The development team at Warner Bros. Interactive has been producing some interesting developments thus far, as the team works its way towards bringing The Matrix Online to fruition. Today, some information on character abilities has been released, giving gamers a glimpse into what they can expect when the game finally does go live.
The first type of abilities players will be able to employ are Spy Abilities, which enable characters to engage in subterfuge, espionage, and misdirection. There has been interest expressed in "...a stealth ability where [characters] can hide themselves in code...[making] it harder for agents to track you and easier to sneak up on people." While this has yet to be fully implemented, there are a number of conceptual abilities in the works. For example, a character with Spy Abilities who wanted to rob a bank would be able to sneak past the guards, disable the security system, crack the vault, disguise themselves as an office worker, and then walk out the front door. If their sneaking fails, they will also be able to perform "devastating" sneak attacks.
Along with these concepts there are also several defined abilities: Tap Data Node, which enables characters to acquire information with a minimum of time and effort; Disguise, enabling characters to disguise themselves in the Matrix to appear as an NPC (the particular disguise will be decided by which disguise mask is used); Twistflip Escape, where the character leaps backwards, and then spins to the left (also known as a full gainer twist), significantly increasing evasion skills and stunning and confusing the target for ten seconds to allow escape; and Freedom to Joints, a sneak attack where the attacker comes up behind the victim and places them in an arm bar, snapping their shoulder and then chicken-winging them. This results in the snapping the rest of the shoulder joint, followed by a shoulder lock which wrecks the remainder of the shoulder and damages the elbow.
There are also Hacker Abilities in The Matrix Online. One user suggested that characters be "able to write code to affect or infect other players, either positively or negatively." This is the basic mindset behind this set of abilities, called Programs. Programs are further subdivided into two types: Viruses (harmful) and Upgrades (helpful).
Some Viruses include Buffer Overflow, which fills the target's buffer with bogus data; Logic Bomb, a virus that disrupts the target's RSI, causing damage; and Vision Disruption, which results in blindness.
So far, the upgrades which have been devised are the Anti-Viral Sweep, which attempts to remove any virus affecting the target; Overclock, which speeds up the processes controlling a character, granting them temporary attribute bonuses; and Signal Bounce, which grants an additional layer of signal protection to the target.
Naturally, all of these lists will be greatly expanded by the time the game is released, but this cross-section should provide some idea as to what sort of gameplay The Matrix Online will offer to gamers. In addition to the Programs, Hackers will have access to a skill tree devoted to Writing Code, as well as actual hacking into the Matrix (to find both Code and Information).
Just as no MMORPG can be complete without its magic and techniques, so too are there the more pragmatic physical abilities to consider. In The Matrix Online, these come in the form of Soldier Abilities, which are being touted as mind candy for "the action junkies of the world". This skill tree focuses upon combat, maneuvering, and other kinds of physical action. There are also Advanced Soldier Abilities, which will open the way for the series' signature Bullet Time moves, and other superhuman feats like jumping across an entire street.
A character equipped appropriately with these abilities will be effective alone or in a group, and will generally be the heavy hitters on a team there to both soak up and deal the damage in turn. As such, these characters will be highly effective in a straight-up fight. Soldier Abilities will be split into three types of martial arts, and three types of firearm abilities. The martial arts will include Aikido, a defensive style emphasizing grabs and throws; Karate, a powerful style with strong punches and kicks; and finally, Kung Fu, a fast style with graceful strikes and circular movement.
Firearms, meanwhile, will be split between Handguns, Submachine Guns, and Rifle abilities, which will allow characters to hone an aptitude with each type of weaponry. To achieve Advanced Soldier Abilities, players will need to master a number of these skills. For example, a player who specializes in the Handgun branch of the tree will be able to learn the Pistol Evasive Advanced Ability, which allows a character to perform a one-handed cartwheel while firing a la the infamous lobby scene from the first movie. A bonus to defense will be added for a certain number of combat rounds on top of the damage inflicted during the special maneuver.
There is still some time before The Matrix Online is slated to hit stores across North America; currently, a release date of October 14, 2004 is planned. As such there will doubtless be much more information available before too long, which RPGamer will bring to you as it is released.