Session with Salvatore Fileccia and Banjo Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts
Having never played any of the previous iterations of Banjo Kazooie, we really didn’t have much to expect from this session. But when Rare’s Salvatore Fileccia, Lead Software Engineer walked us through a level, it was clear to us that this title is going to be a tremendous hit. Faceplate extraordinaire, Microsoft Xbox MVP, and overall uber-geek, Ed “Spaceghost2k” Webb, was spot on when he predicted prior to the session that games in the future will be more about playing around, and less about playing the game.
Remember when you used to play around with toys without necessarily following the rules (putting GI Joe figures inside Transformer figures, or making new vehicles out by combining Lego sets)? It seems like Banjo will be capturing that same level of creative-freedom and fun with this game.
In Banjo, the platforming elements are all present, but the game really shines when it comes to the vehicles. There are objectives, or challenges in the game, but players are free to create a variety of vehicles to help Banjo achieve these challenges. Not only are there standard vehicles available to the player, but each vehicle can be totally customizable, from propulsion, to accessories (slap on a spoiler, or place a spring under your vehicle, for instance), to the location of these accessories, to the type of vehicle (plane, helicopter, car, boat, all in one?).
And if you’re familiar with the classic PC game, Incredible Machines, you’ll come to see a strong resemblance with the vehicle creation aspect in this game. Expect some wild results when you go through the potentially infinite combinations of parts in your vehicle. Experimenting with the vehicles and seeing how they react to the wild physics rules in this game in itself is an incredible gameplay element.
The vehicle portion of the game allows a player to approach any challenge any number of ways. One particular challenge for example, requires the player to collect a certain number of nuts and place them in a container within a time limit. The player could certainly have Banjo carry them by hand, but that would take too long. So Salvatore experimented by creating a car with a vacuum to suck all the nuts up. The capacity of the vacuum however was limited, so several trips were required. Next, Salvatore created a helicopter with a sticky hook attached to the bottom. He hooked the actual container, picked it up, and started picking up all the nuts directly with the container itself. It’s this type of gameplay that is so incredible about this title.
We were also shown how vehicles can be built to transform, on the fly – from a land-based vehicle to a flying vehicle. Players need only find the parts scattered throughout the five main levels to create and play with tons of vehicles. By the way, vehicles cannot be permanently destroyed, per se, but can be dismantled, sometimes violently (like a self-destruct mechanism). While a player can make Banjo go fetch all the parts and rebuild the vehicle, the parts are automatically stored in Banjo’s garage. Along with the fact that the parts themselves are indestructible, a player never has to worry about losing a part (of which there are hundreds) that was found in the game.
We saw one multiplayer mode, which was a sort of a king of the hill type of mode, where players must knock each other off with their vehicles of a hill to earn points to win. Of course, players are given time to construct their vehicles before the match – turning this mode into something very close to the shamelessly addicting Robot Wars.
And graphically, this game is set to stun. Textures, colors, lighting – it’s got it all. The environments look amazing, and the water looks alive. There is no doubting that this is a next gen game, and we will be counting the days until it arrives!