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GamesFirst! Magazine

Aqua Nox

One of the most welcome surprises at E3 2001 was the varied representation of game design houses and publishers that weren’t affiliated with the "big boys." Fishtank Interactive, for example, offered conventioneers a cozy booth in Kentia where gamers and buyers and the idle curious could lounge, eat gummi sharks, and play the latest titles to be distributed by this small but well-organized and well-run company. Fellow GamesFirst! schlub Matt Blackburn and I took advantage of the mellow atmosphere and spoke with Massive Development’s Wolfgang Walk, one of the developers of Fishtank’s flagship title, "Aqua Nox," an action/adventure FPS that offers players the unique look and feel of a turbo-charged submarine mission.

In a clamshell, "AN" offers players several missions to choose from, customizable craft, amazing camera control, a complex, elliptical story, and gameplay that simulates actions and reactions affected by water physics. Gamers play the game as Emerald "Dead Eye" Flint, a sort of futuristic rogue corsair who gets wrapped up in some pretty dangerous water sports.

Because all the action in "AN" takes place underwater, the game possesses a truly unfamiliar look. The landscape is dark and murky, occasionally broken with thin, milky threads of light that penetrate the surface above and illuminate the watery realm below. In addition, what players see on the PC screen is actually a rendering of sonar images of a post-apocalyptic undersea world, so there is very real sense that players proceed through the game quite blind to the world outside their craft’s hull. Fortunately, the excellent interface gives submariners access to several cool navigational devices, like compasses and digital topographical maps. All in all, the visuals are very atmospheric and contribute to the alternating sensations of chaotic freedom and creepy claustrophobia players experience while they maneuver Dead Eye’s deep-sea craft through canyons, crevasses, seaweed, and wrack. The fluidity of the controls and camera in "AN" is so convincing that gamers may find themselves frequently disoriented, but this confusion definitely supplements the look and story of the game.

By the time Herr Walk finished his demo, Matt and I both wanted to spend a little more time with "AN." Mr. Walk told us to wait for the game’s official release in Fall ’01. He also advised us to look forward to multiplayer deep-sea action for "AN" at that time as well. In the meantime, Matt declared he’d hone his underwater search-and-destroy skills in the tub. A dyed-in-the-wool landlubber, I’ll just wait for the game.

Greg Matthews

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