Amy – first-look preview

We love a good survival horror game, but it’s a genre that’s difficult to get right. That’s why we’re excited that publisher Lexis Numerique is taking a chance on Amy, a new title that aspires to be in similar vein to Silent Hill 2. It’s a tale of a woman trying to escape from point A to point B in the midst of chaos and zombie outbreak, which we’re told will take her through all manner of environments. The zombie infection scenario might seem a little trite, but the story does do things to set itself apart, mainly involving the titular young girl, Amy. The developers at VectorCell also seem keen to try some new things gameplay-wise, with the hope of keeping us tensely on our toes throughout Amy’s six hour campaign.

You play as protagonist Lana, who’s trying to travel from her crashed train to a hospital where her friend is working on a cure for the zombie outbreak. She discovers a mysterious girl named Amy, who not only is completely immuneto the infection, but also radiates a healing field so that when you stand near her you recover all health. You don’t have a traditional HUD as such, but taking a cue from Dead Space, your health is shown by a circular light attached to your back. Green means healthy, yellow is iffy, and when you go into the red it means you’re on the verge of succumbing to the zombie virus. Lana’s appearance gradually changes too, and when she’s in the red she’s more or less indistinguishable from a zombie.

Lana’s transformation factors into the gameplay too, and sometimes you actually need to let her go into the red in order to survive. You see, Lana’s combat skills are about on par with James’s in Silent Hill 2 – she can pick up an object like a crowbar to melee in a pinch, but she’s no action hero. If she needs to pass through a heavily infested area, she can avoid detection from the zombie hordes by letting her infection advance to the point where she’s still mentally in control of herself, but infected enough to fool the real zombies into assuming she’s one of them. Since there’s no HUD, you don’t know exactly how long she has left until her infection is past the point of no return – there’s no timer telling you how many seconds you have left before Game Over. This creates a delicate balancing act, where you have to make tense judgment calls about whether to run for the med pack or try to continue racing through the crowds of zombies and hope the infection doesn’t take over.

The scene we saw in the demo was much quieter than a horde of zombies though, as Lana and Amy tried to sneak through a dilapidated train station without being detected. Whilst exploring, Lana can command Amy to hide in various cabinets, lockers and whatnot while she explores, but if she strays too far from Amy she has to either use a med pack to heal or return to Amy before shefalls victim toinfection. If a zombie approaches, Lana can also hide and wait for the threat to pass, but she has to be careful that the zombie has moved on before emerging. While in the cabinet, you can peek through a crack in the doors to look for potential threats. Reflections play a big role here, and you can often catch a glimpse of a hidden zombie by spotting its reflection in a mirror or other reflective surface – that is, if the zombie doesn’t smash the object first. When you’re holding Amy’s hand, you can also feel her heartbeat when you hold down the R1 button, which gets faster the nearer the monsters are. It’s a cool touch that feels reminiscent of Silent Hill’s radio static that rises as you approach an enemy.

We didn’t get any hands-on time with the game, so it’s hard to say whether the gameplay will back up what we’ve seen so far, but it looks promising. Although nothing in the short demo we saw hinted at any gameplay problems (it’s especially hard to say when we’re not in control of the game), the emphasis on escorting Amy unavoidably leaves ussomewhat skeptical – escort missions are usually not the most celebrated aspects of any game. Publisher Lexis Numerique is hoping though that people will be willing to take the risk though and give it a try, because of its low price point ($12) compared to a full retail release. Graphics-wise, it looks impressively on-par with a full retail release too, and we’re told that it will offer about six hours of gameplay when it releases on PSN in June. Look for our full review then.

Apr 5, 2011

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