At the end of December last year, Buka sent us a pre-alpha copy of their upcoming sci-fi shooter, Operation: Matriarchy, to preview
. The game has now hit alpha status, and I was pleasantly surprised when I found a copy of the current build on my desk. I have been giving this build its run-through for a while now, and below are my findings on the game's progress thus far.
If this is your first time reading an Operation: Matriarchy preview, I'll quickly bring you up to speed on the story. Situated in the Echelon Universe
, you are a male trooper from the government sent to the planet Velian to investigate a planet-wide plague that has mutated all female inhabitants. Accordingly, you must cleanse Velian of the opposite sex and save the day.
When I jumped into the game, the first thing that I noticed was the music playing the background as I navigated my way through the game's interface. At the moment, there is only the one tune in the game's repertoire, but a variety of additional sound effects have been implemented through the levels from the previous build. Save for a very helpful, albeit, rudimentary, map, O:M's interface and heads up display has not been modified to any extent. While this is nothing to be concerned about at this stage in the game's development, I would like to see a more refined interface somewhere along the line.
One thing that I praised in the previous build of O:M was its character design. MADia has done a fantastic job of creating a diverse set of mutated females, failed experiments, and other genetic abominations. In one of the levels that were present in the game, I was exposed to a carousel-like display of most, if not all, enemies in the game. I think it's safe to say that you won't get bored with the enemies present in O:M. On many occasions, I found myself getting filled with lead as I tried to get a closer look at some of my opponents.
Another thing that I liked about O:M was its expansive level design, and things have only gotten better in this build. As can be expected, existing levels have become more polished and detailed, with a variety of stationary and moveable objects now in place. One level in particular that really sparked my attention, which appeared later in the storyline, was that of an organic hive. You start off in a slender corridor that gradually opens up to reveal the main hive, only you're many stories up. You have to work your way down through a multitude of spiral ramps and other rooms, all the while fighting off foes. What made this level stick out was its attention to detail. O:M's ambient lighting along with its specular- and bump-mapping technology made all sorts of biomechanical and semi-organic objects, that were strategically placed, come to life. Each part of the hive that you visited was slightly dissimilar from the one that you just came from. Thankfully, this map did not suffer the dreaded Halo "Library-effect".
There are also a few levels in O:M that were very Serious Sam-like: wide open plains connected by narrow valleys with wave after wave of opponents. Naturally, you start this level off with some of the more powerful weapons in the game, including a high-powered rifle, and a mini-gun.
Enemy AI has been drastically improved from the previous build. Close combat encounters with the "Ninja" character type proved to be very fatal [for me], as their fast-moving, hard-hitting, and precise damage locating functions were very well implemented. However, on a grander scale, enemy AI still leaves a lot to be desired. In many instances, opponents have been found to simply stand still, charge directly at you, or get stuck on objects in the map. A lot of progress has been made but in order to get on the same level as games like Half Life 2 or Operation Flashpoint, MADia still has a lot of work ahead of them.
Some of the other interesting things that I noticed in this build were: scripted cut scenes, a space / heavy armour suit, improved interaction with the maps, and improved frame rates.
MADia and Operation: Matriarchy have a long, hard road ahead of them if they want to compete with today's hard-hitting first person shooters. However, with the progress that we've seen between the two builds that we have received, it looks as if MADia has a good grasp on things.