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This looks way better than Twisted Metal 2 -- and I have the pictures to prove it!

Vigilante   8

Last April, Activision released the popular Interstate '76 for PC. Set during 1976 in an alternate history, this mission-based driving game put players in the role of an "auto vigilante," consumed with saving the American Southwest from gas-hoarding bands of criminals. Almost a year later comes Vigilante 8 for the Playstation. And while it borrows several locations, characters, and vehicles from I'76, it is the furthest thing from a port. "The gameplay is arena-based," says Activision Associate Designer bryant Bustamante. "Something we found through focus testing was a lot of these gamers didn't want a mission based game." Subsequently, the gameplay is more on par with the vehicular combat of the Twisted Metal series. In the main story mode, players choose from one of 12 characters, each linked to an individual car. Players must then successfully survive battel in a preset path of six arenas before getting their characters' ending sequences. There are a total of twelve different arenas, ranging from oil fields to the slopes of a ski resort to the Hoover Dam. In the arcade mode, players can take any car into any level. The storyline for V8 is actually a prequel to I'76, taking place in 1975. "The idea is that an evil consortium wants to cripple the U.S. economy," says Activision Producer Murali Tegulapalle, "so they can offer $100 million to anyone who can shut down the Southwest and destroy the oil refineries." Enter Antonio Malochio and his band of "Creepers" (Malochio is the bad boss character from I'76), who attempts to destroy the oil fields. Convoy, who leads the vigilantes, must prevent this from happening. Players can choose to play one of six Creeper or six Vigilante roles. "Now to add a little twist to the game, we've allowed these two groups to raid a secret military base in the southwest. Since they've acquired these advanced technology weapons, we can make the game's weapons and special effects over-the-top." Visually, V8 is allready primed for the job. "We're using a very fast, propritary 3D landscape engine," says Tegulapalle. "It affords us a lot of cool features - a primary example is that the enviroments are totally destructible." Tegulapalle is not stretching the truth - every 3D model in the game is destructible. Next Generation destroyed oil reserve tanks, oil derricks, big buildings, planes, and a ski gondola during it's demo, many of which revealed power-ups of many kinds. "We even have terrain deformation, so if I launch a projectile and it lands on the ground, it actually causes a crater and that crater causes some damage to cars that go over it." Tegulapalle explains that for this technology works out nicely for the designers, who are using it for burying Easter Eggs within the game. "If you see a sand dune you think you can destroy," he says, "launch a lot of rockets at it and it'll actually start to crumble down, and you'll find a secret area with some power-ups." But perhaps the most remarkable aspect of the project is the fact that the development team consists of just three people! Santa Monica-based Luxoflux hasn't received any supporting code or technical assistance whatsoever from Activision's internal teams. "They are actually individuals who worked on seperate console products for Sega," Tegulapalle says of the trio. "This is their first ever Playstation title and first ever game as a team." Luxoflux has rewritten all of the libraries except ones for which Sony does not supply the information regarding direct hardware access. Given this level of dedication, it's not surprising these talented newcomers have managed to incorporate two physics models (arcade and realistic) and realtime reflection-mapping on the windows and windshields, as well as enable a fairly sophisticated damage model, all while maintaining a 30fps rate in one-player mode - even before beginning code optimization. While already a contender for the driving/combat crown, it is a bit unfortunate that Activision didn't risk a mission-style game on Playstation, as the system has yet to recieve a quality one. However, with the fierce level of competition on Playstation right now, and with royalties and marketing costs being what they are, no third party will dare take a chance on games that fall outside the proven genres. Especially Activision, which will miss Christmas with two big-budget Playstation titles, Pitfall-3D and Apocalypse. Fortunately, Vigilante 8 shows promise and should stay locked on target for release this spring.

This article was written by Next Generation.

Captain Gram