Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Greenlight Spotlight: Interstellar Marines

Whether you are my close friend, a regular reader or even just a passing acquaintance, it is no secret that I am a sucker for cooperative games. Some of my favourite gaming memories are from sitting on a couch next to a friend, both of us planning our actions together and then carrying them out -- and, more often than not, dealing with the unforeseen consequences. 

The unfortunate part is that, in recent years, good co-op games are becoming harder and harder to find -- we've had some successes in titles like Resident Evil 5Hunted: The Demon's ForgeArmy of Two, Gears of War and others but, for the most part, cooperative gaming has become passé. And don't even get me started on how local co-op has gone the way of the dinosaur -- indeed, it seems that those looking to get their co-op fix are being forced to accept what little they are given.

Enter Interstellar Marines.

Interstellar Marines is another truly interesting and exciting title I discovered on Greenlight in the last week. The project already looks incredibly polished -- something to be expected, considering it's been in development since at least 2006 -- but the fact that it hasn't yet received an official release, never mind a release with a worldwide publisher such as Steam, is more a travesty than anything.

Aliens and shark creatures. Because nothing is more terrifying than shark creatures.
The premise of Interstellar Marines is pretty straightforward and eponymous: it is the near future and you are a prospective member of the ITO, the military force Earth has created to protect their new colonies out in the depths of space. Shortly after enlisting, distress calls start coming from colonies and stations at the edge of the solar system and it is up to you, the Interstellar Marines, to investigate and supply aid as needed. As you progress through the story, you encounter an alien race -- the first that humans have ever encountered -- and end up battling them for survival.

It's a pretty basic premise, honestly, and doesn't offer much in the way of excitement -- until you hear the developers say that they are using source material such as Starship Troopers and Aliens as inspiration. The long commentary video they have up on their Greenlight profile page really showcases how much inspiration they have taken, especially when they start referring to weapons from Aliens by their military designation. Taking such a "hard science-fiction" approach to this sort of game is a breath of fresh air -- too many games these days use the same "hardened marine takes on a hundred aliens and wins" cliché. 

Being given a story where it is made very clear that you are just another soldier fighting an enemy you know nothing about is something that is ultimately more appealing than the lowest-common-denominator sort of approach other games take. Add to all of this the fact that the game supports -- and actually seems to be designed around -- four-player co-op and there really isn't anything about Interstellar Marines that I don't love!

The other thing that really caught my eye about Interstellar Marines -- besides the absolutely gorgeous graphics and art direction that they have developed -- is this really neat proprietary technology that emulates how voices and sounds react to the environment around. The video I above showcases this technology by showing two players talking to one another from various distances and through various barricades. It's pretty hard to explain in writing: I suggest just watching the video to see it yourself. The section I'm talking about starts at about 12:35, but the entire video is definitely worth watching.

As it reads in the top-left, this is a screenshot from Bullseye. It
might only be a shooting range, but damn if it isn't pretty.
If you think Interstellar Marines is a game that you would be interested in, head over to their Greenlight page and give them a thumbs-up. If you're still not sold on it, though, that's okay: just head over to the official website and try out either of their two pre-alpha demos, Bullseye (a shooting range that showcases the guns of IM) or Running Man (a combat demo that pits you against a horde of combat droids). Hell, if you preorder the game today, you also get access to Deadlock, the multiplayer mode to be attached to IM, while it's still in development.

Zero Point Software, the developers, are very serious about getting consumer input on the project and are continually changing things based on feedback they are getting from those fans who are supporting them. This is something that sets them apart from almost all other developers -- most studios will listen to their fans after the game is released, but Zero Point is taking that feedback and putting it to good use before the game is out of alpha. How better to ensure the final product will be what fans want?

I'm wholeheartedly supporting Interstellar Marines and I'm happy that Greenlight was there to show it to me. If anything you see at their website speaks to you, the least you could do is give them a thumbs up on Greenlight: they definitely deserve it.

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