First Impressions: Indiana Jones 2007

Impressive technology could pave the way for true next gen gameplay.

Tucked away in a corner of LucasArts' appointment-only booth are a few flat panels showcasing some exciting new elements from an old staple of film and videogames - Indiana Jones - in the new game currently known as Indiana Jones 2007. LucasArts' first foray into next gen gaming isn't just a splash, it's cannonball. As the company prepares to transcend the ordinary design elements and incorporate sophisticated film technology (marking LucasArts' first collaboration with LucasFilm), it seems only right that a film icon like Indy be the first to test the waters. But enough with the geek speak; you want to know what's going on with everyone's favorite grizzled archeologist sans boobs.

With a story written and directed by the Indy overlord himself, George Lucas, this next gen incarnation of the beloved character pits our hero against the Nazi's once again, shortly after The Last Crusade. Set in 1939, Indy will once again be racking up frequent flyer miles across the globe, starting in San Fran's historic Chinatown, as he tries to thwart Hitler's latest artifact obsession (oh Adolph, you'll never learn!). Although an actual return to celluloid seems more and more likely for Dr. Jones, LucasArts is strong to push that this game represents the new Indy experience for the time being.

Set in a dilapidated street of 1930's Chinatown, LucasArts used the demonstration to feature two unique design elements - Euphoria and DMM. Before you think that the designers in the house that Luke built have lost it and begun pursuing designer drugs, let me elaborate on both. Euphoria is an all new system, pioneered by NaturalMotion, that when enabled in Hot Sets (a term for LucasArts' brand spankin' new environments), disregards every conceivable notion about traditional animation. NPCs no longer featured canned animation, but actually feature behavioral A.I. that reacts to everything in the environment. So if you throw a thug against a car, his fall will look different every single time, and he'll even try and cling to a window, a bumper or roll underneath the vehicle.

Furthering this unique gameplay enhancement is DMM, which is short for Digital Molecular Matter. DMM assigns actual code to each interactive part of the environment on a molecular level, so it knows how to react. If you throw a thug through a wooden saloon door, you'll actually see the wood splinter realistically. The same if you were to pick up a chair and break it on an enemy skull. It's a completely realistic way for the player to interact with objects in the environment, that when combined with Indy's penchant for getting into bare-knuckle brawls with large numbers of enemies, makes for a very entertaining experience.

One of the other key aspects that Indy brings to the table is that with DMM and Euphoria, the game is constantly changing since it is without traditional animation. That means that enemies will react, attack and do different things for every sequence. Even a unique demo featuring the fedora adorned hero himself, had him on a bridge and barely able to keep balance with the reaction constantly changing. At no time, was Indy utilizing traditional animation. His model, save for textures, was completely engineered to react the way a normal human would to such stress. The model featured an actual skeletal model with synthesized muscle tissue that allowed the bipedal to respond only the way LucasFilm could make such computer generated characters to do in the past.

Many gameplay elements remain a mystery, but the demonstration featured the expected third person action/adventure platforming in only the way Indy can deliver. Careful not to abandon Indy's storied, but checkered videogame past, LucasArts is trying to push a completely new experience unlike its predecessors, all while minding the examples of fan favorite adventures as way back as the Fate of Atlantis.

All this new fancy technology comes at a price and the admission is a next gen console. While PS2, PSP and DS owners will be able to delve into the new Indiana Jones storyline penned by the bearded one, Euphoria and DMM are exclusive to Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Visually still rough around the edges, the game plans to be around in force next E3, as it still has a full 18 months of development left. Expected to land sometime in 2007, grab a whip and an idol, because Indy is back.

Will Federman
Staff Writer, Kikizo

Video Coverage
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Indiana Jones 2007
Direct feed trailer   (PS3, X360 - LucasArts)
03:01 28MB DF, SD, 4:3
640x480p30
1.3Mbps

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