Aurora Watching Preview
By Kurt Knudsen and Matt Boksa
Feb 18th 2005

Aurora Watching is a developing title being brought to market by Metropolis Software. It’s a mix of Splinter Cell and a standard third-person shooter. The Splinter Cell theme comes into play since it’s a stealth game, but the game isn’t all about stealth. You can run and gun as well if that’s more your thing.

Graphically speaking the game looks amazing. Indoors and out it looks great. It's setting is in the arctic on an iceberg. You play outside of it, in it, and beneath it in your quest to solve what the military project is for. The game uses advanced features for the graphics such as pixel shaders, high performance body simulations, and scene post processing techniques to achieve incredible graphics quality without a major performance hit.

You play as two different agents in the game, a guy and a girl. Both of the models look great and their animations are very well done. The level designs range from outdoor valleys to indoor corridors. All of these offer a great playing field and don’t appear to get old.

In the preview build that I received I was able to play 5 levels. Training was included, and it aided me in getting used to the game's controls and features. Training was quick and simple, and I was soon on my way to defeating my enemies. You get a variety of different gadgets to use, such as remote noise makers and binoculars. Also, the mini-map in the game lets you know where the enemy is and which way they are facing. Using this is key to beating the game because you have to be sneaky in order to get around people you don’t want to kill.

The menu music is awesome and the in-game music is really nice, too. The English voice acting does a passable job. Some of the actors are pretty unenthusiastic and others are right on target. It’s a mixed bag of sorts, but it’s not that big of a deal. Sound effects also play an important role in the game because making noise gets you noticed. Your footsteps can be heard by the enemy but only when you are walking or running. Also your gunshots can be heard so it is best to use silenced weapons whenever possible.

The gameplay is incredibly fun and addicting. When the music starts and you open that door your heart starts pounding. You look to the right and notice a guard sitting at a computer. Using your stealth-walk you creep up on him and enter his trailer room, take him out with a suppressed headshot, and search his body for goodies. Many of the enemies in the game carry weapons and ammo. You can find new weapons on different enemies as well and select them easily. The mouse wheel controls your walking speed and the TAB key brings up your inventory and mission objectives. You can see all of your weapons and gadgets and select the proper one. Some weapons come with more than one ammo type. The most important is the silenced ammo for the hand gun. These bullets are precious and tend to run out quickly.

When you take aim at an enemy you can see the aiming reticule blink. The width of the lines blinking indicates the accuracy of the shot. If you are very close to the target a headshot is almost guaranteed. If you use the sniper rifle it takes a few seconds for the aim to settle down enough to get an accurate shot.

Good things aside, there are a few bad points. The first one being that it is very difficult to aim because of the camera angle. You do get a cursor that changes when you spot an enemy but it doesn’t help when your body is blocking your view. Headshots do more damage and if you miss you could cause an alarm. Another disappointing aspect is the control/camera combo when riding a snow mobile. It is difficult to maneuver around corners and drive properly because of this. It took me a lot of tries to get past a certain part because I kept falling off a cliff or hitting a boulder. I don’t know if these can be fixed before the game comes out but here’s hoping!

I am definitely anticipating this game’s release, mainly because it was a ton of fun to play, and offers a fresh look at the stealth action genre. I wasn’t a fan of Splinter Cell because it focused too much on sneaking around and not enough on running and gunning. This game mixes them up nicely.

A 10 minute clip of the game can be found here.