Prepare for an Xbox exclusive that will blow your mind and soil your shorts.
One of the knocks against Xbox is that its software lineup boasts less originality than your average N'Sync record.
Of course, these criticisms usually issue from the dark corners of fanboyism, and they overlook that Xbox will probably have a game lineup as deep or deeper than its competitors.
If there is a creativity deficit in video games, it's an industry-wide problem, not a console-specific one.
If anything, the scales may tip in favor of Microsoft's console, thanks to games like Project Ego, which plans to give Xbox naysayers a foot to wrap their mouths around.
Think of crossbreeding an RPG with The Sims and you get an idea of what Project Ego is like. Normally, we might scoff at such a project, but when Peter Molyneux (of Black & White fame) is involved we merely nod our heads in agreement and brandish napkins to wipe away the drool.
You start the game as a 15 year-old boy or girl and play through an entire lifetime, replete with toils, tribulations, and the inevitable triumph (apparently, the first few years were deemed unplayable, filled with little more than Popsicle stains and skinned knees).
Through the course of your video game life, you do everything an actual person would do, provided that you were the sort of person who duels with fiends and wields magic. Although the details are thin, it seems that your particular character is unlike any other person who lives in the fantasy world of Albion. Your character has "The power of the will." Exactly what that means, we're at a loss to explain, but suffice it to say that your character will change the world forever.
There are no character classes in Project Ego, only personality styles that evolve according to the decisions you make. Your character will age as time progresses, and the actions you take put an idiosyncratic spin on his or her appearance. Early wounds will show up later as scars. Lethargy will manifest as a little extra blubber around your middle, and anaerobic exercise will show up in the form of Olympian muscles.
Even more important than your looks, your reputation will depend on the kind of life you lead. The incredible freedom of gameplay allows you to pursue every occupation from dashing hero to indolent bum to mischievous cutpurse.
If you become the guy who makes 'An offer they can't refuse,' people will treat you with a mix of fear and respect. Save the fair maiden and the key to the city will be yours. The particularly charismatic types may even blaze new fashion trails, causing others to mimic your appearance. In short, your actions will influence your environment and the computer-controlled characters in a countless number of ways.
Naturally, you don't strive for realism of this magnitude without including a little bump and grind. Get hitched, raise kids, watch them grow old and stupid--do everything short of coach them in the Little League World Series.
With gameplay this compelling, you really don't need stunning visuals, but Big Blue Box decided to throw them in anyway. The characters not only act like real people, they look the part, too. The world boasts incredible lighting and true-to-life detail, and the eye candy will only sweeten between now and the game's Fall 2002 release. Just take a look at those screenshots. Are you kidding me?
The icing on the cake for Xbox owners is that Project Ego won't be available anywhere else. That's right, this is an exclusive title. These days it's hard to tell whether a game will remain exclusive, or if the "exclusive" moniker will be sidestepped by adding a few extra features and a new name ("Project Ego Deluxe!"), but we have little reason to complain.
About the only drawback right now is that it seems like the game won't incorporate online play. If the single-player experience lives up to its potential, we bet few people will give a damn. Stay tuned.
Can someone help me mop up this drool?