Cipher Complex Preview
The team over at Edge of Reality studios believes one thing- all our elite stealth agents and spies currently in video games always move too slowly. Supposedly, they've played just about every stealth/action game available, and none of them really impressed the team. Therefore, they're gonna take care of business by creating a unique title that's both faster and smarter the whole way 'round.
It's called Cipher Complex, and it's the team's first original title. They've gone through simple money-makers like Over the Hedge, but now they want to throw their full weight into this new project. And even though we're categorizing it as "stealth/action," Edge of Reality wants to call it "aggressive infiltration." Essentially, instead of hiding in the shadows and biding your time, the player will have to kick things into high gear: you avoid being spotted by super-quick actions.
First and foremost, though, the developers wanted to create a completely immersive atmosphere. To do so, they enlisted the help of storyboard artist and film director, Mark Bristol. Bristol's worked on all kinds of Grade-A Hollywood projects, including "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe," "Memento," and "Equilibrium." And apparently, the writer is tackling this particular project with gusto, creating a compelling story that features tie-ins to real-world events.
You play as John Sullivan in the game, an orphan who signed on with the military at an early age. His first gig was handling reconnaissance work in Iraq during the Gulf War, and then after a short employ with the NSA, has moved on to a fresh new agency designed to halt the spread of nuclear weapons. You begin the game hot on the trail of a Russian warhead in Northern Iraq, not long before the U.S. invaded in 2003. From here on in, everything goes downhill...rapidly.
You're betrayed with a bullet to the back of the head, and you wake up years later after the incident put you in a coma. They brought you back from the brink by utilizing an experimental method that somehow tweaked your adrenal system. Surprisingly enough, that nuke you had almost recovered has turned up on some tiny island off the cost of Siberia, and the U.S. government needed you back. Well, it's one way out of a coma.
En route to the island, Cipher (dat be your code name) is forced to abandon his stealth fighter when missiles are spotted in the air. After landing safely in your personal drop pod, you realize you're the only one who made it to your destination. There's no backup to speak of, and the only help Cipher has is some cute intelligence officer who's on hand via the radio to feed him helpful info. Now although this is supposed to be an all-new game experience, we know we've heard of this before...
The game really should be completely innovative, though. As we said before, speed is a major focus of the gameplay and control. If your hand is forced, you can whip through a group of enemies with brutal efficiency. Before the first body hits the ground, the next three are already under attack; this is a common occurrence in Cipher Complex. The most important part of the game revolves around adrenaline, which you should notice immediately.
As for the combat, Cipher's knife will be just as effective as any long-range weapon, which is good news. All his attacks vary widely depending on speed and distance, so that will add a great deal to both strategy and fight fluidity. With three types of attack (ranged, melee, and execution), there will be plenty to think about and even more to do. When encountering a foe close up, Cipher can block and evade, and deal out a series of both light and heavy strikes. And that adrenaline? If you've got enough, you can slow down time and rain blows upon your opponent in a matter of seconds. Sounds like Max Payne's bullet-time only with melee. Sweet.
In order to help you deal with the numerous enemies, the game is going to "paint" every potential target you come in contact with. They become little red dots on your HUD, and the color (red, green, or yellow) indicates the target's status. Of course, you can turn off the HUD for realism purposes, but having it on is a major help; you can see where just about everyone is, and thus focus your attack accordingly.
Last but not least, we get something called the "perception bar." It kinda replaces the light bar Splinter Cell fans are familiar with, and works in a simlar manner by telling you how visible you are. But there is one major difference: it's all about field of vision, not the amount of light. For example, you could stand directly behind someone in the brightest of lights, but you might go unnoticed. On the other hand, if a soldier on patrol spots you in the shadows, your "perception bar" spikes.
But even though the game certainly boasts a bunch of potentially revolutionary ideas, some of the mainstays of the stealth/action genre are evident. You'll move through environments that require you to keep close to walls and peer around corners, but remember, speed is a priority- even though you're not timed, the developers only want the sneaking to act as a "precursor" to your immenent butt-kicking. Of course, this is definitely a change from either Metal Gear Solid or Splinter Cell, where players spend most of their time sneaking and hiding in the dark.
Cipher Complex doesn't yet have a publisher, meaning the release date may unfortunately slip to 2008, but the concept remains fantastic. If you're a fan of any of the games listed in this preview, you really need to keep an eye out for this one. Everything sounds just plain awesome, at this point.
11/29/2006 Ben Dutka