How many times have you been watching the latest appalling reality TV show and thought - "Gosh, wouldn't it be nice if they'd just all kill each other?"
It's obviously a thought that's run through the heads of French developer KyloTonn, because that's exactly the premise of their new title, Bet on Soldier. In the future, as is so often the case, there is a war going on. Elite mercenaries form a crucial part of the battle line, being better equipped, better trained and better paid than the rank and file. There are occasions on the battlefield where these mercenaries meet head on - and that's when you get some awesome fighting action that's a spectacle to watch. Who could resist a flutter?
10 bucks on the one with the rocket launcher
Bet on Soldier aims to be a FPS with a difference. In fact, make that differences
- it sports a few unique features, merely the first of which is the betting system. You play the game as a mercenary with a small pile of money. Use that money to kit yourself out with armour, weapons, even grunts to back you up in a tight spot. Each map is another battlefront, with objectives to clinch - and other mercenaries to meet and battle.
Here's where things take a twist. You can place your virtual cash on the outcome of these battles, enabling you to make some serious cash - and buy some serious upgrades - should you be the victor. Lose, and you're off the battlefield and off the payroll. KyloTonn call is 'hand to mouth gaming' - no money, no weapons, no chance.
We like to get our hands dirty
We had the chance to go hands-on with the game and found it pretty intriguing. Whilst we only had early code to play with, the gameplay mechanics were evident. Each kill on the battlefield earns you more cash, with big kills obviously generating more cash.
It can get a little difficult to know what's going on, and unfortunately, the battle arenas are a little linear. In the early levels we played, the game felt a little 'on rails' - blow this door, follow this corridor, ignore the doors that are locked, go through the only open exit, take the only trench across the map, etc. We hope that the final version has levels that are a little more open ended.
There's a huge selection of weapons available to you, and even with just a bit of cash you can afford some decent guns. The use of shields provides some different dynamics, and provides some extra usage for grenades. The weapons themselves can be pretty good, but they're a little hit-and-miss (no pun intended) - some are great and some are a little weedy.
Extra ammunition can be bought from dispensers on the battlefield, and you can also exchange money for save game tickets.
Playing through 3 preview levels, we found moments of gameplay that were pretty funky, and moments that were rather less than. The first time you find an ammo dispenser, or the first time you see mercenaries parachuting onto the Battlefield in front of you, those are cool experiences. What's less cool is seeing epic landscapes and not seeing epic fighting going on across them - whilst there's always action around you, there's never a sense of being part of a larger war effort with battles going on all around you.
The Joy of Tech
It's not just the gameplay that makes BoS different. It sports some cutting edge graphics and physics technology that should raise an eyebrow.
First off, it's a Nvidia 'The Way It's Meant to Be Played' title. This means - you guessed it - Shader Model 3 support. Throughout the levels, you can spot the odd cool effect here and there - some awesome armour bump mapping, or a fantastically lit underground passage.
However, the graphics appear a little schizophrenic. You can be walking down a gorgeous tunnel one moment, then land yourself outside in a canyon that could have almost come out of Half Life. The first one. We really hope the art assetts are tidied up for the final release - we obviously want the huge outdoor arenas, but we don't want bad texturing to compensate for the geometry.
More interestingly, the game is one of the first to support the Ageia PhysX PPU, the dedicated physics processor. The game uses the Novodex physics engine for full support. Obviously, we couldn't test this feature, since we don't have a PPU in our rig just yet, but look for these to start arriving pretty soon - BoS itself is out in September, so we'd expect the PPU to be shipping around that time.
While you're waiting for it to launch, take a look over at BetOnSoldier.com
which has some more info, and look out for the full review here soon.