Games First Preview

You know that any video game that has anything to do with David Bowie is going to be . . . ah, interesting. From his early incarnation as Ziggy Stardust to his Berlin period with Eno and Iggy to his work in such films as Roeg’s The Man Who Fell to Earth, Bowie has been riding the cutting edge for most of his protean career, fearlessly bending both gender and genre. So it seems fitting that Eidos and Quantic Dream’s Omikron, a game that Bowie wrote eight songs for and in which he will appear as the character Boz, is also a cutting-edge genre-bender. Though billed as a 3D action-adventure game, Eidos claims that it will incorporate "adventure, exploration, action, combat and role playing elements." Omikron will also implement such original features as facial motion capture in real-time, and will contain more than 400 different sets in four huge cities, 140 characters that move in 3D real time, and over four hours of dialogue.

The game’s premise is that the player suddenly finds their soul projected to a different dimension and into a new body. Of course, the player will have no inkling of why this happened, and the game consists of unravelling the mystery of why it did. To do so, the player must scour the city of Omikron in search of deliverance. To win the game the player will have to engage in a myriad of activities, including conversing, fighting, shooting, and driving. Though most of the game will be played 3rd person view, 1st person will be used for shooting. Omikron’s designers pride themselves upon the game’s non-linear play; the player will be allowed complete freedom of movement in the massive real-time world of Omikron, and will be able to enter any building (provided they are welcome) and talk to any character at any time.

One of the game’s coolest features (and one it shares with Messiah, another highly-anticipated game) is what it calls "Virtual Reincarnation." If the body that your nomad soul inhabits is killed, your soul will automatically transmigrate into the next person that touches the corpse. This will allow players to play in several different bodies (including that of Bowie’s supermodel wife, Iman) in each game, and each body will have different abilities. And there have been some hints that you will be able to improve, RPG-like, these abilities.

Omikron also seeks to push the technological envelope. It will be the first game to use real-time facial motion capture, and will contain within it a fighting game that includes 3D motion-captured fighting moves modelled from real-life martial arts champions.

Ah, and the music. David Bowie and Reeves Gabrels have created original music for the game, including eight new songs. In the game, you’ll be able to catch Bowie (as his character Boz) performing these songs in bars throughout the city of Omikron, and you can even purchase the "virtual album" of the music in-game, take it back to your virtual apartment, and kick back with a virtual beverage while virtually chillin’. We haven’t heard any of the tracks yet, but they promise to be—as one would expect from Bowie—different from the norm. According to Bowie, "I moved right away from the stereotypical industrial game music sound. My priority in writing music for Omikron was to give it an emotional subtext. It feels to me as though Reeves and I have achieved that."

Omikron looks like one of the most ambitious, gorgeous, and intriguing games of the upcoming year. If it can pull the many genres it attempts to span into any sort of coherent whole, it could be one of the most successful as well.

We’ll see when the game is released this Fall.

preview: Eidos

Games First Preview Monday, August 09, 1999

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