First Person Shooter fans looking for a game that offers something a little different may just find a winner in JoWood Production's The Mark
. Developed by T7 Games, an international development house formed by gaming veterans from Europe and Australia, The Mark aims to capture an audience with its heavy focus on Co-op gameplay and missions built to be replay-friendly. Head of T7 Games development office, Andrzej Wilewski answers a few of our questions with the assitance of Jacek Matuszewski from quality assurance.
GT: Before we we dive into The Mark's gameplay, please tell us about the game's story and its main characters.
Terrorists have stolen a nuclear missile and plan to blast away one of Europe's' largest cities with it: London! The missiles short range is a problem for them, but money isn't! The terrorists have financial backing from Ilya Rakov, the son of a Russian billionaire arms dealer, Aleksandr Rakov!
Ilya agrees to supply the terrorists with a ship that they will use to get the missile within firing range of London.
He also agrees to eliminate the only two people who are capable of foiling the plot, Steve and Sandy Fletcher! Both of which are officers in the US Marine Corps.
Aleksandr Rakov is horrified when he hears of his son?s part in the terrorist plot, but unable to take direct action, he hires the elite mercenary Austin Hawke to protect and assist Fletch and foil the attack?
GT: If you would. please breakdown The Mark's single player experience for our readers. What will make The Mark stand out as an original and exciting experience for a lone gamer?
The Mark comes with its own set of tools to allow people to continue recreating the game. We hope future players create their own mods and maps which should make the game live on!
GT: Would you kindly give our readers a few examples of how The Mark's character switching feature can effect gameplay, especially in regards to adding replay value?
From a tactical standpoint, the game levels differ a lot. Firstly, there are missions where the two heroes fight together, side by side. They follow the same path but use their own weapons and combat skills to navigate through the story line. Their subgoals differ a lot - Fletch mostly plays with explosives destroying what can be destroyed, while Hawke protects his back. These are charge-and-shoot type missions, with lots of enemies to defeat.
Then there are the missions where the heroes are separated and take different paths, but in close proximity to each other. During these missions, the partners maintain radio contact, sometimes also see each other in-game, but fight individually. This adds interesting twists and with it, its own unique challenges being more than a plain shoot'em up massacre! The Heroes have different goals but they also coincide with each other at given times. Whenever one of them gets in trouble, the other comes to the rescue ? destroying a bunker, taking down the helicopter that guards the way, or just attacking the enemies from behind. Close, yet separated! Playing these again as the other guy is amazing fun ? you'll see the events from a different perspective, hearing your partner yell for help as you did playing his character before, but this way you're actually planting the charges and destroying the building that you saw miraculously explode while playing the mission for the first time. This style of game-play really puts you in amongst the action. You see your partner from a totally different perspective, doing what you remember doing yourself playing his part! Suddenly the game feels like much more than just your usual NPC.
Furthermore there are levels solely prepared for a single hero. Both Fletch and Hawke have quite a few, so playing with one specific player you miss not only parts of missions ? you miss entire levels, and truly the vital ones! As one example, after playing a level solely as Fletch you get caught and interrogated. You wake up stunned, and you see Hawke coming to your rescue. How? Well, by playing this chapter as Hawke and you'll have to step in and go for Fletch yourself ? matching the pieces of the puzzle as you go.
And the best part of it is from a players point of view is that the single level missions and tasks match themselves together to the story line perfectly. When playing a mission you've already finished as the previous character, you'll realize ?oh, so that's what he did?!
This is great fun!
GT: We understand that The Mark features some surprisingly rich co-op modes. We would love to hear as much about these features as you would care to say.
In typical coop, two heroes fight side by side. The coop gameplay's more challenging than singleplayer, but then there's double the fire power after all so you'd hope it would be! So it's very challenging and demanding ? enemies are tough and fast ? so the gameplay's extremely satisfying.
On the other hand, the massive cooperative is a small war. The server chooses Fletch or Hawke and leads a team of human Marines, against even tougher and demanding enemies. And there's a lot of them!!
This isn't just two heroes against a small horde anymore. This is a full on battle. The difference is obvious!
The game balance makes you attack anyway. You're out of bullets and life pretty fast, and the only way to get more is to take them from the enemies. If you want to be victorious, fight on! When playing in singleplayer you could slow down once in a while to think of an alternative to get around an assault. On the other hand, in multiplayer, it's a full on enemy charge! And a spectacular one, too!
GT: In terms of combat, what will the Mark offer players in the way of weapons and unique moves?
The Mark features an array of weapons, from the infamous Heckler & Koch MP7 and Colt Commando M4 (a lightweight version of M16), to the vz61 Scorpion and legendary AK47.
We've also included the modern FA Mas, a standard issue to the French armed forces! The ?heavy? fire-power of the M-72 Light Anti-tank weapon (LAW) and the Heckler & Koch HK69a1 Grenade Launcher.
The two hero's Fletch and Hawke have their own unique weapons, with Fletch preferring the Desert Eagle and Hawke using the versatile H&K P2000 and the Remington 870 CBG 12 gauge shotgun.
We couldn't resist the opportunity of including Z300 semi-automatic combat guns either! Although the exact characteristics are shrouded in secrecy, this is known to fire explosive ammo!
The team have concentrated on making the weapons as realistic as possible and went to extraordinary lengths to ensure it! Their looks, cast animation and effects are only limited by the ?enjoyment factor' of gameplay. We didn't want to over complicate the functionality and obstruct the players amusement by making them to difficult to use! Other than that, our ambition was to ensure the real feeling of each of the weapons - one of our designers is former military after all! With additional effects like motion blur, realistic sounds, and the minute attention to detail, you can almost feel the kickback when you pull the trigger!
GT: Between the single player campaign and the sixteen player co-op mode, The Mark's AI is certainly getting a run for its money. Please give us a sense for how intelligent and formidable this AI is.
The Mark in single player is action-packed. It's an FPS through and through. But it's not a straight linear shooter. The game follows a detailed plot, which dramatically changes direction and twists at times. Typically when you're least expecting it!
There are lots of varied enemies, battling in varied environments ? varied not just visually, but also tactically. There are huge halls with wide corridors, dark and dusty caves, colorful and detailed castle chambers, wet and rusty dungeons, open spaces and even a small city! Every one of these require a totally different approach. Enemies fight differently, using obstacles, vehicles, and their obvious knowledge of terrain against you as the player!
The single player mode is very challenging, but playing with a partner helps you stay alive!
The gameplay also changes depending on who you play, as Hawkes aim is to protect the other player, while Fletch is more of an attack pitbull on a rampage. Each of them also has their own unique weapons and combat skills, to increase the fun factor.
GT: What will The Mark offer in the way of deathmatch modes and will players be able to create and share their own deathmatch maps?
There are two deathmatch modes ? a Team Deathmatch and Flag Control. There are always two teams ? Marines and Mercenaries. In a team deathmatch, the team score is calculated from ?frags' ? killing enemies adds points, killing teammates takes points away.
In flag control mode you have to catch points in a map (flags). Once the flag is in your teams procession, points are added the longer you keep hold of it. Of course it can be taken by the enemies, so the game quickly becomes tactical. These are simple rules, but again the gameplay is well balanced and challenging. The weapons are very varied ? you start with simple handheld automatic, then gather machine guns, explosives and the infamous Z300. The levels are massive and not at all simple either ? with lots of hiding places, passages, open ground and pickups. They differ visually, from clean and bright open spaces, to dusty underground halls and corridors, or grey, rainy, closed combat areas. And yes, with the included editor, the players are able to create their own maps, share them and easily add to The Mark map set ? not only deathmatch, but both cooperative modes as well! With the ability to view, modify and learn from our native maps, I'm sure the players will learn fast.
GT: Lastly, please tell us a bit about the graphics engine powering The Mark's visuals.
Due to the different environments, a huge amount of attention has been put into graphics. We tried to make the locations as detailed as possible, with careful texturing and lighting. Obviously the locations are based on reality, and adopted for gameplay. We used thousands of pictures, even taking trips to places to document them ourselves. For example we visited castles, where we took hundreds of photos for the purpose of texturing alone!. On the other hand we wanted to avoid making the graphics appear dreary, so we made our choices carefully.
As for the physics ? apart from the obvious rigid body physics (realistically moving crates, boxes, cans etc) and rag doll physics (natural physics of dead characters, for instance) present in The Mark, we used physics for more spectacular tasks. Exploding a castle tower or an underground bridge with a huge bulldozer are the first that spring to mind!!
GT: Thank you again for your time. Would you care to leave our readers with any final comments or impressions?
We've put all of our enthusiasm and creative flare into developing The Mark, which has included weeks of funfilled playtesting it. We surely hope that you will enjoy playing The Mark as much as we have had creating it!
We at GamingTarget.com would like to extend our thanks to Andrzej Wilewski, JoWood, and T7 Games for making this interview possible. Be sure to look Gaming Target for continued coverage of this interesting FPS. In the meantime, check out JoWood's official The Mark web page.