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El Matador Preview

El Matador pack shot
Developer:Plastic Reality Technologies
Genre:Third Person Action/Shooter
Official Site:http://www.elmatador.net/
Release Date:August 18, 2006 (UK)
Writer:Craig Dudley (Mani)
Buy now at Amazon.co.uk

El Matador from Plastic Reality Technologies presents itself as a third person action game in which your task it to wipe out drug lords in Latin America. I'm not sure what the distinctions between and action game and a shooter are, but I would call El Matador a third person shooter without doubt, indeed it seems to play very much like an FPS. The camera angle moving around while it looks over your shoulder or from one side to the other rarely distracts you from your crosshair.

Weapon selections will remind you more of Counter-Strike than anything else, however you do seem to have access to many more guns, from pistols to dual Uzi's and an MP5, also the AK47 and several variants of M16's along with the occasional rifle. All the weapons feel great and kick accordingly when you fire, which is mostly in bursts.

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The addition of a slow motion bullet time like feature in addition to the third person perspective will inevitably lead to comparisons with Max Payne, but you'll spend much more time outside battling it out with members of drug gangs in this game, sometimes alone and others with members of your police team. The AI of your enemy isn't yet finished but they do take cover often and pop out to shoot at you in what I imagine would be a semi-realistic way. Squad AI isn't terrible either but my buddies never seemed to last too long, perhaps by design.

Maybe the comparisons with other games are a little unfair; it's been three years or so since Max Payne last graced our computers and there's only so much you can do with a shooter after all. The trick is to make it good fun, similarities with other games then don't matter all that much. Plastic Reality seem well on their way to accomplishing that goal, I've quite enjoyed playing El Matador but I'm hoping for some welcome variety in the episodes we didn't get to see. At this point I would add that there do not seem to be any multiplayer options, I'm not sure what form multiplayer might take if it were included either but suggest that co-op multiplayer could be very interesting.

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The three level preview version we played included three very different settings, firstly you fight it out with one particular gang in the back streets of a Columbian city. Then it's onto a thick lush South American jungle and finally we end up in a busy dockyard. It doesn't look like these are the only settings as it would seem there are at least 6 episodes in the final game. All three environments we do see are well made but seem a little rough round the edges in places but this is an early preview copy and I would expect most of these things to be tidied up nicely before shipping date comes around.

The engine would seem to be very capable and uses lots of fancy buzzword filled rendering techniques that I'm not really qualified to discuss, or to be frank am all that interested in. Suffice to say that in many ways it does look very good indeed and really doesn't perform badly at all, even before it's been fully optimised. We also have a pretty decent physics system as is pretty much necessary these days, though it's not overly used.

El Matador certainly warrants a look, it has the potential to be a solid and fun shooter. While it isn't all that unique, it is the only game quite like this that's been released on the PC for a number of years. As always, we hope there will be a demo to try before you buy.

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