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Gabe / on Fri, Jan 10 2003 at 5:07 pm

Tao Feng

Tycho and I were invited out to see some new games over at Microsoft today. I live like fifteen minutes from them so it’s not like they had to fly our asses out or anything. Tycho said we were going to see Brute Force and get a free lunch so I was super excited. When we got there they told us we were going to see Tao Feng and get a free lunch. I am not sure if Tycho knew this all along or not but I would not be surprised. Anyway the free lunch was still a reality so I decided to stick around. I am pretty glad I did too because Tao Feng ended up being pretty cool. I am getting ahead of myself though. Let me tell you what it’s like when you go to one of these things.

You always read about people who get to go preview games but until today we had never actually done it. I don’t really think of Tycho and I as journalists so that never really bothered me though. During lunch one of our hosts asked us how long we had been in the industry. Until that moment we actually had not realized that we were in the industry. In fact I still don’t think we are. These PR types seem to think we are though, and if that means they show us early builds of their games then they are welcome to continue doing so.

After our lunch they took us to a little meeting room with a fancy TV and a decent surround sound set up. While they were talking about something I was sort of scoping out the room and I noticed a large white board to my left. As I inspected it further I realized that it had on it the release dates by month for Xbox games.  Just as it registered that I was probably looking at something I shouldn’t be I was interrupted. They leapt in front of the board and began erasing like mad. They even erased the little note that said in all capital letters “DO NOT ERASE!” Tycho and I found this part especially funny. Cameron who is like the head PR guy for Tao Feng quickly directed our attention to his game which he now had up and running on the television.

So the game is set in present time in an alternate reality where I guess China colonized North America first. Or something. Cameron said they hired a professional writer to make the story. They said the same thing about Doom 3 and Tycho and I think it’s fucking hilarious. Do they not understand that even if they hired someone who had never written anything before to write the story that the very act of hiring them would indeed make them a professional writer. I am sure this lady is a super good writer but it still cracks me up. Anyway, professional writers aside the game looks really good. And it damn well should, Craig Mullins is the man doing the concept artwork for the game. You are no doubt familiar with his work although you may not know it. He’s done concept art and Matte Paintings for all kinds of movies and shit. The guy is fucking amazing and if you don’t go check out his site then you’re a bad person.

Beyond the slick visuals the game actually plays really well too. John Tobias co-creator of Mortal Kombat no doubt has a lot to do with that. The game actually feels a lot like a Mortal Kombat game, although more brutal if that’s possible. One of the really cool features of TF is that the characters take damge and it affects their performance. Break a guys arm or beat on it enough and eventually it’s going to be all but useless. Fighters build up “Chi” which they can use to do special moves or heal broken limbs. As fights progress characters get bruised, cut and dirty. It’s actually a really nice effect and one that sort of makes TF stand out from other fighters. Another cool feature is the interactive environments. You can kick off walls, swing around poles and break all kinds of shit. One level had us fighting in an arcade and you could knock your opponent into the machines and they would bust apart. In fact knocking your opponent into a wall or box or whatever will actually increase the amount of damage they take. I like that.

They told us that we were supposed to play with this one character because he was the only one that had really been tuned. The other ones I guess were not quite done yet. Obviously we paid no attention to this and proceed to check out all the characters in the game and all the environments. I mean they bought us lunch so the way I see it they sort of owed us. All your basic fighting game characters are there. You’ve got bouncy chicks, old men, kung fu studs, the big slow guy and the weirdo. It could be that my standards for character design have been unfairly raised by Guilty Gear XX but none of these people really did anything special for me. I will say that Master Sage the old Chinese man was pretty slick but compared to other old Chinese guys like Shun from Virtua Fighter or my personal favorite Wang from Tekken he doesn’t really bring anything new to the table. I will say that the character designs are some of the best I have seen from a 3D fighter that isn’t Tekken, Virtua Fighter or Soul Calibur. In fact just a few weeks ago Tycho and I had a conversation where we wondered why anyone who isn’t Namco or Sega even bothers making 3D fighters. I mean even Capcom, a company that knows how to make a goddamned fighting game hasn’t been able to pull off a 3D fighter that is able to go toe to toe with Tekken or VF. The fact that the guys at Gigante are even trying to make a 3D brawler is admirable. The fact that they have succeeded in making one that doesn’t suck ass is down right miraculous.

What we saw of the game was pretty early I guess and a lot of the characters that we weren’t supposed to play with but did anyway weren’t quite done. Even with all that I still found the game to be enjoyable. I think it’s got potential and I’m really curious to see what they end up with.

Then they brought out Kung Fu Chaos which is one of the best games I have ever played. I’ll let Tycho tell you about that one though.

-Gabe out

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