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Interview

Dead to Rights: Retribution Interview

IncGamers caught up with Imre Jele, Volatile Games’ project director for the upcoming third person action sequel, Dead to Rights: Retribution.Talk to me about Dead to Rights: Retribution. Is it a free-roaming open-world? I’ve had a bit of a chance to play it, but it seems quite corridor-y.

It is a traditional level-based game. We used ten levels, we put in a lot of small places which you can discover so there’s a lot of replay value, but it’s not a free-roaming game.

You play as a hard-arse cop with a dog?

Indeed!

So tell us a little bit about story. You’ve gone back to Grant City – why’ve you chosen to set it back there again?

We are very cautious when we talk about the story, because that’s going to be a very important driving force for the players to go through the game, so we’re going to keep our cards close to our chest for the time being. What I can tell you is that Jack Slate is a vice city cop, and in the first level he arrives at the scene of a hostage-taking, and he goes in, he is this hard cop so he’s going to go in and it doesn’t matter what the officer on scene is going to say – “You cannot go in!” – he goes in; he takes his gun, he takes his badge; he still doesn’t care, he still goes in, he kicks some ass, he saves a lot of hostages, but while he’s doing so he realises that something bigger is going on, and that “bigger” is a conspiracy against the whole town, the whole city. And throughout the story, his aim is to find out who is behind it, and obviously he’s going to take them down in a really, really nasty way.

The storyline is obviously one of the things that has to be the driving force of the game, because you have other games out there that it’s very difficult to compete with. Who do you think of as the biggest competitors to Dead to Rights: Retribution when you talk about the game, and in the kind of genre that it’s in, because it’s a shooter, brawler, kind of cop story-driven, personality-driven story, so where do you think that slots in, and what do you think is the appeal of the game?

That was a very complex question, man! On one hand, I don’t think we have direct competition. Which is great! I can tell you, it’s fantastic. We don’t have any other game which is using the same kind of gameplay – combining hand-to-hand with guns in a way that we do, with an extra AI buddy, Shadow on top of it. No-one is doing it, so it’s not like you can say “Oh, that game and this game are so similar.”

Also, from a story point of view, it seems that all games – I was making a joke about that, that everyone is going to Africa and South America – and we decided to stay with Grant City. We found that there are so many more stories to tell there, and we wanted to keep this gritty, neo-noir atmosphere. So I think that, again, there’s no competition there. Having said that, though, if you look at a wider range of games, then pretty much every single action game is our competition, because we are fighting for the same customer dollars. So I think it’s going to be a tough year for everyone, end of this year, early next year, but I think we’re going to stay in there, because we have a system which no-one else had and no-one else has yet. And we’re proud of it, actually.

And Shadow’s very important to the system, isn’t he? How often will you be playing as Shadow, and what will his roles primarily be?

Shadow has two major parts. One is when he’s acting as an AI buddy. He’s going to be with you throughout most of the story. Not from level one – we introduce him, because it’s an origin story, how Jack and Shadow come together, how they start fighting crime together – so we just tell that story, but very early on he joins, and then from there they fight together. As you said we have sections where you can take control of Shadow. It’s going to be around ten (maybe more) percent of the game where you play as Shadow. We like to say those sections are our driving sections; those are the moments when you get away from the normal punching-people-in-the-face, shooting-people-in-the-face kind of gameplay. When you play as Shadow, it’s all about stealth. It’s all about sneaking, it’s all about taking enemies down silently. I see two guards talking, one is leaving on a patrol route, so I’m going to check for the other one, bark to draw their attention. He comes to check out the noise, so I can take him out silently, then drag the body somewhere dark to hide it. So, all those sorts of things. I think it’s going to be quite a nice variation on the gameplay.{PAGE TITLE=Dead to Rights: Retribution Interview Page 2}What’s the game engine you’re using? Namco seems to have a soft spot for the Unreal 3 engine.

Well, I can’t speak for Namco. We at Volatile, we use – Volatile is part of the Blitz Games Studios – so we use our own internal engine called BlitzTech. BlitzTech is something we’ve used for a very long time, and there are dozens of SKUs out there. For many, many years we’ve used this engine. The first game which we actually licensed it out to was House of the Dead: Overkill. Obviously that was on the Nintendo Wii. What we’ll do with this game is that we’ll introduce the strength of this engine pretty much to everyone. The engine has to be extremely strong, not just because it has to run the extremely complex combat system, but more importantly, because every single item that you see in the game is dynamically lit – the shadows, all of that is dynamic. This was necessary for two reasons: one, because it just looks cool! But second of all, for a noir story, you need a strong contrast of light and shadow and a very interesting play of shadows, and the only way to do that is to have a dynamic system. So if you try the game you can see it for yourself. It’s an extremely powerful engine and we’re very proud of this. It was actually nominated for the Develop awards, it was one of the five best engines.

So no reason to doubt the engine then! You mentioned about the genre of the game, the film-noir aspect that it has. Where’ve you taken your inspirations from? Have you taken it from films, have you taken it from other games, have you taken it from comics? It’s always a very difficult one to have. It feels almost like a cross between Batman and something else and something else and something else, but all coming together as one.

I always say, when someone says “Oh, Grant City looks like Gotham!” or when someone says “Your game feels like Sin City!” I always say “I’m going to hug you, man.” It’s such an honour to hear that! I don’t think that we have one specific game or one specific movie which is like a direct source, which we said “This is it,” but I can tell you that for me personally, movies like Casablanca or LA Confidential… for me, that is quality, that is style. That is class, really. We wanted to have that kind of sophistication in the visual art style, in the storytelling, and even in the complexity of the game design.

Let’s talk a little bit about post-launch. There’s a lot of talk now about DLC, and obviously DLC is very important to gamers. What a studio does to support its game after release really defines the game, and what it does. What plans, if any, are there for DLC?

I have to disappoint you here. We are obviously very, very conscious of the DLC, and we actually have very, very good plans. This is a single player game, so it’s extremely important for us to give a good reason for players to keep their copies. So there is a line-up of DLC which we’re thinking about, and I can tell you that some of them are absolutely amazing –

Such as? Come on! Just a little bit?

– and instead of just adding extra elements of the same, so it’s not like an 11th level and that’s it, but it’s something changing the gameplay, something really changing the setting. We have a lot of ideas there, but at this point, I cannot talk about that!

When can we expect to see the DLC? Obviously if you play through the game – what is it, a 15 hour game?

I’d say ten, fifteen hours. It depends on the balancing.

So once you finish that, like you said and like you quite rightly pointed out, because there’s no multiplayer, because there’s no co-operative, because there’s nothing like that, there has to be something that gets players back, and DLC is obviously one of those things. When are we expecting to see the first instalment? And how many instalments? Give us something!

I know, I know, I know! But I have to be cautious about this. The reason isn’t just to tease anyone, the reason is I don’t want to promise anything at this point. What I can tell you is that this area is taken very seriously by both us and Namco Bandai Games America, and we are in talks about the details of this. I’m pretty sure that at some point during the campaign, we’re going to announce the DLC.

How much DLC?

(Silence)

Give me something, Imre!

No, I really can’t give you anything on that! I’m sorry. They’re going to crucify me!

Are you going to introduce multiplayer?

They’re going to crucify me if I say anything!

Are you going to introduce multiplayer? Are you going to introduce multiplayer!

(Pause) There isn’t going to be Pac-Man in it, I know that for sure!

Imre, you’ve held up well. Thank you very much for your time, and good luck with the games release. We’re expecting to see it…?

It’s 2010. There’s no final date but it’s going to be the early part of that year. It’s coming on Xbox 360 and PS3 systems. We hope to have a worldwide release at the same time on both platforms.

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