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HEI$T

Stay cool and nobody gets hurt, as Jon Blyth steals an early look at Codemasters' stylish new bank-robbing caper, Hei$t

If you were a pensioner, and I said "1960s San Francisco" to you, you'd probably tut and roll your eyes, or else go all misty-eyed and complain that you just can't get decent LSD anymore. It depends what kind of pensioner you are, really.

As it happens, this is the exact setting for Hei$t, the Hollywood-inspired robbery sim from developer inXile - though the closest you'll get to any peace-and-love daisy-age nonsense here is driving your getaway car through a crowd full of hippies.

It's been a while since the last free-roaming crim sim rolled off the production lines, and astute readers will have noticed that the fallback phrase 'sub-GTA' hasn't been used in these pages for months. So is Hei$t, with its carefully chosen era and location, aiming to fill that Rockstar-shaped hole? Not according to Sean Patton, the senior designer at inXile.

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"It's all about being a badass bank robber," he explains. "We didn't really think about other games when we were coming up with Hei$t, we just started with all the things that make bank robbery exciting. The perfect plan, the gunfights, leading a hand-picked crew of expert thieves, car chases and so on." Apparently, these are the raw ingredients of what makes robbing banks cool. In that hypothetical way that you'd have to be lightly psychotic to actually enjoy.

Hei$t will take you through the preparation, execution and getaway of a variety of different robberies. As Patton explains, the preparation comes in the form of "getting better equipment, developing and improving skills, or making allies on the inside."

Once you're in, the execution will have to be tailored to the environment. It'll be a lot easier to keep the crowds under control on the floor in a bank than in a strip club, for example; people tend to want to leave those places when the hypnotic boobs stop swinging. And bouncers are more likely to act twitchy than the cops, so keep an eye out for them buggers.

REACH FOR THE SKY
You can go mental and kill everyone if you like, and it might even work once or twice. But Patton has a word of warning for the gung-ho mentalists in the audience. "Once the police know they have a bloodthirsty band of robbers in town, banks will improve their security. Police will shoot on sight and shoot to kill. You don't want to be Bonnie and Clyde."

Without ruining the Bonnie and Clyde story for anyone, they died in the end.
There will also be a multiplayer element (more details on which soon), and some classic characters, including a mentally imbalanced safe-cracker, trash-talking muscle and an older mentor called Uncle Sam.

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If it all feels familiar, that's the point. Our love affair with bank robberies is entirely down to the cinema, rather than having our lives directly threatened by violent gangs - and Hei$t is bound to flirt with the well-loved caper-film cliches.

"Design meetings for Hei$t would frequently evolve into 'then we could do that scene from Heat'," agrees Patton, "or 'remember in Point Break? Let's do that!' I hope players get the same rush that inspired us when we watched those classic scenes." We hope so too, although we could probably do without Keanu Reeves.

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