El Matador – Preview PC

Published by Ascaron Entertainment/Cenega Publishing
Developed by Plastic Reality Technologies
Release Date: 25th August 2006
Price: £34.99

Until Max Payne came along on the PC most third person shooters simply weren’t that great. Most gamers thought they weren’t as immersive or indeed anywhere near as enjoyable as a first person shooter. Max Payne managed to change most gamers opinions however.  El Matador is a third person shooter that’s obviously been influenced by the Max Payne games. The game puts you in the shoes of a DEA agent whose goal is to bring about the demise of the Narcomafia, an organised narcotics syndicate operating in Central and South America.  A huge shipment of South American cocaine is expected in the USA and it’s believed to be an attempt,  by a newly created brotherhood known as La Hermandad, to seize control of the drug market in the USA.

With the game due out in the middle of August we were able to play a preview version of the game. The preview version allowed us to play levels three, four and six in order to get a feel for the game. The levels we played were set in a tropical forest, a dockyard and an urban environment but regardless of the environment you play in the task at hand is usually pretty similar. Most of the time you’ll face up to a number of enemies who all want to perforate you with their bullets. When the number of enemies you face is quite small the task isn’t too challenging but when faced with a large number of enemies the options are to make effective use of cover or to tap the Tab key and enter slow motion mode. As with bullet time in Max Payne this enables you to eliminate several enemies without taking a hit. Whilst in slow motion mode you can press the left shift key to do a slow motion jump which is an excellent defensive manoeuvre. Of course slow motion is something you can only temporarily use and once you’ve used it all up you’ll have to wait for the meter to refill before it can be used again. As far as the weaponry goes there seems to be a decent selection on offer here, which is certainly good news.

Graphically El Matador looks good although it would be incorrect to say it looks better than anything we’ve seen to date. To be fair though the preview does has issues with ATi cards (which it states in the included read me file).  The performance from this preview version was simply abysmal. Our PC , which contains a Pentium D 805 CPU, an ATi X800XT and 1GB RAM, just couldn’t run the thing smoothly at all. We’re hoping this is down to it being a preview version of the game (it maybe something to do with the preview not being fully optimised for ATi graphics cards) but with the release date only a month or so away it certainly doesn’t look good for those of us with a less than stellar PC. It’s also rather baffling because we’ve played games that look better which perform superbly. Still there’s some nicely detailed character models here and some pretty impressive physics on display. There were clipping issues galore but again we’re putting this down to being an unfinished version of the game.

Will El Matador be worth the wait? Well from what we’ve seen in this preview we’re not particularly excited about the game. As we said earlier the game’s obviously been influenced by the Max Payne games with its own version of bullet time and slow motion jumps etc. However we saw little evidence of the style of the Max Payne games being recreated. The jury is still out on the game’s visual qualities and we’re certainly hoping the final version performs a heck of a lot better. To finish on a positive note it’s good to see the game offers subtitles and from what we’ve seen it’s pretty deaf gamer friendly with the cutscenes being subtitled and comments your character makes and receives being subtitled too. Let’s hope our initial misgivings are brushed aside when the final version of the game arrives for review in August.