Stonewall demonstrates the shield power. Though, uh, normally the enemies are on the other side of it
The experience system in The Scourge Project is broken up into four categories: abilities, assault, weapons, and co-op. Earning experience in these categories is straightforward and self-descriptive: use abilities to gain ability experience, kill foes to earn assault and weapons experience, and perform co-op actions to earn co-op experience. You read that right; there is an actual experience category that rewards players for taking co-op actions. In the situation detailed above, for instance, Omar earned co-op and ability experience for using his shield, and then more co-op experience for reviving our downed ally. I earned co-op, ability, and assault experience, for killing a bunch of enemies. This experience can be earned even if you’re playing solo with A.I. squad mates, though it’s a bit tougher to instruct the A.I. to follow behind you.
Experience in this game, though, works differently than you might think. Rather allowing you to unlock new abilities or skills, the experience for The Scourge Project acts as more of a metric that allows players to quickly ID other players' play style. When you're creating a co-op or multiplayer campaign, in the multiplayer lobby you'll see a portrait of the character you're playing, your username, and a box with a military rank for each of the four experience catagories. The higher the rank, the more experience that player has in the category. So, if you’re looking to form up a group to tackle the campaign, and you notice one of the players has a lot of experience in assault and weapons, but little to none in abilities and co-op, then you can reasonably assume that he or she relies a lot on mowing down foes and less time supporting their teammates. Of course, that doesn’t mean you should kick them out (maybe they just haven’t found the right friend), but you also shouldn’t be too surprised if they rush ahead and leave their squad behind.
Our heroes walking off into the co-op sunset... or about to unleash some leaded death on that enemy in the background
Based on the preview I was given, the only negative things I have to say against the game at this point are about the controls and the graphics. As someone who prefers a mouse and keyboard when playing a shooter I can’t believe I’m saying this, but while I was playing, I felt like the game would control/play better with a controller. It’s not that the default keyboard scheme is really awkward or couldn’t be changed, but between the cover system, the powers, the aiming, and the run buttons, it felt like I should be using a controller. Fortunately, the PC version supports gamepad usage, and an XBLA version of the game may not be too far off, so it’s problem that’s easily remedied. As far as the graphics go, everything looked fine, but there was the occasional slow-down, stutter, or lack of particle effects (e.g., no little blood spurts when I shot enemies letting me know that I was actually hitting them). However, this was a preview build, and Omar stated that they were still in the process of finalizing everything and optimizing performance, so those issues should all be cleared up by the game’s release in a couple weeks time.
Playing just the little bits that I did, it’s obvious that the development team is focused on creating a title that has a solid, built-from-the-ground-up co-op experience. The unique flashbacks and back stories for each of the four characters help to create a feeling that players aren’t just stepping into a pair of “clone shoes,” i.e., that each player is essentially a clone of the first player. The character powers, though limited, open up some interesting possibilities and combinations for a group of players, and the fact that they are rewarded for playing as a group is another great feature to see in a co-op game. While it may not be as widely known or publicized as a few other titles that are seeing an April release, The Scourge Project is one title that you should add to your list of games to keep an eye on.