings such as the ice planet, volcanic wasteland and desert world are also included for good measure. Where appropriate these landscapes are dotted with a variety of buildings, trees and wildlife, and they're not just there to look nice. Pretty much everything can be blown up or burnt down, and the sight of a forest slowly being reduced to charcoal by a stray missile or a herd of animals getting chased into the midst of a battle and promptly turned into mincemeat is enough to bring a tear to the eye of any card-carrying Greenpeace supporter. This attention to detail extends to your own impractical combat vehicle, its intricately modelled metal gleaming in the sunlight. Animations are top notch as well, with your robot leaping from the ground and gracefully transforming itself into jet mode mid-air, and moving as believably as a giant mechanical killing machine can. The wide variety of enemy units you will be going up against look equally impressive, from grunts and mechas to hover-tanks and vast floating battleships. Gun Metal is hardly the most innovative title currently on its way to the Xbox, but it looks gorgeous, plays well, and is sure to bring a smile to the face of any anime fan hankering after the chance to hop into a giant robot and unleash spectacular special effects. And if everything goes to plan it should pop up ready for the console's European launch in March.