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E3 2005: Kameo: Elements of Power
game: E3 2005: Kameo: Elements of Power
posted by: Eric Bodrero
publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
developer: Rare
ESRB rating: RP (Rating Pending)
date posted: 12:00 AM Fri May 27th, 2005
last revision: 12:00 AM Fri May 27th, 2005

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Click to read.Well, it's been one year since we played Kameo: Elements of Power on the Xbox at E3 2004; we've waited all this time and still have no Kameo. Then to hear Rare announce that they were holding Kameo's release for the Xbox 360 didn't exactly make me do cartwheels.  Back then I had no idea when the next big box from Microsoft would actually show up. However, now that we know that Microsoft's new behemoth will be debuting this year, and that Kameo will be launching at the same time, I've managed to calm myself down just a bit (and sneak in one little cartwheel). Thanks in large part to good old-fashioned advancing technology and a little kick in the tail from the Xbox 360 engineers, seeing Kameo rear its beautiful head again with a brand new shine and sheen makes me feel extremely thankful that Rare has decided to wait for the extra bells and whistles that the Xbox 360 brings to the table.

Last year, Kameo sat by itself in a lonely little corner of the Microsoft booth, only occasionally discovered by some player that picked up the joystick to give it a try.  This year, Kameo was planted right in the middle of an ocean of gamers, and saw hordes of eager fans in half-circles around the display.  Showing off all the details of Rare's newly rebuilt work of art was a rep with a Britney Spears-like headset, nearly shouting at the crowd.

I couldn't help but be absolutely mesmerized by the graphical overhaul Kameo has undergone, from the vibrant, lush colors to the crystal clear and fluid animation of the characters. Kameo no longer looks like a pixilated character running around in a digital universe, but now takes on a more life-like persona, complete with swaying hair, moving eyelashes, articles of clothing that flutter and ripple in the wind, flexing muscle, and just about anything else you'd care to see (okay, maybe not THAT). Particle effects shimmer and glitter, creating captivating special effects that could finally silence those who are never graphically satisfied.  The days change to night in realistic fashion, and for the first time Kameo really demonstrates what it means to be in high definition.  The backgrounds are visible from a long ways away because of the game's awesome draw distances, and nearly everything you can see can be visited.  We want people to have a sense of where to be,? says Lee Schuneman, Group Program Manager at Rare.  We don't want you to ever feel lost.?  

I could go on all day. But needless to say, speaking purely from an aesthetical point of view, the difference between last year's and this year's showing of Kameo are like pitch-black to snow-white. However, that's just the beginning. Perhaps the biggest graphical oomph? came not in what Kameo looked like, but in what it could do on screen. I saw thousands - yes, I said thousands - of enemies on screen at once in an enormous A.I. super battle. On the Xbox, Rare was lucky to have 10 to 15 independently controlled A.I. enemies on the screen at once; with Kameo on the Xbox 360, that number now tops 3000.  Think Braveheart? meets Dynasty Warriors," and you may begin to get an idea of what I'm talking about. Rare calls it their Artificial War Engine. I know a lot of games have touted this ability in PR interviews and whatnot, but nobody has really lived up to their over-hyped statements, until now. It was a truly impressive act of digital delight. Each on-screen character is following his own individualized A.I. commands, which blasts the never-the-same-battle-twice? meter into outer space.

These large battlefields actually serve as a bridge between all the worlds in Kameo, and really give the game a life of its own. And they are not just barren, deserted landscapes, either. Smoke billows in the air - hazing over a plump, bright orange sun - trees and grass sway and dance in the breeze, and dirt flies through the chaos.

Of course, the same elements that were being implied at last year's E3 are still here, but have definitely seen a renovation of their own. The story still goes something like this: evil forces preyed upon humans, and the spirits of brave ancestors roamed the wilderness to protect those who remained. King Solon and Queen Theena ruled a utopian kingdom in the clouds until the evil Thorn, a troll king, erupted a war. Kameo, a fifteen-year-old female elf, must now master her bestowed magic of transformation, seek out courageous warriors, and harness their elemental powers. Only she can turn the tide against Thorn's army, rescue her kidnapped relatives and end Thorn's threat forever. Blah, blah, blah. Sounds like a challenge.

The meat of the game still lies in shape shifting into any one of ten creatures from the five elements of power (Plant, Fire, Ice, Water, and Rock).  This includes a giant carnivorous plant, an ice yeti named Chilla, and a beefy, armadillo-like creature with spikes, which isn't too shabby.  Kameo also has a few quirky abilities of her own, the least of which is being able to fly for short periods with those near translucent wings on her back. Last year, we saw Kameo morphing into these creatures without much hoopla, and once Kameo morphed, she disappeared until the creature morphed back, and as impressive as that was, it was still pretty blasé fare. This time around, we actually see Kameo inside of the creature, working it like a maniacal Big Bird puppeteer, and suddenly Kameo is spiritually connected with these creatures.  We're given a sense of relationship that was completely absent before.

Other elements new to the 360 version are online and co-operative play. During the aforementioned epic battles, which are reserved for pure, unadulterated fighting and chaos (and for traveling between worlds), two Kameos have access to twice as many monster morphs, and can perform debilitating moves on the battlefield, crushing enemies and showcasing the true power of the Xbox 360. One can also choose to solve the game's many puzzles together with multiple players.

Kameo: Elements of Power has gotten a little darker in nature and more mature since E3 2004. No longer is the game an innocent-looking, kiddy-themed game, but more a Lord of the Rings? type enthralling epic, complete with violent battles and excellent voiceovers. However, it still aims to appeal to fans of all game types. According to sources at E3, the game was only running at seventy percent of its final capacity, which means Rare still has some work to do. But with a solid half a year to go before its stated release, the game can only get better. With a projected 30 to 40 hours of gameplay, I can only imagine what the developers have in store for us in the full game, but I'm certainly itching to find out. Stay tuned for more to come from Rare and Kameo.

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