Sin talk at The Frag 2

"I got 225 pounds of kick a** comin' your way!"

October 30, 1998.
As I began the short decent down the escalator to the Frag2 in Dallas, Texas this past weekend the sweet refrains of "Who's your daddy?" at the Intensor exhibit could be heard from the four machines playing SiNDM9 on my left. Ahead of me lay the Promised Land, the Mecca of all that I'd been waiting for: "SiN." Tom "Paradox" Mustaine, Don "onethumb" MacAskill, and Richard "Levelord" Gray lounged around the waiting area, waiting for the audience to amass. Levelord sauntered off to take a smoke break (*choke* *cough*), and the rest of us chatted and waited for more people to show up. Finally we all entered the room and took our seats. While this was no Carmackian Q3A talk, I was more than impressed by SiN in all its glory.

SiN officially went "gold" (i.e., its Master disc sent for final replication) at 9:01 p.m., October 29, 1998, which just happened to be my 24th birthday. SiN will be in the stores this week sometime, as Activision is working almost as furiously as Ritual does to replicate and ship the games out.

The game will feature approximately 14 deathmatch maps, and as for quality, Levelord himself said, "hey, you think Spry (Behind Zee Bookcase) was good, we gave that one away for free!" The first "patch" issued for the game will probably enable CTF capability with 4 CTF maps and up to 20 additional deathmatch maps. The full game has 40 different monsters, 10 types of Non-Playing Characters and civilians (technicians, bank customers, bums and such), 15 weapons, including 2 "secret" weapons that must be built from parts found in different levels, and 8 drivable vehicles. Every level has its own texture set, so every mission looks unique. From Oil Derrick to Jungle to Bank to Condemned Urban Building, the game has a wide range of settings. There is also a different style of music for each map, from operatic to techno to rock, and the music changes style according to what is happening in the game.

When you are lurking near an action point, the music will ramp up to match the mood, and when you start blasting, the music will jump up even more, then ease down after you've finished committing your sins. Another thing that adds to replay value is that, according to onethumb, it is not possible to see all the levels and parts of levels in less than FOUR runs through the game. That means that it will take you a -minimum- of 24 straight hours of play to see every variation of the game. If you blow up one machine or kill a guard in one area, the rest of the game will be drastically different. There is also an awesome training area in the Hardcorps headquarters where you can test your skillz in sniping, skeet shooting, and deathmatch against waves of AI opponents (it even saves your score!).

Speaking of different, if you had some problems with the two demos, you'll be happy to know that Ritual improved the renderer from the demo version, and took all the feedback, comments, and suggestions to heart and have improved the code of the game a lot. They claim that the net code is optimized to the point that SiN will have less net traffic than a similar game of Quake2. The mappers tried to keep their r_speeds (a measure of how fast the game should play on a minimum system) to around 2000 polygons on-screen, but they aimed more for high FPS (Frames Per Second). Each mapper was required to have a P150-32 on their desk to play the game on, so you know they tried to optimize as much as possible. The minimum system requirements will be a P166 with 32 megs of memory, but I personally have played the SiN Demo on a p100-48 with a Voodoo1, so I know the game is playable even on a below-spec system. The smallest game install will be 90 Megs, with 300 and 400 MB choices, and a maximum 600 MB install. One thing that is really exciting about this is the inclusion of a Custom Install option, letting you put the game and sound effects on your hard drive, for example, and keeping music and cinematics on the CD.

HEAT is included on the CD, and GameSpy support is built-in. Also included is full A3D v2 support, so the sound will support many of the new sound cards from Diamond and Turtle Beach with Aureal Vortex2 chipsets. Speaking of cinematics, expect to see many of them in SiN. There are 15-20 in-game cinematics that use the engine, and they look nice. To be perfectly honest, some of the actors need better directing, but altogether they are totally inline with the game's feel, and hey, it's always hilarious to see someone get bitch-slapped. Levelord also says to expect some really good cinematics, as Elexis makes an appearance in many different outfits and even "Rub-A-Dub-Dubs" in the tub! Professional actors did all the voices, and they sound good (even though JC will still annoy some people, they did improve his "icon" when he talks to you). For a game that started out 20 months ago as a spy game, the Ritual team has worked another miracle. The gameplay is VERY unique, and has tons of replay value and will change depending on what you do. There is lots of eye candy to go with the gameplay, from machines that work, to puzzles to solve, to different paths to complete the game in. Add Elexis in a bathtub and I think Ritual has got a hit on its hands.