Now that it?s finally available in Europe, Sony?s PSP is selling like hotcakes on a cold day. But ask any early adopter what else they want now they have their dream machine and the answer is often the same: some games to play on it, please!
You?re damned if you do and damned if you don?t, it would seem. First Sony get criticised for delaying the system?s European release. Then, when at last it does come out, people waste no time in slamming a perceived software shortage. The truth is, there are plenty of games. What there isn?t yet is a console-shifting blockbuster, a Goldeneye, a HALO, or a Nintendogs.
But Sony is doing its darnedest to make sure that there are games out there in time for the Christmas. And SPOnG was lucky enough to be invited there to take a look at a title it has high hopes for: Pursuit Force.
After gaining entrance to the company?s glossy Soho HQ, we?re introduced to Chris Whiteside. An amiable and effusive chap, Chris is Lead Designer at small UK outfit bigBIG Studios, and has achieved what many gamers can only dream of: after enlisting as a games tester at Codemasters, he rose to the rank of designer, and now works at his own independent games studio. Equally inspiring is his enthusiasm for the game, which he sits us down to talk us through, and which he proudly says he has spent the last two years developing.
Pursuit Force was the pick of the E3 PSP line-up for many people, and we?re eager and expectant. In response to Chris?s enquiry as to what we?ve heard about the game, we mumble that we?ve heard it?s a sort of Mel Gibson simulator. The man?s face lights up: Pursuit Force is inspired by scenes from films such as Indiana Jones and Lethal Weapon, the sort of scenes where a dogged hero wrests control of a vehicle from a baddie. The basic mechanic of the game is simple, if unique ? chase down the bad guys in your car, shooting at them as you do so. Get close enough and you can hit the circle button, at which point the hero leaps recklessly onto the enemy?s vehicle. A few shots from your sturdy police revolver puts paid to the thugs, and leaves you control of the vehicle.
It?s an immediately likeable concept. The fact that it?s derived from the over the top, clichéd Hollywood language of macho action that we grew up with makes us like it even more. As Chris shows me more of the game, I realise that this is a title that?s rich in references to films. Games have long used films as cultural signposts. We wouldn?t have had Ikari Warriors without Rambo, would we? But Pursuit Force isn?t about just copying films. The whole game is a series of homages, nudges and references. It?s like having a conversation with someone you?ve not met before, and establishing a common ground by discovering passions you share. It?s referential, and indeed reverential, in the same way that a Quentin Tarantino film is, if Tarantino had only ever watched action films from the eighties.
There are plenty of nice touches. The hero, who hasn?t been given a name to allow the player to identify with him more, is your classic young, unconventional, maverick cop. So naturally, he has a stern boss who wants everything done by the book, just like in Lethal Weapon or Beverly Hills Cop. When you jump a really long way, the game slows down self indulgently as you fly through the air, already shooting at your intended victim. On foot, you can take down perps and cuff ?em, and we promise you, it looks really cool when you do this. All the dialogue is penned by Hollywood screenwriters, who?ve really gone to town with the cheesy trash talking. And the five gangs you?re up against are a riot of stereotypes: mobsters, militia men, orange jump-suited convicts, hot babes and Japanese mafia (complete with highly modified cars and bikes, obviously). The soundtrack is a delightfully authentic affair, full of pulse-racing strings. When we comment on it, Chris reveals that it?s composed by none other than Richard Jacques - poster boy of videogame soundtracks and the man who wrote the music for OutRun - and performed by the Czechoslovakian Philharmonic Orchestra.