Heroes in a half-shell! The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles mean different things to different generations. To some people, only the original comics exist. To others, anything besides the original 1980s cartoon (or at a stretch, the 1990s movies) is dead to them. And then you have those pesky kids who like whatever’s on Nickelodeon at the moment.
You can kind of see Activision’s problem, when trying to make a video game based on the iconic kids’ action franchise with Out of the Shadows
. There are so many different canons and universes that it would be difficult to propose an angle that can appeal to all audiences. With developer RedFly however, it believes it has the solution.
A whole different TMNT
Well, that’s one strategy. I mean, it could work. We’ll have to see. Activision has signed a multi-year deal to make three games based on the franchise, and this first one is headed to digital distribution platforms on PC and home consoles. So it has the benefit of experimentation on its side.
Of course, the company is aware that it could potentially piss off a load of fans too, which is why when I went to see an early version of Out of the Shadows
game on Xbox 360, representatives were insisting that it has ‘fan-friendly’ features and elements in mind. Not just in terms of canon, though - even in the way Out of the Shadows
The game is a third-person action brawler, taking cues from classic Turtles arcade games made by Konami (and recent XBLA releases and remasters via Ubisoft). Leonardo, Raphael, Donatello and Michelangelo all have a unique moveset, dictated by their individual weaponry. Donatello can be used for crowd control using his long-reach bo, for example.
Here’s the catch though - all four Turtles will be active in play at the same time. Doesn’t matter if you’re playing solo, or with a buddy playing couch co-op, you’ll have the entire crew watching your back and fighting enemies alongside you. Players will be able to switch between characters during play, in case they get bored of one Turtle or decide to take advantage of combination moves.
Each character can work together in order to do ‘tag’ moves on bad guys. In multiplayer, both players need to work in unison to initiate the manoeuvre, but in single-player you need to start the ball rolling with one character, switch to another and then complete the combo pattern. One such move involves Raphael throwing Michelangelo into the air, allowing him to crash into enemies from a great height.
As well as your standard jump and attack buttons, special moves are assigned, interestingly enough, to the Right Thumbstick. Holding the Right Trigger and circling the stick will give your character 360-degree control for certain attacks. With all the madness going on, and the camera flipping about as you change Turtles, any kind of additional control would be welcome, I assume.
There are a multitude of locations that the Turtles will venture through in the campaign mode - I saw a stage that took place in NYC, with a scene in the rooftops followed by a brawl with what appeared to be foot soldiers in the back streets. Activision isn’t saying who the enemies - or the overall villain - is in this game just yet, although it has said that it will be in keeping with the traditional franchise canon. Fingers crossed for Shredder.
The alpha gameplay I saw seemed to run okay, with areas that looked good to control - but in the state I saw it, there was a lot of optimisation work to sort out in terms of frame rate. This hopefully isn’t an issue by the time the game launches this Summer.
If not, then it looks like the multitude of modes on offer (including an ‘Arcade’ in the sewer which we weren’t allowed to peek into) and various character progression features (weapon upgrades and unique abilities for each Turtle) will go some way to curing the itch that TMNT game fans have been wanting to scratch for years.