The Doldrums of Summer
HEI$T (Heist) is an open world crime action game set back in 1960's San Francisco. In the game your character leads a team of bank robbers on a crime spree that involves knocking off six major banks before finally taking on the San Francisco Mint. As quick and easy as this may seem, the game actually has quite a bit of depth to its gameplay. Before you can rob one of the six banks, your team must gain experience and intelligence information by taking on a number of side missions that include robbing a number of smaller establishments. During these side missions, your team will learn critical maneuvers that will aid in the next big score.
Your team consists of the usual suspects: the brains, the brawn, the safecracker, etc. Each will play a role that ensures a successful job. For instance, one member will serve as crowd control, another will mind the entry ways and exits, and one will take care of the establishment's security measures while your character goes for the big payoff. Another element that adds depth to the game is the fact that the way your team handles side missions has a large effect on each major bank. If your team carries out its side missions quickly and quietly with little to no casualties, the bank's security will never see you coming. On the other hand, if your team builds a rep of being trigger happy, those in the bank will be packing some major heat in the event that your team drops in for a visit. Also, how well your team members perform their duties is largely dependent upon the skills learned in the numerous side quests.
In HEI$T, robbing banks is only half the fun. The other half involves the getaway, so you can expect some wild car chasing sequences following each score. Sound like fun? Well, there's more. As you gain points during your side missions, you have the ability to deck out your getaway car with options like nitrous boosters, tinted windows, and mounted weapons. See, I told you there was some depth to this game. We'll see just how all these cool features pan out when the game is released in July.
Creation, exploration, and domination are three words that describe the varied gameplay you'll experience in Spore, an upcoming simulator of sorts by Maxis who brought us games like The Sims and SimCity. This is certainly a tough game to describe without omitting a lot of elements, but I'll give it the old college try. In Spore, players will begin the first of four stages of the game as simply a cell, in which you move about eating smaller creatures to grow. When your cell is large enough, players can begin to add physical features to your cell that aid in advancing to the creature stage. Once your cell has evolved into a creature, you are able to join other online players in this stage in an open world of newly created creatures. Note that this isn't a multiplayer game; instead, the other creatures are imported from an online database. In this stage, you'll spend the majority of your time interacting with others and collecting DNA points that allow you to add physical features and increase attributes such as brain power and levels of hostility. Players will spend lots of time in this stage utilizing the creature editor and exploring the countless options that will differentiate your creation from others. This stage of the game also includes an intuitive vehicle editor that will allow players to create means of traveling about and exploring this world of creatures.
The next stage of the game allows you as a new species to create civilizations. The ultimate goal in this stage is to become the dominant species by battling other civilizations in a real-time strategy setting. Once your civilization has become prominent enough, you can take on a much larger scale battle in space. In this stage of the game, players will utilize their customized space vehicles to travel the galaxy, visiting and conquering newly discovered planets. Spore is the type of game fans will sink their gaming teeth into and latch onto for the long haul. From single-cell to galaxy-spanning civilization, your options in Spore are literally limitless, providing what appears to be a never-ending gaming experience. Survival of the fittest species is slated for early September.
Also in September, Ubisoft will release Far Cry 2 - a game that is being developed internally by Ubisoft rather than Far Cry's creators Crytek. Far Cry 2 still contains a lot of graphical goodness, but it uses a new engine dubbed Dunia. The good news is that Far Cry 2 is not expected to be as taxing on PC gamers' systems as 2007's Crysis. [Ed: Thank Goodness!] This time around, the game's setting takes a turn from the beautiful and exotic jungles we saw in the previous games to a more sinister outdoor setting. Far Cry 2 will be set in Africa during a time when war is being waged between two political factions. According to Ubisoft Montreal's Patrick Redding, players can expect less of a clear-cut story in Far Cry 2. While a story does exist, it is mainly played out in your character's interactions with NPCs (non-player characters) you encounter. This allows players to create their own story in their heads instead of having it thrust at you via cutscenes and linear gameplay. Since how you choose to interact is largely dependent upon each player's decisions in the game, the story elements will unfold differently. In other words, you as the player decide what is going on and what you're going to do about it.
While Crytek is no stranger to creating games for consoles, the focus has frequently been on creating games for PC. None of Crytek's games to date have released simultaneously on PC and consoles. Previously, console users got spin-offs like Far Cry Instincts and Far Cry Instincts: Evolution for the original Xbox console in 2005 and 2006 respectively, Far Cry Instincts: Predator for the Xbox 360 console in 2006, and Far Cry: Vengeance for the Wii in 2006. With Crytek out of the picture things are changing, and we should see a simultaneous release of Far Cry 2 on PC, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3 in September.