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9mm – Hands-on impressions

A few weeks ago, Gameloft invited us to try out a brand new game they have in the works… here are our impressions…

9mm follows the exploits of a Narcotics Cop called Kannon, as he takes on the gangs and kingpins on the streets of Los Angeles. With the stress of constant work and fear for their lives, Kannon and his team make the decision to keep the horde of drug money, from recent busts, for themselves. The gang leaders catch wind of this and put a huge price on their heads causing everyone and anyone to come gunning for them. Cue then a story where they must take down every gang leader in the city one by one.

Gameloft stressed to us the importance of creating a new IP that was far more original in scope than their previous releases. Many of those games borrowed heavily from hit console games; such as NOVA from Halo, Hero of Sparta from God of War, and Shadow Guardian from Uncharted. Comparisons to a particular game are less clear cut with 9mm, though it is clearly influenced by games such as True Crime and Max Payne, especially the latter’s use of bullet time during John Woo-style shootouts.

9mmscreen_-1For those expecting this to be the first game to feature Unreal technology, I’m afraid you’ll disappointed (we’re hoping to get a look at unreal-based games this E3). However, that’s not to say that 9mm doesn’t look good, far from it. Gameloft’s own engine looks to have been tweaked even further, pushing a higher level of polygon and texture details, ultra-realistic lighting and throwing even lip-syncing into the mix (someone has clearly been listening). Note this only runs on 3GS, iPhone 4 and similar spec iPod Touch’s.

Initially I thought this may be an open world game like True Crime, however it is clear that the whole city is not open to you. Instead levels are set pieces, centered on a particular task and location. In our playtime we took out a nest of dealers in a suburban crack den and infiltrated a gangster hide out at a disused warehouse yard.

Presented in an over the shoulder view, your character is controlled via the, now standard, left analogue stick. With this you can walk, creep and side step. A sprint button can be toggled for faster movement. Changing your viewpoint is also done in the usual Gameloft way of swiping anywhere on screen which when coupled with the left stick lets you manoeuvre around corners as well as allowing you to get a better view of the action.

Gunplay is controlled with a tap or hold of an action button. While a sliding weapon selector up top lets you choose from your stash of weapons. We tried out a few pistols and a pretty powerful shotgun, but the most fun were the dual wield pistols. Those coupled with a bullet time slow-mo system allowed for some true John woo style action. The slow-mo is controlled with a small right stick above the action button. Depending on the direction it’s swiped will make your character leap in that direction, guns blazing and in slow motion. While in the air you can aim directly at enemies and take them out with more precision. There is a slow-mo gauge that slowly fills up, so you can’t use it indefinitely.

9mmscreen_-3There’s no duck and cover in this game, it’s a straight up shooter, and in our playtime we were involved in some pretty intense shootouts, particular with a hard-ass boss in the basement of the crack den. This isn’t a tactical wartime shooter, so expect enemies to come at you guns blazing at all times.

As well as the standard shootouts, 9mm features an interrogation mini quest. On catching a gang member you must shake him down until he tells all, enabling you to find out where to head next. This reminded me of the arcade classic APB, though here it’s presented in a quick-time event style as opposed to joystick waggle. Don’t expect any LA: Noire style detective work here, but they are fully voice acted and offer a break from the run and gun action. Also promised are chase sections and dodge sequences for variation, but we didn’t’ see these in action.

On to the sound now and 9mm features some pretty cool tunes. The game is set in LA gangland, so it’s no surprise that the game features gangster rap. While acting as a soundtrack, the tunes are also atmospheric, blaring from the rooms of the gangsters hideout where it gets louder the closer you get. It’s also used to highlight moments of action; in particular we experienced this in an action set piece where the music kicked in as we fell in slow-mo from a skylight, taking out the bad guys on the way down.

9mm_5The voice work is perhaps a little heavy on language, with the game designers getting a little trigger-happy with the F-bomb. But then this isn’t a game for kids. In fact I’d say this is without doubt Gameloft’s most adult game, featuring not only gratuitous language but also intense violence. I’m not easily offended, in fact I like my games to not shy away from adult themes, but some people may find this a step too far.

Overall I came away impressed with 9mm. It shows a lot of promise in becoming a polished action title, with a decent 90′s gangster style story. Look out for more in the coming weeks, including a full hands-on video of our playtime with the game.

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Here’s a scene-by-scene breakdown of the first level we played!

9mm_3The game opens with Kannon cruising an LA neighbourhood in his undercover car. Passing some shady looking characters, and giving a wave to a passing patrol car, he takes a call from Police HQ alerting him to gunshots in a nearby area, or as he describes it “…a fucking gang war”. After starring out some hip-hop thugs, he speeds off to the rendezvous point. It all plays out a bit like a scene from Boyz in Hood.

Next we are in control of Kannon outside the gang’s hideout. Here we creep down the side alley of the house to the back yard where we encounter our first Gangster pimping out his ride. “Police! Freeze, fucker!” shouts Kannon, as we hit the bullet time button and sending Kannon in the air, bullets flying. The gangster flails in a hail of bullets (think Tropic Thunder, but less funny) before dropping to the floor.

9mm_42Thuds of hip hop base emanate from the rear of the house, as we creep closer and through the door to be greeted by a clearer sound of hip hop and some chilled out, stoner, gangsters. Another fire fight, though this time the extra thug makes things more interesting. There’s no where to hide, so it’s all about making the most of the slow-mo to get the critical hits. In this case we end with a shot to the head presented with a nice bullet cam view.

Upstairs now, and after a little wander around admiring the detailed textures, we overhear another posse in a room nearby, planning to jump Kannon. “Not today pincheros,” Kannon mutters to himself, as we move to an adjacent window and climb out onto the roof. A few gestures here and a gesture there and we are on the roof. Kannon’s team turns up in a car across the road. He signs them to keep quiet and stay back. “It’s raining bacon motherfuckers” screams Kannon, to which we then launch Kannon through a skylight and down into the gangs den. The game morphs into bullet time and the music kicks in. As Kannon falls in slow-mo, we pin point the enemy and take them out.

9mm_6From here we direct Kannon down into the basement for a match up with the main gang boss and his henchmen. Utilising some cover from columns and furniture we take out the henchmen with relative ease, before devoting our attention to the much tougher boss who’s more than reluctant to go down. A few lost lives later and the level concludes with the team entering a rather disheveled suburban house, to find a haul of crack… and a monologue of what happens next.

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  • mjselvig

    This looks so awesome. Can’t wait.

  • Tex

    I think this is L.A Noire without finding clues and interviewing people :-) )

  • Nico

    Sounds good. Will be picking this up soon

  • nizy

    @Tex, then it’s not LA Noire is it, as that is pretty much the entire point of that game. Nigel makes this out to be an action game with some filler content to interrogate gang members.

    Anyhow, this to me looks like it could be Gameloft’s most original iOS title to date (I know that’s not saying much really), and hopefully a sign of the path they will take going forward.

  • ADR

    I’m looking forward to this game althought I’m a bit disappointed this isn’t free roaming.

  • Svet

    WOW! This is one of the most exceptional games to come from gameloft ever! Looks amazing!

  • Bradley Friedman

    So there is no grand theft auto-style walking around and killing for fun?

    Very upsetting.

  • Cris305

    Very cool looking game! I want this one so bad, it looks fun.

  • Luis

    and release date?

  • Nigel Wood

    It wasn’t a finished build we played, so I expect a month or so before release.

  • Bradley Friedman

    @Nigel Wood,
    Can you confirm that there is no grand theft auto-style free roam mode? Thanks.

  • Nigel Wood

    having played two levels (the onus on the word levels) I’m pretty confident it’s not free roam.

  • http://gamelidz.blogspot.com Daniel Likin

    @Nigel

    But i believe there is gonna be a car chase gameplay in some certain levels, where Kannon has to pursuit some big hard-ass boss.. Gameloft always have diversity to offer to their fans..

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