E3 2011: Amy
Sitting down at the French developers’ section in South Hall, I had the pleasure to speak with Djamil Kemal, Marketing and Business Development Director of Lexis Numerique, who presented a closer look into their upcoming downloadable title, Amy.
Djamil advised that despite Amy being a survival horror game, they wished to stray from creating a Resident Evil clone. Instead, the team opted for a Silent Hill approach, where instead of guns, the player has to rely more on wit and caution when engaging in melee combat or hiding from sight when empty handed.
The story of Amy takes place during the Christmas season of the year 2034. The passengers of a subway train are looking forward to the holidays, but it isn’t until the last minute when we realize that there are creatures stirring. A sudden zombie outbreak occurs and the train derails into a station. Everyone dies, save two lone survivors.
Though the exact relationship, and reason for companionship, has yet to be revealed, you play as Lana, a young woman who awakens from the wreckage and must protect Amy, an autistic 8-year old girl who carries secrets locked beneath her mute demeanor. As the two make their way through the subway station, they encounter hulking mutants, sporting virus spraying armor, and the infected that emerge from their wake.
In designing Lana, Djamil advised that they wanted to stay off the beaten path of clichéd buxom femme fatales (sorry boob enthusiasts). This is to ensure that the values of human bonding (i.e. overcoming fear to protect one another), between Lana and Amy, can be properly conveyed. Amy, despite being unable to speak, exhibits visible fear, through constant shaking and darting glances. If you leave her alone for too long, she will freak, so don’t be an ass. Don’t think for a second that just because the designers opted for sensibility, they’ve gone frugal in consequence.
Compared to other downloadable titles, Amy, by far, outranks the rest with enough attention to detail to confuse it with a title that’s to be sold in stores. Zooming in on any of the characters’ clothing allows you to see every fiber of their fabric. The environments seem simple, however, an infection from the virus causes the scenery to change into a hellish, rust pit. When Lana becomes infected, we see an astounding transformation where her veins begin to show, her skin gradually cracks and shrivels, and her eyes metamorphose into inhuman oculars.
If you don’t want to add yourself to the growing zombie populace, you’d want to pay attention to Lana’s diagnostic back strap. The tech exhibits a unique light that scans the area, measuring the perimeter’s viral concentration. If the light’s green, the vicinity is clean. Yellow warns that you are approaching infectious territory. Red means you better book it.
It may seem like quite the hassle having Lana go through such lengths to protect a child, but as mentioned, Amy really is a special little girl. Due to her immunity to the virus, simply holding hands with her cleanses you of any infection. Her immunity also makes her ideal for traversing into infected zones to unlock locales; her short stature is also ideal for the same tasks, as she is able to crawl through tiny shafts. Amy’s presence also provides the ability to sense enemies nearby. By holding down R1 and slowly walking in a direction, the controller will begin to vibrate – simulating heartbeats. The closer you approach danger, the controller’s “heart” begins to race. It may seem counter-intuitive to implement this feature, as with most horror games, Amy can have you memorizing where enemies will appear. However, aside from installing set encounters, the game also provides random ones, so you will need to rely on Amy’s ESP even if you were to play the game a second time.
Much of the story has yet to be revealed, but given Amy’s extraordinary powers, it’s no surprise that the military and various humans are after her. As the game progresses, Amy will develop new abilities, nothing outlandish, but will provide added convenience in combat. Aside from her powers and size, Amy also happens to be the only one who bothered bringing a lamp to help navigate the darkness. However, the light will attract monsters. If Amy dies or is abducted, game over.
Amy looks to be part of a new resurgence of downloadable games that aims to provide more bang for your buck. This is greatly exemplified by the developers’ avoidance in creating just another survival horror gimmick. Djamil also advised that in researching the reaction of gamers’ worldwide to the PSN outage, they’ve decided on a $13 price tag – to express their empathy and sensitivity to gamer needs. Keep an eye out for Amy this September, on PSN, XBLA, and Steam.