previews\ Jan 27, 2003 at 7:00 pm

Primal - PS2 - Preview

Like a good action flick, Primal throws players right into the middle of the action.  The demo began without a hint of control information -- the minute you walk forward, enemies begin attacking!  Small, hard-to-read control descriptions are quickly placed on the bottom of the screen, though it's not much help at first.  I found it easier to just try things on my own.  In less than a minute, demons were being slayed like there was no tomorrow.  (And there might not be if Jen Tate, the main character, fails to complete her mission.)


Primal uses a familiar, Zelda and Soul Reaver-like combat system, but includes a few improvements, as well as some elements unique to this game.  You attack with the rarely used R2 and L2 buttons.  Each button has a standard combo that can be executed by pressing the respective button three or four times.  (More combos will likely be available in the final version of the game.)  Deeply press either of the attack buttons to unleash a powerful strike; press them simultaneously to perform a finishing move!  There are at least two finishing moves, one of which resembles the Brutalities from Mortal Kombat Trilogy, while the other is similar to some of the combos in Virtua Fighter (knock the enemy down and lunge toward it for the kill).


Jen automatically locks-on to any enemy that she attacks, and so far, it works beautifully.  Because the player chooses who to target, there is no confusion or frustration, both of which are common in action/RPGs.  Primal isn't exactly an action/RPG, but it shares many of the elements found in those games.  At this point, I would assume that you can't change your target manually, but you can attack more than one foe simultaneously if they are standing close to each other.


The camera moves a little slow, but other than that, it's one of the best you'll ever find in a game.  Primal lacks War of the Monsters' cool transparent effect that occurs when something blocks your view, but as you will see, it doesn't matter too much.  There are no restrictions when it comes to maneuvering the camera, enabling you to view any part of the world at any time, even during combat.


As far as the story goes, Primal tells the interesting and intriguing tale of Jen Tate.  Jen's life is turned upside down, and her skin is turned inside out when her gargoyle-like friend, Scree, leads her to a demon that helps awaken her hidden powers.  Jen doesn't know it, but she's a half-breed: half human, half demon.  Her demon powers are hidden though, so they must be "awakened."  The transformation isn't very pleasant, causing much pain for Ms. Tate.  She endures, and is eventually transformed into a demon.  Scree informs her that this new form is not permanent -- she can be a human or a demon whenever she pleases.  This is a key gameplay element, since the player will be able to switch between human and demon forms at any time during the game.  Demon form is stronger, faster and more fun to use, but I'm willing to bet that the human form has some advantages in the game, otherwise the developers wouldn't have bothered to include it.


Primal has quite a few cool tricks up its sleeve, including two entirely different playable characters: Jen and Scree.  Characters can be changed at any time by pressing the selection button.  The transition is immediate -- no load times, screen jerks or game hiccups are here to hinder the gaming experience.  This is the kind of small (but extremely significant) technological issue that plagued games for years.  But as you already know, that's not a problem in Primal.


Scree doesn't fight (at least not in the demo), so don't expect too much action from him, but you will get to solve some really cool puzzles.  Defeated foes leave behind their souls, which is great for Scree, because he just happens to love devouring them!  He can also obtain soul power by collecting special orbs.  It wasn't too hard to find the orbs since there were an abundance of them in the demo, but doesn't necessarily mean that they'll be easy to find in the final version.  When enough souls have been accumulated, Scree can use his power to manipulate various things, such as a statue.  The purpose of this is to solve puzzles, one of which requires you to control statue's head and point its shining light toward a locked door.


From the looks of things, Primal is set to be one of the hottest PlayStation 2 releases of 2003.  Come this March, North American gamers will get their chance to experience what could be SCEE's (Sony Computer Entertainment Europe) best title yet.  Don't miss it.

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