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Chaotic: Shadow Warriors

Platform(s): Nintendo DS, PlayStation 3, Wii, Xbox 360
Genre: RPG/Action
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Activision

About Brian Dumlao

After spending several years doing QA for games, I took the next logical step: critiquing them. Even though the Xbox 360 is my preferred weapon of choice, I'll play and review just about any game from any genre on any system.

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Wii/PS3/X360 Preview - 'Chaotic: Shadow Warriors'

by Brian Dumlao on July 28, 2009 @ 9:00 a.m. PDT

Based on the trading card game and animated TV series, Chaotic combines action, role playing and turn-based strategy gameplay elements for an epic adventure in Perim. Players adventure through vibrant, fully-realized 3D environments and interact with various characters from the best-selling trading card game and hit animated series.

Genre: Action/RPG
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Fun Labs
Release Date: Q4 2009

Video games based on children's properties usually fall into a platforming formula. Video games based on trading card game properties usually stick close to their roots by emulating the card game. With these two factors in mind, one would easily expect Chaotic: Shadow Warriors to either be a platforming adventure or a console version of the PC card game. The fact that it's neither is surprising. The fact that it's a platformer/RPG is even more surprising. The fact that this RPG, which is aimed at a younger audience, is looking very good is a very pleasant surprise indeed.

The first playable version of Chaotic: Shadow Warriorswas introduced at this year's San Diego Comic-Con, and it starts off as one would expect. You play as Tom Majors, one of the main Chaotic players from the animated series. After doing a bit of exploration, you meet up with a creature from the OverWorld tribe named Attacat, who is looking for a stolen piece of Battlegear. Once the cut scene concludes, the screen informs you that you have obtained your first scan of Attacat and that he can now be used in combat. Doing a bit more exploration will lead you to a cut scene discussing the need to find the rest of the gear. From this point on, you have a Pyroblaster, which lets Tom defend himself against smaller enemies as long as he has ammo. After dispatching a few smaller bugs, you run across Malvadine from the Mipedian tribe, and here is where the platforming elements end and the RPG begins.

Like the card game, you pick your scanned creature's location in the grid and the Battlegear you want to arm him with. For the purposes of the demo, the Battlegear was already equipped to Attacat, but we were told that, like the card game, players will be able to attach any Battlegear to any of the scanned creatures that they have. Once all of this is set, the battle begins. The turn-based combat system is in full effect here. When attacking, the player is given a choice of whether to attack, use his available skills, use his Mugic, or taunt. Since Attacat had no abilities or Mugic with him, the only available course of action (aside from taunting) is attacking. Choosing to attack brought up a graphical comparison of stat differences between him and the opponent. We also saw a list of attacks, including the amount of damage it can do and the number of points the attack will cost, as well as the button prompts for each attack. Once the user chooses the attack, those same button prompts begin sliding down the screen. Successfully hitting these prompts in the indicated area will increase the amount of damage the attack will inflict as well as replenish the attack points that the player has in reserve.

When the creature is on the defensive, there are two options available for the player to perform: block or scan. Holding down the right trigger and repeatedly tapping the A button will cause the creature to block and reduce the total amount of damage he sustains from the attack. Holding down the left trigger initiates a scan mode, where the user has to follow the on-screen reticle with the left thumbstick to complete the scan. Though it usually takes several tries, once the scan is at 100 percent, that enemy will become part of your army once the battle concludes. The catch is that the statistics that the enemy has upon completion of the scan becomes your creature's default statistics at the beginning of combat. The seemingly useless taunt option when attacking now becomes important, since you'll want to determine whether you want to take plenty of hits to your creature in order to get a great scan or just concentrate on defeating the enemy.

The active RPG battle and defense systems are rather engaging. It's more along the lines of the Shadow Hearts or Penny Arcade series of games rather than the Tales Of games in terms of how active the system is during combat. It keeps players on their toes and prevents them from going into a pattern where they mindlessly hit buttons to slog through menus and get the combat portion over and done with. The scanning aspect also makes you think differently, since there doesn't seem to be any indication so far that you can simply stick with the creatures you have and level them up to make them stronger or attack better. Creature management will be a must here, and it will be interesting to see how this plays out in the game's later levels.

The graphics look pretty good, with the environments showing off some good use of shadowing while the rest of the terrain seems to make liberal use of bump mapping. Tom looks like a more refined version of the character seen on the series and seems to move rather well. The creatures also look great, with some good use of fur shading where appropriate. The scale is also properly addressed, with most of the major creatures towering over Tom like they do in the show. The one real knock coming from the demo is the unstable frame rate. While it never goes to unplayable levels, you see it fluctuate between the 20s and 30s. It isn't horrible, but it would be nice to see this number get locked down before release.

Chaotic: Shadow Warriors can be best described as the console Pokémon game most fans have always wanted. It's an RPG that tries to throw in some platforming elements to make it a bit more appealing to more gamers. There are still some tweaks that need to be made to polish up this product, but what we saw in the demo was surprising, to say the least. With a late November release scheduled to hit all three consoles this year, here's hoping that the final product provides as much excitement as the demo did.


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