E3 2000 Oni Demonstration Part I

E3 '2000 Oni Demonstration

by Ferrex (Dead)

Taking a second seat to Halo in this year's E3, Oni is nevertheless making a strong showing. Two displays, one a large flatscreen showing an impressive demonstration and the other a playable demo running on a PS2 (I didn't realize this at first, it looks so true to the PC version).

The TV display is currently showing a several minute long scripted sequence with plenty of clashes between different characters, hand to hand and with guns. The transition between the two is so smooth I didn't really notice it until now, writing about it. Bungie has accomplished the fusion of the two with flying colors.

Yesterday, it was also showing a cell animated sequence that is no longer running (not sure why). The anime, done by the same people who did the Myth II cutscenes, is rather well done. If you're wrinkling your nose in memory of those cutscenes, cut it out--this work was sent over in proper digital format, and it didn't suffer the traumatic conversion from VHS that those poor, mauled cutscenes did. The first thing you notice is Konoko, who looks rather different in the anime (longer hair and a different uniform). Asked about this, Bungie's Alex The Man Seropian remarked that it was an older production, and wasn't entirely accurate.

The anime is otherwise true to the gameplay, full of gun and fistplay. Glass shatters as gunshots strike it, an impressive particle effect attributed to Bungie West's Chris Butcher, and a variety of guns appear available for use. And of course, a variety of moves exist for removing the gun from a person, from the front or rear. There was no blood in this demonstration, but some impressive ass kicking goes on, as Syndicate troops, Konoko, and an unidentified third party dressed in black and red (security guards, I believe) mix it up in a three way conflict. The setting is an office building of some sort, and Bungie West's use of trained architects as level designers shows--the building is entirely believeable. The only complaint I have would be that some of the larger rooms are very empty--I imagine things need to be fleshed out a bit yet.

The playable demo was impressive too. The PS2 contoller has a pair of analog thumbsticks, and in Oni these are used to control your position and your facing. I found them a little awkward, but mostly because they felt reversed (due no doubt to the neural pathways I burnt playing Myth). However, I had the feel of it fairly soon, and the learning curve feels a lot like that of a fighting game--lots of awkward fumbling at first, but no upper limit. By the time I had killed the three enemies in the small arena supplied for play (two with my hands and a third with a gun), I felt a lot more confident with the controls. Finding the punch and jump keys helped.

The small arena deserves mention too. The overall look is very high tech, and colored lighting abounds. Dripping, glowing green liquid and red floor panels lent some flavor to the level, but to be honest, I was busy trying to make Konoko face my enemy to watch too hard. A sort of lock on target would be a real boon, but I don't think it's anything a bit more practice can't fix. The good news is that the invisible wall trick with the camera works really well--the only time I had a problem with my camera was when a staircase got between it and Konoko, and that was quickly remedied by an enemy's generously supplied foot.

The only real problems I had with Oni, aside from the currently bare demo levels, were the large color busts when you hit an enemy and slightly airy hit detection. The bursts were a bit distracting to me, through they did serve their purpose to show that someone was being hit. Perhaps they'll be optional--seems like a prime candidate for a preferences option. The hit detection might just be a figment of my imagination, a result of my fumbling around. It just felt a bit like hits that were a bit too far off weren't connecting... perhaps I need more practice.

Overall, though, this demonstration makes me want Oni even more. The potential for cool gameplay is impressive, given the environment and Konoko's large repitoire of moves. The potential for very enjoyable netplay is definitely there too... we'll have to see if Bungie can pull it off. And even if they don't, the solo game and storyline should suffice for a good time. Just don't discount it for Halo's sake...

Originally posted May 14, 2000