Planet of the apes

We’ve gib­bon it a try

Games Master - - CONTENTS - Robert Zak

You’ll find plenty of damn dirty apes in our pre­view. And loads of quite pleas­ant ones too.

The night sky in the Ap­palachian moun­tains is a blan­ket of sil­very grey and char­coal black – per­fect cam­ou­flage for our troop of grey-black apes as we pre­pare to raid a hu­man farm for horses. We take a hard line, com­mend­ing rugged Tola for dis­cov­er­ing the set­tle­ment and be­rat­ing meek lit­tle Juno for strug­gling with his nerves, be­fore head­ing forth. The so­cial de­ci­sions we make here may seem mi­nor but, we’re told, will af­fect how our story plays out, for bet­ter or worse. The choice-driven nar­ra­tive is some­thing gamers are well ac­quainted with, to the ex­tent that you could la­bel it the ‘Tell­tale trope’: you make tough, morally grey de­ci­sions, you pick sides, you try to keep peo­ple alive. In Planet Of The Apes: Last Fron­tier, you’re do­ing this from two op­pos­ing per­spec­tives: that of an en­clave of peo­ple try­ing to sur­vive af­ter most of hu­man­ity’s been wiped out, and a pro­tec­tion­ist tribe of apes look­ing to do like­wise. That, along with a clever mul­ti­player com­po­nent and com­plete lack of nav­i­ga­tional con­trol, makes Last Fron­tier more cin­e­matic, and yet more so­cial, than its peers.

We speak with the head of Imag­i­nati Stu­dios, Martin All­times, about the chal­lenges of work­ing in the in­ter­ac­tive drama genre, and how to work around the prob­lem of the il­lu­sion of choice – how will Last Fron­tier make player de­ci­sions feel truly mean­ing­ful?

In­fi­nite mon­keys

“You can’t have in­fi­nite choices. When you con­trol a char­ac­ter, there are only cer­tain choices that make sense for that spe­cific char­ac­ter to do,” All­times tells us. “As hu­man be­ings we all have our own core feel­ings on a sit­u­a­tion, which means that not ev­ery choice would feel le­git­i­mate for us.” In Last Fron­tier, play­ers con­trol two lead­ers – the ape Bryn (an ap­prox­i­ma­tion of Cae­sar from the movies), and weird-eyed but level-headed hu­man Jess. Each co­nun­drum you face (at least in our hands-on) per­tains to the good of the group. As Bryn, we had to de­cide whether to at­tack the farm be­fore nab­bing the hu­mans’ horses, or whether we should try to steal the horses stealth­ily. In this in­stance, ei­ther de­ci­sion leads to the same set of events – you get spot­ted, and a shootout un­folds. At the end, how­ever, you have about two sec­onds to shoot one of the hu­mans – or not. De­ci­sions like this, All­times says, will have reper­cus­sions. Last Fron­tier is only two to three hours long, and is de­signed to be played

through in a sin­gle evening (per­fect for couch mul­ti­player ses­sions, whereby each player has a con­troller and can vote on which de­ci­sion to make). All­times says this en­cour­ages play­ers to re­play the game. “It’s de­signed to be played in one sit­ting. If the game was 10 to 15 hours long, you’d prob­a­bly not go back and re­play it, whereas we want you to re­play it,” he stresses. “That’s the mo­ti­va­tion for mak­ing the game shorter, and in­creas­ing the den­sity of choices”.

Li­cence to thrill

Even 10 years ago, movie tie-ins would slot into the hot genre of the day rather than the game be­ing tai­lored to suit the li­cense; think of the Alien 2D plat­form­ers in the ’90s, Evil Dead’s rip-off of Res­i­dent Evil in 2000, or the 2001 POTA game – an abom­i­na­tion of a third-per­son brawler based on the Tim Bur­ton movie. All­times be­moans those dark days: “In some of the pre­his­toric movie li­cense times, you had plat­form games added to games where the movie’s about an 80-year-old!”

To­day, things have im­proved, and All­times at­tributes this to the suc­cess of Tell­tale Games’ nar­ra­tive ti­tles. “No pub­lisher would ever have green­lit The Walk­ing Dead as an ad­ven­ture game,” he says. “What its suc­cess showed was that you could take some­thing which, as a game, has an ob­vi­ous ac­tion-ad­ven­ture hook, and turn it into a hit based all around nar­ra­tive choices. This genre al­lows us to cre­ate some­thing which is much more sym­pa­thetic to the source ma­te­rial.”

Yet de­spite All­times’ grat­i­tude, Last Fron­tier will need to find a way to make choices mat­ter, which wasn’t ex­hib­ited in our hands-on as much as the pretty simian fa­cial an­i­ma­tions and mul­ti­player com­po­nent. Dur­ing our ses­sion, play­ing as the hu­mans, we con­vinced the group to stop tor­tur­ing an orang­utan, and de­clined to take an as­sault ri­fle for self-de­fence. While we don’t nec­es­sar­ily ex­pect this to mean that a grate­ful ginger ape will res­cue our un­armed selves later, we hope to see a pal­pa­ble cause-an­d­ef­fect (other than the sev­eral al­ter­nate end­ings). With play­ers more at­tuned than ever to the tricks of in­ter­ac­tive dra­mas, the sense of choice will need to be stronger than ever.

“this genre al­lows us to cre­ate some­thing which is much more sym­pa­thetic to the source ma­te­rial”

Steal­ing horses, shoot­ing hu­mans, and tor­tur­ing apes are just some of the mon­key busi­ness we get up to in our hands-on.

The fa­cial an­i­ma­tions (which you can see here in their full static glory) are done by Imag­i­nar­ium, Andy Serkis’ mo-cap com­pany. Andy plays Cae­sar in the films, and pre­vi­ously mo-capped King Kong for Peter Jack­son’s film – so he knows his apes.

There’s plenty of ac­tion in Last Fron­tier, but all you’ll need to do is tap the right but­tons at the right time.

You might not ex­pect much per­son­al­ity from mo-capped mon­keys, but each simian char­ac­ter feels like a real per­son.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.