May 14, 2008
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Banjo Kazooie’s return to consoles is something fans of Rare have been looking forward to for a very long. The wait will finally be over this November according to representatives from Rare at the Microsoft Showcase. When screen shots surfaced a few weeks back there was a buzz that it may have been a kart racing game. It turns out, vehicles are a major part of the game play in Banjo for both single player and mutliplayer. But there’s so much more. Rare has gone to great lengths to provide gamers with the freedom to build anything. No joke, anything. You can build a car, a helicopter, a plane, a space shuttle, and even a submarine if you wanted to. It all comes to shape in a realistic and revolutionary vehicular design garage in Banjo. Your imagination is the limit of what you can make.
The garage starts you off with a very basic blue print of parts you can choose from. There is a science to building your vehicle of choice and I think in this game almost more than any other the smartest player is going to be the most successful. When building a vehicle you have to account for weight, aerodynamics, and fuel use due in part to the game’s use of the Havok physics engine. When you enter the garage you will start with a basic engine, body, and weapon choices. From there you can start to build your creation into anything you want. The preview build present yesterday had 15 pre made designs for us to choose however we were free to edit them if we wanted to. You of course will not start Banjo with the best parts but as you play through the campaign you will gain access to better and better parts. The vehicle design is extremely important. Design a vehicle that isn’t well balanced and you will run out of fuel in mid game or your vehicle may be easily defeated and pushed around. But fear not, you can test your newly minted machine in the car park which is sort of like Banjo’s idea of a half pipe except for vehicles before taking it out and challenging the world. Friends can also join you in the car park and you can show each other your vehicles. Another cool feature of the game in the single player portion at least was starting with a very basic vehicle and as you gain parts throughout the 5 lands in Banjo being able to upgrade on the fly. As you can see in the above video you can go from a vehicle on wheels, to a helicopter, then with the proper engine located in the back a jet. A thinking man’s game of how to best approach a challenge or situation.
My hands on time with the game was spent in multiplayer. Banjo is going to feature 8 players online. The mode that was playable during my session was Sumo in which we played two rounds. Sumo is a modified version of King of the Hill. Start on a circular platform with your vehicle and do your best to stay as your opponents attempt to knock you off. The person with the most seconds on the platform at the end of the round wins. The one interesting feature though of the hill is that it extends vertically infinitely. I was told this by a Rare rep prior to the start of the first round so I chose a helicopter. Playing with people who have never touched Banjo before made for a pretty easy win considering I was able to hover above the knoll for the entire time without taking on attack. I was assured however that in play testing back at Rare people would easily counter this by adding weapons to their vehicles and shooting the sky camper down. In the second game I chose a car and things became a little more interesting as vehicles of various weight bowled into each other. I got knocked out on the ring and getting back on took a while as control of the vehicle I chose was not the greatest.
I think it is really difficult especially with the way the game is designed at this early stage to get a good gage on just how things are going to turn out. I feel as though much more experienced players would have done a better job of showing what is possible in Banjo rather than 8 never before having touched the game journalists playing in a mish mosh game. Or rather, in a play time that was more than 20 minutes. There is very large room for balance issues online and I am hoping someone doesn’t one day discover the uber vehicle to make killing the creativity of the game. There is massive potential for Banjo and especially those in the community interested in design are going to love it and the freedom it allows you. The multiplayer at least in our early demo was over Xbox live and did offer the choice for system link but no guarantee was made that it would be included in the final game. I was also assured the game hasn’t forgotten its roots as a platformer at heart and Kazzoie still plays a major role in assisting you through the world but in a much different way than players of the old Banjo would have come to expect.
Tags: banjo, rare, Xbox, Xbox 360