Rango: The Video Game - first look

The CG animated Rango is still three months away but EA was more than eager to bring their game tie-in to our attention at a recent closed-door unveiling of the Xbox 360 version. In case you haven't heard, the movie reunites Johnny Depp (in the title role) with Pirates of the Caribbean director Gore Verbinski. It is also the first full-length animated film by the visual effects company, Industrial Light & Magic.

Above: Before Johnny Depp returns as a pirate, he’ll play a gun-slinging chameleon

Rango, a chameleon, is part daydreamer, part wannabe hero. He gets an opportunity to play a lawman when he finds himself in the town of Dirt. In order to win over the citizens, Rango uses is innate skills of embellishment and wows the town with stories of made up heroism.

That's where the game comes in as you get to play out these tall tales, as opposed playing scenes from the movie. The amusing four-piece mariachi owls seen in the trailer also appear in the game. They follow and occasionally heckle Rango while staying in the background as part of the game's soundtrack.

Above: Rango Trailer HD (2011)

Having a high level of collaboration between a film studio and its videogame partner is neither new nor unique, not that it stopped EA from boasting about it as a selling point for Rango. What is of some interest is how deep this collaboration went, where a representative from studio Behaviour Interactive (formerly Artificial Mind & Movement) claimed that this project has gone on for over 18 months. Moreover, the film's screenwriter is handling the dialogue for the game and Hans Zimmer is composing pieces exclusively game as well. ILM has had opportunities in the past to collaborate on games, so it's of little surprise that this playable form of Rango does have its promising moments, much more so than say, this summer's Toy Story 3 game.

Actually both games are similar for featuring pint-sized characters, but Rango appears to be making more of an effort to give the player a more defined sense of scale. This is done by simply littering the levels with many objects meant for the giant humans. It is this highly decorative art style that also brings out the variety of gameplay styles in Rango.

Above: Golfing against zombies

It can be a risky idea for a game to try too many things, yet the spokesman from Behaviour sees "going in different directions" as a point of pride. Rango will occasionally find fences to climb across for instance. The problem is they're electrified so the challenge comes in locating and deactivating these human-sized switches. Unsurprisingly, these deactivations are temporary so you'll have to make sure Rango hustles. We also got to see the precision shooting part of the game, which amusingly uses the classic ricocheting bullet gag that you’ve seen in countless comedy westerns. At one point Rango finds himself in a trailer cabin, which leads to a golf-based boss fight against its occupant, an alien-obsessed conspiracy theorist. In addition, Sonic and Tony Hawk fans can look forward to some grinding sections.

If there is one prevalent gameplay feature, it is the close quarters combat. The spokesman highlighted its button-mash accessibility for kids, which led us to ask if this mode had any appealing depth for older gamers. He told us that skilled players can pull off combos for exponentially higher points.

Above: We don’t know who or what this bullet is meant for, but Rango’s not too happy about it

These points can be used toward Rango's upgrade system - seventeen abilities that can be upgraded three levels each. It should be noted that no matter how great your combo-centric fighting is, there won't be enough points to max out all of Rango's abilities in the first playthrough. Like many calculated tie-in products, EA is looking to get this out shortly before the movie is released, which would early March 2011.

Jan 18, 2011