With the genius exhibited by Valve’s Portal games, it wouldn’t be entirely unfair to think that there’s a conceptual no-fly zone around the use teleporting as a game mechanic. At the very least, if you’re going to use the ability to pop in and out of reality in your game, then you need to make it demonstrably different than anything that happens inside of Aperture Science’s testing chambers.
Developed by Montreal-based studio Trapdoor, Warp provides that differentiation in a couple of ways. Most obviously, the game happens in the third-person and puts players in the role of an oddly adorable alien named Zero. After his capture, the antennaed lifeform is due to be tested and most likely dissected by his captors. You, of course, need to help him stop that from happening. Luckily, Zero’s got the ability to teleport across a finite distance, which gets delineated with a small reticule. You’ll encounter soldiers, scientists and laser turrets in the sprawling underwater labs that serve as Zero’s prison and they’ll all serve as major deterrents to the little guy’s escape. But, Zero can teleport inside any of the above — as well as other objects — and then explode them from within.
Trapdoor calls this ability ‘fragging’ and you do it by rapidly wiggling the left stick on a controller left-to-right. Fragging’s the most offensive ability in the game and it’s not just in terms of being on the attack. When Zero teleports inside humans, doing a frag explodes them in a gory splatter of blood. You’ll also be able to teleport into and frag a biohazard canister, too, stunning nearby enemies so that Zero can get out of their field of vision.
But you’ll be able to get through the game without spilling human being juice if you want to be a pacifist. Teleport out of a human at the cusp of a frag explosion and the near-death experience renders them dazed long enough for Zero to sneak off unnoticed. Zero’s other powers will enhance a stealthier approach. His Echo power lets him create holographic decoys to mess with the enemy’s awareness of his location and the Swap ability lets Zero switch positions from inside an object to the location of another object where his reticule rests.
I really like how the simple skills Zero’s imbued with can be used in clever, manipulative ways. You can pop into a soldier, have him assault a comrade and pop out when said comrade starts shooting the formerly possessed human. They can shoot each other dead and, technically, the blood’s not on your hands. The game’s top-down camera view reminded me of old-school dungeon crawlers but with an updated feel. Along the way, Zero will come across film canisters that contain footage of his existence — scheduled to be deleted — that players must hunt down to unlock special rewards in the game.
Trapdoor’s teaming up with EA’s Partners division to release Warp on Playstation Network and Xbox Live early next year. Could it be the next grea teleporting game? We’ll see.