Quelque part sous le ciel
Dans leur lutte contre la triade Chinoise, Hana est assassinée. Tout commence le jour où Hana regroupe assez d’argent pour racheter son contrat à la triade de Hong Kong. Le chef de cette triade, Minkz, rejette son offre et menace l’héroïne de tuer Rain. Voulant quitter la triade à tout prix, et incapable de trahir celle qu’elle aime, Hana sent que le seul moyen de s’en tirer est de supprimer Minkz avec l’aide de ses collègues : Rain, Glas et Deke. Y parviendra-t-elle ?
Somewhere South of Heaven
While fighting against the Triad of Hong Kong, Hana gets killed… Everything begins the day Hana earns enough cash to purchase her contract back from the Triads. However, the Triad boss, Minkz, refuses her offer, threatening to murder Rain if she follows through on any notions of insurrection. Unable to remain attached to the dastardly gang, and too in love with Rain to betray her, Hana feels that her only means of escape is to take out Minkz. With the help of her colleagues, Rain, Glas and Deke, she sets out to eliminate Minkz. Will she succeed?
A Provocative Past
Sexy vixens in various suggestive situations are most likely the prominent thoughts that appear in your head upon hearing the name Fear Effect. Elated of offended, nobody can forget the saucy elevator scene with the games’ heroines, Hana Tsu-Vachel and Rain Qin; or Rain’s restrained encounter with a perverted bug. While Stan Liu, the president of Kronos and chief creative force, maintains an obvious interest in his story’s sexually provocative material, he also points out, « I didn’t create the story to get an M rating. I just want to relate the plot how I see fit. « For Liu, the mature content is simply one part in the overall expression of his art. He hopes that audiences will look beyond the superficial meaning of such scenes interpret them within the context of the overall plot.
So, if you’re vaguely familiar with the Fear Effect series, immediately vainquish the notion that Inferno is another title trying to capitalize on video game’s trek into the unexplored reaches of sex. As astute gamers know, Fear Effect deals with the Triads (an Asian organized crime sect) and ancient Chinese mythology; a creepy, unique presentation and frightening situations; and intense action coupled with challenging puzzles. The first two games chronicle Hana’s enslavement by the Triads to perform their dirty work. As Hana and her gang of mercenaries (Rain, Deke and Glas) soon discover though, these Triads aren’t merely inolved with organized crime and drugs. Some have ties to the mythological Chinese hell, which is more accurately described as an « eath prison » in its native tongue. Fear Effect: Inferno follows the adventure of Hana and friends as they become more entrenched in the legendary mystery and discover why the earth prison continues to beckon them.
A few years proceeding the events of the first game (FE 2 was a prequel), Hana finally earns enough cash to purchase her contract back from the Triads. However, the Triad boss, Minkz, refuses her offer, threatening to murder Rain if she follows through on any notions of insurrection. Unable to remain attached to the dastardly gang, and too in love with Rain to betray her, Hana feels that her only means of escape is to take out Minkz. With her earnings, Hana employs her colleagues, Rain, Royce Glas and Jacob « Deke » Decourt. Together, they work within the Triad complex to help Hana in her stealthy effort to eliminate the crime boss with one final shot – an action that will determine her destiny. Will she succeed?
The game then swiftly changes pace and puts players in an esoteric cutscene, which further hints at Hana’s precarious situation. She awakes in a hospital bed, and from that point on, veterans of the series will feel right at home with the atmosphere. The rest of the events take place withing those disgusting scenes of hell (the ceiling of bloody breats being the most disturbing), full of mythical evil mutations, tough obsctacles, and puzzles. The bulk of the story details Hana and her friends’ exploits as they traverse the various sections of earth prison. In the end, they confront the entity that draws them there (not Satan – remember, it’s a Chinese hell), where the audience will finally receive answers concering the characters and their surprising relationships to one another.
Fortunately, the plot takes a less linear approach than its predecessors. As in FE and FE , players will switch perspectives and use one of the fout main characters depending of the situation, but in each of these scenarios, the game prompts the audience to make various decisions. The player’s answers will dictate how events unfold, and ultimately how the tale concludes. In all, Inferno will offer four entirely different endings!
What’s more, players will be able to enjoy the action from yet a fifht viewpoint – that of the enemy! Although you cannot affect the outcome of events with this feature, Liu relates, « It permits players to see the characters in a different way. » For exemple, right at the beginning, you’re thrown into the role of a generic Triad guard. Without spoiling too much, players get to experience Deke’s bad-ass attitude and combat skills from the point of view of an adversary!
A New Look
Kronos will complement the engrossing, nearly theatrical storywith a cinematic presentation that’s equally compelling. First, Fear Effect: Inferno will maintain it’s traditional letter-boxed display of the action, eliciting the impression that you’re watching a film. Second, it will continue to support cel-shaded, anime-style characters (contrary to popular belief, Fear Effect first used cel-shading, not Jet Grind Radio). Third, numerous cutscenes will feature plenty of artistic FMV and quality voice acting (Wendy Lee from Cowboy Bebop and Outlaw Star plays Hana!). Hana’s flight over the infinite divide is one such example of poetry in motion, which we indeed found interesting and breathtaking. Fourth, the screen will burst forth with life and a realistic atmosphere since Kronos will continue to animate all of the 2D backgrounds – a technique recently employed by Capcom in it’s GameCube Resident Evil titles. And, thanks to PS2’s increased capabilities and the DVD format, gone are those compressed, grainy backgrounds and low-poly models. Everything now looks lush, sharp, and well animated. Besides the obvious increase in graphical quality, Inferno makes another significant improvement for the series: Some sections are now done in 3D. Each area uses either the old 2D approach with prerendered backgrounds, or allows the player complete movement in 3D. Initially this caused us to worry slightly, since prerendered environments often support a greater amount of detail.However, in the transitions we witnessed, the change from 2D to 3D was almost seamless. Furthermore, the three-dimensional environments have liberated Kronos from a static camera, and many of the problems it presents. This not only grants the developers the freedom to experiment with different types of shots, but, more importantly, alleviates every players’ frustations with fighting a boss-off-screen! Although Kronos hasn’t entirely remedied this problem in every boss encounter thus far, it will work diligently to do so before Inferno’s summer release. These enhancements mostly concert the cosmetic aspect. However, the game will extend its exploration of 3D much farther. Fear Effect: Inferno features a very new style of gameplay.
Although Inferno once again consists of a bland of action and puzzles, Liu states, « The story lends itself to a much more action-oriented experience. So, the game is about 80 percent action and 20 percent puzzles. « This may concern some gamers, considering the fact that the combat element of previous installments would be too shallow and insufficient to create a deep, well-rounded gameplay experience. However, Kronos realizes this, and has decided to expand upon the fighting system, enhancing it enough to compete with the likes of Devil May Cry! In fact, Kronos may propel its creation past the competition, since it will incluse a few other types of play mechanics. In this section we’ll break down all aspects of the gameplay: what’s new, what’s different, and what’s enhanced.
The Art Of Combo
Due to Kronos’ experience with the fighting genre, each protagonist has the ability to string together a unique stream of combos, which actually change throughout the game depending on what outfit she or he wears. So, for exemple, Hana in her tight get-up inside the Triad complex will sport different combos than Hana dressed in the hospital grown. Most of the combos are constructed with a series of punches and kicks, as you might see in a session of Tekken or Virtua Fighter – nothing new, right?
Well it gets better. Once you manage to execute a combo, players can knock their enemy into the air and then perform a juggle, either by letting loose with your character’s gun, or continuing with a second offensive melee. Some will immediately draw comparisons to Devil May Cry. However, we must insist that Inferno really has a feel all its own.
Mortal Kombat devised and popularized this idea in our industry, and in many cases, games adopted its simple cosmetic functionality. Initially, this seems to be the case with Inferno, but the player soon discovers that executing a death move actually makes life easier. Usually, eliminating a foe requires a faire amount of effort. But, if you merely knock someone down and position yourself over the body, you can deliver a fatal blow, thereby more efficiently ridding youself of the opposition.
Hana, Rain, Deke and Glas are fairly adept when it comes to handling their pistols. They each possess their own weapons, and an accompanying set of impressive shooting maneuvers. For exemple, depending on the situation, Hana will sometimes duck, start spinning around, and drill surrounding guards. Other times, when enemies attack from either side, she’ll aim her guns at them in opposite directions. This « Gun Play, » as it’s called by the team, depends upon three invisible zones around your character: front, left, and right. The position of the hero or heroine in relation to the target determines which type of move will be performed. Players can also execute cool-looking attacks manually. For exemple, if Hana happens to be shooting, and then you immediately dodge left, she will dive to ther left while firing in midair.
Effects of Fear
In Fear Effect and its sequel, the Fear meter was the health bar, which depleted not only because of attacks, but also by frightening enemies or situations. This time around, Kronos will change the meter’s function since there will be more enemy encounters, and therefore and more opportunities to be afraid. Now players have a standart health bar in addition to the Fear metter, which has two purposes. First, players can use it as a spider sense, roughly gauging the oncoming level of danger. Second, it will act like a fighting game’s rage meter. When it’s high, your character is more susceptible to death. However, if you perform well and efficiently against the opposition, you’ll recieve some sort of reward, perhaps money or health. Apparently, Kronos debates the subtleties of the meter’s exact functionality daily, so it could change in the final product.
Our conversation with Liu gravited towards Tobal’s famous grappling techniques once this topic arose. Perhaps his interest in Square’s Tobal series is the reason Inferno also features a smilar system. Although it’s not quite as deep as Tobal 2, players certainly have the freedom to perform various maneuvers from a lock-up position. You can hold enemies and pummel them with punches, toss them, drop them over a ledge, or push them into hazards such as fire for a painful ignition!
Interestingly, Kronos even integrated the idea behing these supplements with ancient Chinese mythology. In one senction, players encounter the City of the Dead. In Chinese myth, souls waiting for reincarnation convene here for their resurrection. However, this waiting period often takes an entire lifetime. So, to help alleviate this exasperating delay, the Chinese have a tradition of burning paper replicas of real-life objects, such as cars, clothes, and even houses. Once someone burns this replica, the actual object is delivered to the intended receiver. In Inferno, players partake in a minigame to win money, with which they can purchase certain paper objects. When you burn an object, you’ll unlock whatever secret it is that it represents. We agree; it sounds intriguing, and fairly confusing. However this system of unlocking bonuses is carried out, it certainly will heighten Inferno’s replay value.
As previously stated, puzzles wil have a less significant role than before. Don’t worry, though some are present, and they’re far less nonsensical and abstract. Liu readily admits that a few of the former mindbenders probably seemed random and out-of-place (anyone who remembers the circuit puzzle from FE 2 will certainly agree with you, Stan). However, he attributes this problem to unfortunate, but necessary, last-minute cuts. Because the FE games have always been typically large, some material had to be removed in order to fit the product on the four discs. Some of this missing material included clues that made the puzzles more discernable. While Inferno will also come close to exceeding DVD memory constraints, Stan assures us that they’re diligently working to ensure that puzzles provide a relaxing cerebral break to all of the heart-thumping action. The puzzle pictured above makes creative use of Inferno’s increased graphic quality. Players must ultimately reach an exit down a long hospital corridor by setting clocks to the appropriate time. If done incorrectly, and the player attempts to pass through the corridor, the camera begins to shift in clockwise and counterclockwise motion, creating a dizzying psychedelic effect.
The development team has yet to resolve just how this mechanic works, but you can bet your bottom dollar that Liu’s promised « Hot Spots’ will appear in one form or another. Hot Spots are special areas within a 3D environment that allow you to initiate a special attack or move. In one scenario, you encounter a guard who stands alone in front of his cronies. If done propely, you can sneak up to him and use his body to shield yourself from fire. Another, more original Hot Spot occurs in a kitchen, where you can position an enemy’s head inside a refrigerator and proceed to bash it in with the door! Other types of minor, however that some of these examples are still tentative. Nevertheless, we hope that Kronos devises a pratical way to incluse this exciting gameplay addition in all its glory.