Interview: Dredd vs. Death
31st Jul 2003 | 14:34
Fans of, and indeed owners of, comic 2000 AD, UK-based developer Rebellion will soon be delivering up first-person shooter Judge Dredd: Dredd vs. Death to the masses. The title is based on the Judge Dredd strip from the comic, and finds players filling the boots of the Mega-City One future cop, busting perp ass and tracking down arch-enemy Judge Death.
Dredd vs. Death is due on PC, PS2 and Xbox on September 26 and GameCube in November, giving us enough time to sneak in a quick chat with Rebellion before launch. Talking about the game and future plans for other titles based on 2000AD strips is the developer's CEO and creative director Jason Kingsley.
Interview conducted by self-confessed 2000 AD addict Steve Colton.
Judge Dredd is such a brilliant character for a videogame with such a rich backstory, that the actual creation of that game must be a little daunting. Can you tell us about that?
Kingsley: I don't think we ever really felt daunted by approaching the Dredd licence, because we were far too busy getting excited about all the aspects of the Dredd universe we could adapt for the game. As long-term fans of the character ourselves, it was easy for us to understand what the fans would expect from the game.
For instance, it was obvious that players would want to play as Dredd himself, and naturally they'd want to face off against Dredd's most infamous adversaries, the Dark Judges. Creating the look and feel of the characters and Mega-City One's environments was a bit more tricky - after all, which artist's "definitive" take on the Dredd universe do you follow?
In the end, we decided to take the best elements from a range of styles and combine them into an "essential" Mega-City One for the game. I have to say that as a developer, licensor and most importantly as a Dredd fan, I am very pleased with what we've managed to achieve with the game.
Has long-time writer John Wagner been involved with the script for the game?
Kingsley: John hasn't been involved directly with the script, but of course his influence is all over the game. As owners of 2000 AD, we are in the enviable position of having the entire 26-year history of the character at our fingertips, so it has been very easy for the game's scriptwriters to draw influences from John's work on Dredd.
Congratulations on the look of Mega-City One, we've been following the development of the title and it looks very distinctive compared to the other shooters we've seen this year. Just what kind of areas can we expect to see in the final game? Will you be able to gain access to many buildings or is the game set predominantly on the streets?
Kingsley: I'm delighted you like the look of Mega-City One. A lot of work has gone into it and we're very pleased with the result. The game won't just be set on the streets of the city, as there will be a mix of indoor and outdoor areas in most levels of the game.
We have tried to make each level as distinctive as possible, so for example the Docks level looks suitably grimy and rain-soaked, while the MegaMall is the archetypal brightly-lit, spotless shopping area (well apart from all the zombie blood), and the Undercity is a scene of devastation and dereliction.
Variety is the key, within levels as well as between levels, so we have tried to combine different types of area, offering different gameplay demands. One minute you may find yourself fighting off hordes of zombies in a big open area, and the next you'll be creeping down a dingy corridor, keeping an eye out for ambushes.
Does this game relate to any particular period in Dredd's history then, or do you just choose elements from all over without worrying too much about the chronology?
Kingsley: I think that Dredd fans would be annoyed if we played fast and loose with the chronology of the character by featuring elements that didn't exist at the same time in the comic strip, so we have made sure that the game is consistent with recent history in the comic.
The development team liased closely with the editors of the magazines to make sure the game could be slotted into continuity, and that there was nothing in the game that contradicted the comic, to the point that the game story has been slotted into Dredd continuity in the year 2122, just before the recent Judge Death story, "My Name is Death".
So what kind of elements from the comic strips can we expect to see? Boing? Chopper? Mean Angel?
Kingsley: None of the above in this game, I'm afraid, though I wouldn't entirely rule them out from expansions or future Dredd titles. We didn't want to produce a game where each level involves you wading through a couple of dozen minions, then facing off against a random "boss" drawn from the pages of the comic, because that is not how Dredd stories work.
In 2000 AD, Dredd generally has to deal with one villain or group at a time, within a well-structured storyline that maybe features a few peripheral characters, and that is something we wanted to reflect in the game.
That said, there will be a whole host of familiar elements from the comic, naturally, including the lovely Judge Anderson (it would be difficult to do a Death story without her), as well as Chief Judge Hershey, fatties, Med-Judges, scrawlers, Grot-Pots, H-Wagons, Lawmasters and many, many more recognisable items.
Eagle-eyed gamers may also want to keep an eye out, for although characters like Chopper won't appear in the game, some of them may well have left their "mark" around the place.
What kind of modes can we expect to see in the multiplayer game?
Kingsley: Dredd Vs. Death contains a wide range of multiplayer modes, from the customary deathmatch and team deathmatch modes to more involved modes such as "Block War", where two teams of players have to take out residents of an opposing block, and "Umpty Raid", where teams of perps and Judges have to locate a stash of the illegal narcotic candy "Umpty" and take it back to base.
We have tried to theme each of the multiplayer modes according to storylines or events that have appeared in 2000 AD's Dredd stories, to maintain the Mega-City One feel of the game.
Multiplayer settings can be tweaked to even the hardened gamer's heart's content, offering a highly customisable experience, and there will be nearly sixty multiplayer skins available (depending on how many the player has won at the end of each single-player level), plus of course all the weapons and hardware from the single-player game.
The console multiplayer modes will offer gameplay for up to four players (plus up to 12 bots), split-screen, with all the features of the single-player game such as full ragdoll, lighting effects and so on enabled.
The PC version of the game will offer multiplayer for up to 32 players over LAN and online. All versions of the game will also offer the ability to play through the single-player game co-operatively with another player on split-screen (the PC version also offers co-operative play over LAN and online).
As well as shooting perps, you can arrest them too - what kind of benefit will this give the player?
Kingsley: The arrest mode in Dredd Vs. Death encourages gamers to play in a way that is faithful to how Dredd would act in certain situations, so depending on how you play it can dish out rewards or punishments.
There is a "law meter" at the bottom right of the screen, which will fill up if you apply the law correctly, such as by arresting perps rather than killing them (the game allows you to shoot people in the leg or knock the gun out of their hand to force them to surrender), but it will drop if you break the law, by killing innocents or fellow Judges, or allowing a perp you've arrested to be killed by someone else.
If you keep the law meter high, you are rewarded with a number of multiplayer skins depending on your ranking, plus bonus "arcade" levels. However, if the law meter hits bottom, your fellow Judges will be ordered to take you down, and you won't be able to complete the objectives.
Rather than just throwing up a "Game Over", the player is allowed to continue for as long as they can survive against the other Judges, which is generally not very long for all but the hardened gamer!
Anything else glaringly obvious that we should know about the game?
Kingsley: There's plenty of other cool stuff in the game, but we don't want to reveal everything and spoil all the surprises for gamers.
So which character are you guys talking about bringing to the videogame arena next? We'd like to see old style Sam Slade with Hoagy, and how about the Strontium Dog "Max Bubba" story? And what's the story with the Rogue Trooper game?
Kingsley: We put together a demo for a potential Rogue Trooper game which has raised a great deal of interest from publishers, but as to whether Rogue will be the next 2000 AD-licenced game, you'll just have to watch this space.
Everyone has their favourite character they'd like to see turned into a game, especially here at Rebellion, and there are so many great characters - Slaine, Nemesis, ABC Warriors, Strontium Dog, the possibilities are nearly endless - so it's a challenge to decide what to do next, although that's not a bad situation to be in!