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We talk to Irrational Games' Ken Levine about THE LOST

By Troy Roberts     November 22, 2002

There aren't many games on the market today that are new and innovative, but every once in a while a title stands out with its originality and storyline. THE LOST looks to do just that.

"THE LOST is actually a very cool experiment," says the game's producer, Ken Levine (FREEDOM FORCE, THIEF and SYSTEM SHOCK 2). "We are trying to bring what I view as an Irrational Games type of gameplay to the console, which is similar to games on the PC like SYSTEM SHOCK 2 or FREEDOM FORCE. In those games, we really tried to give the player a very broad toolset of how he's going to approach the game and let him solve the problems of the games as he wants to rather than how the designers want him to."

THE LOST offers something most other video games don't: the chance for gamers to go on their own personal trip to hell.

"We call THE LOST a survival horror RPG and it's the story of Amanda Wright, who loses her daughter in an accident," explains Levine. "And when she's suicidal she's approached by a character that may or may not be the devil who offers her a chance to go down to hell to get her daughter back. And Amanda takes him up on this offer, and journeys down there to confront a hell that is devised personally for her."

While Amanda is down in hell, she comes upon these four different beings: Corruption, Instinct, Light and Shadow. After encountering the beings, she is able to take them on as a host and transform into them, and each one gives her unique powers and skills that can be grown RPG style.


"So if you've got a hand-to-hand combat situation or you like that approach, you'll focus on Instinct, who is the fighter of the group," states Levine. "If you are fonder of the stealthy approach, like in THIEF, you can use Shadow, because he can turn invisible and backstab people and use other kinds of trickery to avoid combat situations. And we've got Corruption, who is the long-range spell-casting character, but if he gets caught up close, he's in trouble." The weirdest thing about this character is, to get new powers, you have to find new body parts lying around hell, and replace your current body parts with the ones you find. Kind of makes you sick, doesn't it?

"Then we have the character Light, who is essentially the healer, almost like a cleric, and she's used to bolster all of the other forms," continues Levine. "So, it's up to the player on how they can approach the various problems and what tools I'm going to use to solve it, and in our games, people tend to have unique experiences on how they're going to get through our games."

One of the main things that separates THE LOST from other survival horror games on the market today is the sophistication of the storyline, something which isn't really seen in many video games.

"What we're dealing with is the loss of a child, a very personal issue for a character, and probably for people, it's one of the hardest things anyone can go through," says Levine. "And trying to tell a story like that in a video game like that is a challenge. I think we're taking a much more serious adult approach to the story than most video games do."

If the storyline sounds somewhat familiar, it kind of is. Irrational Games used some elements of the classic story DANTE'S INFERNO for ideas.

"Well, it's a very loose adaptation of DANTE'S INFERNO, because if you're a fan of DANTE'S INFERNO, you have to have a pretty serious interest in 14th Century Italian politics," Levine explains. "And that's not exactly the target audience of the Playstation 2 and Xbox. I think what we took from DANTE was interesting about hell not being burning lava and demons swooping all around, but being a place where people are confronted with the sins of their life, and they're being punished by sort of having to live through those sins again and again. I think what we took the most from DANTE was the feel of despair and hopeless instead of the feeling of giant pits of fire, which are kind of cliché and not nearly as interesting. It's a feeling of mourning when you read DANTE'S INFERNO, and that's what we wanted to get."

Other than the sophisticated storyline, what does THE LOST offer that you can't find in your run-of-the-mill survival horror game?


"Traditionally you play a game like a RESIDENT EVIL or an ETERNAL DARKNESS, and you have one character at a time, and a walkthrough is extremely useful," says Levine. "It's like you do this, and you do that, and this, and you win the game. But for THE LOST, I don't think a walkthrough is very useful because the players have so much of an ability to improvise to use his different powers and different weapons. One guy is going to go in hand to hand, another guy is going to turn invisible and get in for a backstab, or grapple up to a place others can get and take control of enemy turrets to take our other enemies. There are so many different approaches and weapons, that it's going to be a very open ended experience for the player."

That open ended experience is going to be one of the reasons gamers are drawn to THE LOST. Levine also believes that gamers looking for a new experience will enjoy THE LOST.

"I think THE LOST will appeal to gamers that like survival horror games, and want a new experience, especially the ones that feel 'I've been playing the same game for years now, a RESIDENT EVIL style game'," says Levine. "And all of the people who were excited about ETERNAL DARKNESS, and all of the new stuff it provided, will be even more excited about how much new is new in THE LOST."

THE LOST will be released this spring on the Playstation 2 and Xbox.


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