Planet of the Apes Video Game
Publisher: Fox Interactive
Developer: Visiware Studios
Projected Release Date: Second Quarter 2000
Fox Interactive's Planet of the Apes will be the first Dreamcast
title to emerge from the company. The game was first announced at the E3
Expo in Los Angeles this year as a PlayStation game, nonetheless, and
reintroduced recently at ECTS as a Dreamcast title. Only a video sequence
was shown by company reps, alongside some scantily clad cave dwellers, so
very little is known at this point.
We do know that Planet of the Apes will be an adventure game based on
the same-named movie and the original story by Pierre Boulle. You play
Ulysses, the only human survivor of a ship that crashes to earth 1,000
years in the future. The game will be a bit of a trip down food-chain
lane, because once you arrive, you find that humans are the main course
and that apes rule the planet.
The game will include about 15 levels, with 70 sublevels, where you'll
sneak, fight, solve puzzles, and explore across three modes of play -
normal, athletic, and stealth. Original characters from the movie, such as
Dr. Zira, Dr. Zaius, and Dr. Cornelius, among others, can be found in the
game. We'll have a lot more on Planet of the Apes in the coming months,
but for now, take a look at the early shots.
Click images for larger view.
For more images and the latest news, visit http://www.videogames.com/dream/adventure/poapes/index.html.
For a number of years many fans have been waiting for one of
science-fiction's greatest licenses to make its way to the small screen in the
form of a videogame adventure. This epic would be none other than Planet of
the Apes. Needless to say, one of the highlights of this past E3 in May was
the announcement that Fox Interactive would be bringing Planet of the Apes
(hereafter POTA) to the home market.
The problem with most licensed properties is that the games are either rushed
or a genre is forced onto a license - or both. Batman, for example, might be a
great license, but it doesn't fit neatly into one single industry genre. POTA,
one of the more recognizable franchises in movie history, can work as an action
title, an RPG adventure, or even a strategy game.
Dubbed an action-adventure title by Fox, POTA mixes liberally from both the
movie and Pierre Boulle's groundbreaking book but is really its own story. You
play as Ulysses, the sole human survivor who crash-lands a spaceship on an
uncharted planet one thousand years in the future. Here the apes rule, and you
While most fans would attach a fair amount of nostalgia concerning the
movies, it's understandable why Fox would want to create a new hero to base its
story on. Even so, Charlton Heston as Taylor and James Fransiscus as Brent in
the second movie are pretty much ingrained in the consciousness of the POTA fan.
It would have been nice to have the opportunity to play them or even James
Naughton (Burke) and Ron Harper (Virdon) from the short-lived 1974 CBS TV
series. But, of course, the premise of the TV series was about a different group
of astronauts and was set hundreds of years before the Heston movie. So if the
TV series can create a new set of heroes, it is not unreasonable for the game
series to do the same.
In the movies and the TV series, the ape society is fairly primitive (no pun
intended - really). There are guns, of course, but the society is a lot less
advanced than the society in the book. Fox has come up with a storyline that
includes a conspiracy within the ape government to keep secret the discoveries
that have been made within the Forbidden Zone. These discoveries include not
only proof of a great human civilization, but equipment and gadgets that will be
used against Ulysses.
The game features three modes of play: stealth, normal, and athletic. There
are currently 15 major levels, and within these major levels are 70 sublevels.
Overall, gameplay is a mixture of puzzle solving, stealth, and trickery,
combined with battles against nefarious foes. Hence, the hybrid designation
action-adventure. Therefore, the standard "collect everything you can pick
up" of adventure games is combined with taking out a gorilla soldier.
Enemies come in various shapes and sizes. One of the more interesting things
about POTA was the primate distinction. Chimpanzees such as Cornelius and Zira,
played beneath a lot of makeup by Roddy McDowell and Kim Hunter, were the
scientists. The orangutans were the politicians, while the military consisted of
the gorillas. This was a very clever way of setting up different reactions and
motivations based on visual cues. Added to this mix now are the mandrills, who
form the militia, and the baboons, who are used mainly as a labor force (there
is also a band of baboons on the loose).
Each of these groups will have its own social structure and abilities. The AI
will reflect this, giving multiple reactions from the same ape group. Each group
also fights (or doesn't, in the case of the chimpanzees) in a distinctive style,
and this will encourage you to use different tactics as appropriate. In addition
to the ape foes, there are mutated rats, giant bats, and rabid hyenas.
Sometimes it's funny to read press releases. The game has "over one
thousand amazingly realistic motion-captured character animations." I do
wonder where they found the apes walking around, acting in human ways, to do the
motion capture. Obviously, a lot of the animations are related to the Ulysses
character and the amount of combat he is involved with.
Speaking of combat, Fox is talking about a rather extensive range of combat
options. Rifles, shotguns, and lasers guns are all used in weapon combat. Sniper
mode is starting to become a standard, and POTA is no exception and will offer
this useful feature. The targeting system is described as Zelda-like, using a
lock-on system moving from enemy to enemy. Handheld weapons include a club and a
machete, but probably most interesting is that the game also includes
hand-to-hand combat. Ulysses will have a variety of kicking and punching moves
to complement the weapons. Three distinct combat modes are hard to pull off, but
when it is done so successfully, it greatly adds to overall gameplay.
What may make or break POTA is the character interaction and voice acting.
The game features more than 2,000 lines of dialogue, and fans will have an
expectation of quality. Fortunately, it sounds like the producers have stayed
away from the obvious potential for monkey puns and instead are trying hard to
make this a real story-driven project. Details of the interface setup remain
sketchy, but, at this point, the camera is said to be similar to the Resident
Evil series with movie-style zooms, cuts, and pans. While the main female
character, Nova, is described as scantily clad and intelligent, there are lots
of other scantily clad and not-so-scantily clad characters for you to interact
To many POTA fans, Roddy McDowell remains synonymous with the license. His
passing leaves a great void, and it would be nice if Fox Interactive found a way
to acknowledge what he means to the franchise. A licensed product is generally a
tricky thing to pull off. For every successful GoldenEye, there are literally
hundreds of poor examples of movie-based software. Fox Interactive's challenge
is to take the time needed to make a great game. With a new movie rumored to be
coming out in the summer of 2001, there is no pressure on Fox to rush Planet of
the Apes. Here is an opportunity for Fox to create a long-term software
franchise starting in the third quarter of 2000.