Nolan is a man who had all he wanted in life: A nice home, a loving wife and even a dog. His life was great. Then, one night, a group of men came to his house. The men killed his wife and burnt his house to the ground, taking everything he loved with it. These killers weren't ordinary men, they were Bet on Soldier champions. Bet on Solder (B.O.S. is what all the cool kids are calling it) is a TV show that has live coverage of a war between two governments. The most skilled marines can bet on their performances in order to make money. With nothing left to live for, Nolan joins the government opposing the men who killed his wife and looks for revenge.
In the three level demo that we played we got to see how the game is shaping up and how it differs from the usual FPS game. Betting is the key difference here. As this war is also a TV show, the best fighters can bet money that they will defeat certain B.O.S. champions. You choose who you want to fight at the start of each level, with the harder enemies giving larger rewards. At certain points in the levels (after you've defeated waves and waves of standard soldiers) you go one-on-one against a champion. You must defeat him within a set time in order to win the bet and the money.
Money is important as all armour, weapons, ammo and support soldiers need to be paid for. Thankfully you also get money for killing standard enemies and are rewarded more for headshots. The way you spend your money will have a big impact on how you perform in each level as you can't simply pick up ammo from fallen enemies. There are reload stations dotted around the levels that allow you to repair your armour and restock ammo, but this all costs money. You may well have to decide if you want to fully repair your chest armour or buy some more rounds for your machine gun. Saving also comes at cost, with save stations requiring a small payment.
There is a basic amount of squad control that lets you tell your team to follow, hold, or repair your armour. The repair command is particularly useful if your armour is heavily damaged and you are some way from a reload station, or out of cash. The only problem is that these guys take a long time to repair your armour, so you'll have to find some cover to ensure that you aren't an easy target.
The enemies show some solid AI, but they suffer from the usual problems that are seen in action games. You'll be pinned down with your armour in pieces, with no other option than to retreat. Thankfully (for your survival), the enemy just let you do this, refusing to go after you and finish you off. Your squad mates aren't much better, mostly acting as eye candy rather than useful companions, leaving you to do all the real work. Still, this is an area that may be improved before the final release.
Adding some depth to the combat is the armour system. As already mentioned, you can buy armour, but your enemies also sport the latest in soldier protection. It's useless to just run and gun as the armour is too strong, and will take bullets that are fired aimlessly at it. You must target a certain area if you want to take down enemy soldiers. The more powerful weapons let you get away with more wayward shots, but with a pistol you'll have to focus on one area. The most powerful enemies we saw were those wearing exoskeletons. These are similar to the Exo-suits seen in Aliens, but are much larger and have powerful weapons; they are essentially mini mechs, and take a lot of firepower to bring down. Fortunately, during the game you also get the chance to use these exoskeletons.
Visually the game is looking pretty sharp. The guys at Kylotton are using their own Kt engine which gives the game a look that seems to be a cross between Half-Life 2 and Riddick. There are some beautiful lighting effects, but a fair amount of roughness to the character models and textures. It is still a very nice looking game, and one that supposedly runs well on low-end machines, but isn't quite up there with the big boys. The character movement could also use some smoothing out, with movement in the in-engine cutscenes looking rather wooden. The game uses the Novodex physics engine by Ageia, but we didn't really get to see it doing much. Crates and barrels all move around realistically enough and we presume some more exciting physics set-pieces will be in the final game.
If there is one area that really disappointed, it's the audio. The game's music is perfectly fine, but the weapon sound effects seem awfully tame. Tweaking with the game's audio settings and my own hardware settings made no difference to the weak, rather unexciting weapon sounds. The sound of gun-fire while playing an FPS is a key part of the experience and it seems lacking in the current build of the game.
It's hard to get a full impression of what to expect from the game in just three levels, but things are looking pretty good. There are problems, most notably in the AI, sound and fairly rudimentary level objectives, but we hope the game will offer a little more in the full campaign. There is also the multiplayer support, which the game, and its betting system, seems designed for. We didn't get a chance to play this, but with promised support for 32 players the game could gain quite a large fan base.
We'll bring you a full review near the game's expected September release date.