previews\ Sep 29, 2003 at 8:00 pm

kill.switch - XB - Preview

"Initiating data stream ... "

"You are going to utilize your talent in a completely different way than you were expecting."

"The rules of the game are going to change."

"If you can handle it, you can have the job."

kill.switch is changing the face of shooter gaming. This Namco in-house title for the Xbox features so many innovations that the genre is bound to sit up and take notice. Wrap those features around a good-looking game with immersive game play and strong scenarios and you have the recipe for a highly successful title.

The hero of the story is outfitted with a neural link which keeps him in touch with headquarters. His job is seemingly quite simple - go where a mass number of special operatives cannot, and clear the field. In other words, kill everything that stands against him.

Ok, that sounds pretty typical for a shooter title. But whereas many titles this year have gone with the rag-doll effect as the hot new visual for their games, kill.switch is taking the idea of shooters in a completely different direction. It is concentrating on how you shoot, not how the target responds. This is not a game in which the protagonist runs through a field and blasts as everything until it is either all dead or he is.

Namco has introduced what it calls the Offensive Cover System. In the game you will have to fight intelligently, find and use cover to effectively eliminate your targets. Dive forward, roll and come up behind the wall. Use the wall as cover, target, then lean out and shoot your enemies. Oh, don’t just hold down the trigger or the recoil will have you shooting at the ceiling in a hurry.

Of course, you can always go with the blind shot - which entails holding your cover and letting your weapon do the peeking and blasting. It is not as effective as the body lean, but you take less damage.

As for your enemies, well, they are not going to stand there and let you kill them. The AI of the game is tight and your opposition will utilize cover as well.

The game plays out in the third-person perspective. There are six war-themed missions that are spread out over 18 different levels. Environments are standard maze-like mapboards (ranging in diversity from a Middle East desert to an underground submarine base), and you have to traverse from point A to point B, although between you and the goal are a lot NPCs who would rather see you did not make it.

The sound elements feel as though they come from a variety of sources. The hero has a slightly sardonic attitude and the sound of gun fire is authentic while the musical score, which underplays the scenes, has that tempo guaranteed to drive the blood.

You can also hear the enemies talking to help locate them, and using the OCS, you can sneak up on them to give them a pleasant little surprise.

The controls are simple enough. Namco has seemingly made certain that with so many other things to think about, the controller would not be one of them. The righter trigger fires the weapon. The left trigger helps you hug a wall or crouch, the left and right thumbsticks are for movement and targeting respectively, and the hotkeys allow you to dive or throw a grenade, or even use a stationary weapon.

You can control the aim/sensitivity in the options menu.

The look of the game is also quite sharp. The environments are nicely rendered and the animation is superb.

When you combine all these elements, you have a taut game that is certain to have broad appeal. kill.switch is a shooter title, but it is an intelligent, well-designed game.

As the protagonist states so matter-of-factly at the end of the training mission: "I could get used to this."

"Congratulations, you’re hired. Welcome to the future."

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