Off The Grid interview: Neill Blomkamp on Half Life 2 and his mission to re-imagine battle royale

Off The Grid interview: Neill Blomkamp on Half Life 2 and his mission to re-imagine battle royale
Talal Musa Updated on by

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Speaking to Neill Blomkamp, it’s clear videogames have played a big part in his work so far.

“Do you play games,” he asks me. “If you know Half Life 2? The suction gun in District 9 was actually inspired by the Gravity Gun.”

In Off The Grid, the South African film director’s latest project – an ambitious narrative battle royale – you could argue elements of the game world are clearly influenced by his movies.

Set in 2067, the battle arena -Teardrop – is a tropical island with different socio-economic zones around it.

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It’s home to three mega-corporations (Kardashev, Cascadia, Mriya), alongside a powerful Space Elevator that has enabled mankind to access resources and materials to drive unprecedented levels of human advancement.

Concept art of Teardrop – it certainly looks like a Blomkamp creation

“There is a sort of Elysium-style class divide going on – with the surrounding areas being more barren and the wealthy areas near the elevator being more lucrative,” Blomkamp explains, speaking in his new role as Chief Vision officer at Gunzilla Games.

Each megacorporation fights to employ the best handlers, the best technology, the best weapons, and the best operators to achieve mission success and come out on top.

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They accomplish this through the help of Zeroes – hired guns with flexible morality who are equipped with high-tech cybernetic limbs and pitted against each other across the island.

Blomkamp was quick to point out that while his previous work – District 9 for example, was heavily influenced by artist Chris Foss, Off The Grid is a completely new art style – leaning towards ‘hyper realism’, thanks to the power of Unreal Engine 5. 

As expected in any battle royale, Blomkamp confirmed the game will support, solos, duos and quads modes. “Warzone is an example of a battle royale that does things well,” he says.

One of the many weapons you’ll be able to use in Off The Grid

However, where Gunzilla Games is hoping to stand out is in its narrative element – which aims to add a story arc to what has traditionally been an unstructured free-for-all experience – a move that Blomkamp described as “very difficult”. 

As well as 150 players fighting each other in PvP skirmishes that will take place on the game’s map, there will also be be storyline missions players can undertake against AI opponents. Each decision directly impacts everyone’s gameplay.

“What we are doing has never been done before – the characters you meet in the world will play a central role in that.

“When we asked ourselves how we would envision the ideal Battle Royale game, we came up with
three primary pillars to base it on,” he said in a Q&A.

“Breath-taking visuals – a new standard of quality for AAA multiplayer shooters; a strong narrative progression – a meaningful world in which players will not just return in disconnected segments but will get a feeling of persistency and smooth progression; and ownership of all in-game assets.”

Battle Royale 2.0
Concept art showing a human with mechanical augmentations

Off The Grid unites all these components into one IP. Each of them works separately from the other
perfectly. But altogether they create what the team at Gunzilla Games call a ‘Battle Royale 2.0’.

There is also a digital economy called GunZ that lets players trade weapons and in-game items to which there’s been some controversy since its reveal at Gamescom.

Additionally, as is the case for most battle royales, there will be vehicles in Off The Grid. “Yes, there will be vehicles – I actually am yet to see one of them, which is some sort of tank,” Blomkamp tells us.

With Off The Grid, Gunzilla Games is looking to give players back something they think is missing in the battle royale genre – the freedom to choose the way they want to be a part of the IP.

An ambitious gamble. But with Blomkamp at the helm, they have every chance to pull it off.

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