Preview By: Dennis Sloutsky
Hell Forces is an upcoming first person shooter produced by Buka Entertainment, currently under development in Russian-based Orion Games. The premise of the game is somewhat similar to the recently released shooter Painkiller – except that, unlike in Painkiller, Hell Forces has an actual story behind it. As the main character, Stephen Geist, you'll find yourself looking for a missing friend of yours. Unbeknown to you, his disappearance is just a small part of the conspiracy you're about to uncover – a secret cult lead by the demon Baphometh, that is stealing peoples' souls as power sources, and uses their bodies in order to create obedient, brains-eating zombies. Baphometh's final goal is to bring Lucifer from a parallel world to our Earth, and quite obviously, it's a plan you tend to disagree with... and that's how your journey into the unknown starts.
Hell Forces will feature a large number of engine-generated cutscenes that will reveal more about the game's plot, as you'll be progressing through the six uniquely different worlds that the game has to offer (for a total of 30 levels). The worlds you'll be playing in are very different in design and looks; as on your way to uncover the conspiracy and stop Satan you will visit different parts of our world, parallel worlds, spaceships, and obviously, hell itself. Due to your numerous travels, the monsters themselves are also quite varied, ranging from your average fire-breathing demon, to an inhabitant of an alien world. There are approximately 45 different types of monsters in total and each one of these monsters will have its own unique way to fight, as well as some strengths and weaknesses that you could abuse. Same goes for the 24 weapons one should be able to find in the final version of the game – they vary from melee weapons (rusty pipe, baseball bat, various knives) to currently common firearms (AK 74, shotgun), and from futuristic designs (laser sniper rifle, MP6) to mystical weapons. The weapons menu is arranged in a Half-Life-esque fashion, with weapons being grouped in different categories depending on their class -- which makes sense, considering the large amount of weapons available.
The gameplay itself is very fast paced and bloody, and easily reminds me of “arcade” first person shooters like Doom, Duke Nukem, Serious Sam, or Painkiller. Lots of enemies on the screen, minimum time to think over your next move, mature “black” humour, and a whole lot of animated guts and corpses on the screen. Yummy. It must however be noted that some braincells will probably be required in addition to quick reaction – there are some puzzle elements in the game, where you, for example, need to activate buttons in the right sequence. Although those “puzzle moments” are usually not too hard, and are somewhat of a rarity, they're a welcome addition to the game. What also greatly benefits the gameplay, are some of the items that are located in your inventory, or could be picked up at certain places. Those include: binoculars, night vision device, motion detector, and more.
While we were shown a very early pre-alpha version of the game, the graphics are already shaping up to be impressive. The game's engine fully supports DirectX9.0, which means that it also supports some of the most modern rendering technologies out there, including: pixel and vertex shaders v2.0, normal maps, real-time shadows, dynamic lights, post-effects (such as glow, space distortion, and refraction), many destroyable objects, as well as realistic ragdoll physics. For those that like numbers: on average every character has around 60 bones, and 6,000-7,000 polygons, while each level boasts over 500,000 polygons in hard geometry. Of course to see all this eye candy the developers recommend an Athlon 2GHz + 64mb video card computer system, but they've also assured us that the engine is very scalable, and owners of older machines shouldn't have a problem running the game.
Hell Forces also supports EAX 2.0, as the developers have pledged to make not only visually, but also audibly appealing game. They promised us lots of different music, which will vary according to what's happening on the screen, and lots of funny in-game dialogs. Multiplayer is also promised, although currently the details about various game modes to be supported are still sketchy – so far, only the standard Deathmatch mode was announced, but we'll keep you posted on any additional details we might get on the game before its release.
All in all, Hell Forces is shaping up to be an interesting game for first person shooter fans. Buka Entertainment is currently arranging distribution deals for the game with their foreign partners, so watch out for it when it ships to stores in Q1 2005.