At a glance...

Previewer Platform Publisher Developer Players Release Date Screenshots
Matt Bailey PlayStation 3 Virtual Air Guitar Company Virtual Air Guitar Company 1-5 (Share screen) Autumn 2010 Here

Kung-Fu Live preview

One of our aims at Gamescom was to not only bring you coverage of all the big titles coming out in the coming months, but to make sure we checked out the games from the smaller publishers and developers too. It's to this end that we visited the fun, but hard-working, guys at the Virtual Air Guitar Company.

On display at Gamescom was their first title, Kung-Fu Live; it was probably one of the maddest games at the German show, and certainly one of our favourites. It allows you, as in literally you, to be part of the on-screen action and become a kung-fu master; or at least pretend to be. Amongst the new motion control technology being put out by Sony and Microsoft (Move and Kinect respectively), the team at the Virtual Air Guitar Company have their own technology that only needs a webcam. No sticks with coloured balls, no £130 multi-camera array. Just a single PlayStation Eye camera that you can already pick up for about £25.

With said camera in place, you're free to go wild on screen. The gameplay is a 2D side-scrolling beat 'em up, with some nice 3D visuals and a range of environments to battle in. However, unlike other games in the genre, it's not a matter of bashing buttons. Your image is displayed on the screen as part of the action, and kicking and punching the air in front of you are just some of the ways you can attack your opponent. Using the developer’s own patented FreeMotion technology, your body is tracked and becomes a solid presence amongst the virtual characters. It tracks the whole of your body, allowing you to use all of it in any way you like. With an open stand at Gamescom, Kung-Fu Live inevitably drew quite a crowd, and we heard of and saw a whole range of exciting moves performed by the public, including overhead kicks. The devs hadn’t tried these before, but FreeMotion seems to have no problem with people freestyling.

Take on the ninja!

Take on the ninja!

In addition to tracking your motion, Kung-Fu Live removes the background in real-time without a need for a green screen. It can pick out a single player and even track extra objects you’re holding. Finding it too much effort to use your own fists? Why not introduce a plastic sword to take own your foes. This is, however, how living rooms, and indeed booths, get damaged...

One of the levels we got to play at Gamescom involved being in a back alley taking on a group of thugs known as the ‘C-Street Dragon Gang’. Here you get to take on the gang in your own manner, but to aid you in battle, the game also features a range of special moves. ‘Power punch’ (rush across the level at high speed), ‘Time Stop’, ‘ Lightning Attack’, and my favourite, the ‘Ground Punch’. The last one is achieved by jumping into the air and throwing your fist towards the floor, resulting in a devastating attack on-screen. These special moves, when pulled off correctly, make you feel superhuman, and help mix up the action. The level also acted as a good demonstration of another feature of Kung-Fu Live, the multiplayer mode. Aware that multiple players swinging their arms and legs around in the living room could be a bit dangerous (though we suspect this was after the developers tried it anyway), the 5-player multiplayer comes from up to four other people using DualShock 3 controllers to control gang members and other foes. It’s a neat idea, and should other plenty of party-based fun without the need for a ridiculously large living room.

The special moves make you feel like a superhero

The special moves make you feel like a superhero

Also demonstrated was one of the ‘boss’ levels. This involved a 4-story tall giant, one of the “Gatekeepers”, and naturally it’s your job to take him down. You need to use your own body and the special moves mentioned earlier in order to succeed, and you can also take advantage of updrafts that allow you to fly into the air. It’s good to see the game isn’t relying on simple combat or multiplayer, offering a bit of variety to the gameplay.

You can probably already tell that we were rather impressed by Kung Fu Live. The technology is responsive and accurate, and quite importantly, the game was a lot of fun too. The ability to get yourself directly into the action was immediately engaging to players and spectators, and allowed the game to stand out amongst the sea of motion controlled games coming this Christmas. For the Virtual Air Guitar Company they couldn't have timed Kung Fu Live any better; with the PlayStation Move coming out in September there will soon be a large number of PS3 owners with the necessary PlayStation Eye camera. Also, as a PSN release it’ll carry a price tag around £10-£15 making it a rather attractive purchase for all those users. It will be interesting to see if it gets the attention it deserves when it arrives on the PlayStation Store towards the end of the year.

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