Developer: Friction Game Studios
Publisher: Coast-to-Coast Entertainment
Release: April 2011 (kit) ; Summer 2011 (dedicated, Asia only)
Type: Light-gun shooter
Players: 1-2, simultaneous
Hardware: PC with a custom I/O board
ARCADE EXCLUSIVE?: Yes
Rating: Optional – Yellow Label (Animated Violence) or Red Label (Life Like Violence) depending on setting by operator
Synopsis: Fend off hordes of bad guys or robots on your way to destroy transforming robot bosses in this pistol light-gun shooter.
(I suppose as a matter of disclosure, my name is on the special thanks for this game as through Arcade Heroes I did spread the word about this game quite a bit before it was released to market. Nevertheless I will still strive to suppress my bias and give you a straight-forward view on the game)
Friction is the first video arcade game produced under the independent Friction Game Studios. It is an instant action shooter where you put your coins in and being to play immediately, with no cutscenes to tell a story.There are three levels to play through total, each lasting about 10-15 minutes and each level pitting the player against a large transforming robot boss at the end. The game places a strong emphasis on destructible objects, with plenty of crates, barrels and other objects which can be destroyed to unveil hidden power-ups. Power-ups are applied after a few seconds such as a shotgun, machine gun or rocket launcher. If you obtain more than one power-up at a time, the second or third power-up is applied to you after the first runs out.
It’s usually compared to Target Terror in terms of how it plays from what I have heard from people watching or playing it on the show floor – the camera smoothly progresses from one scene to another lacking the shaky cam bounce or a cinematic effect of trying to be a truly first person camera. Everything in the environments excepting power-ups are rendered in full 3D however. There is no humor element to it, but the extra emphasis on allowing you to shoot everything makes up for anything like that. You do have a health bar so you can take a pounding for a little while and occasional health pick-ups to replenish a bar. It can be a problem at times to know you are getting hit however as the screen does not always indicate you are getting hit, aside from a lowering health bar. You will see an enemy shoot at you, it just doesn’t throw up bullet holes or red slashes on the screen as a helpful indicator.
Reloading is done using the traditional shoot-off-the-screen method which it clearly states in huge letters on the screen but apparently the Wii has taught some people to do otherwise – I have witnessed many people who don’t get it unless you walk up to them and say “shoot off the screen!” or if English isn’t the first language, show them how to do it but that is a small percentage of the players. I don’t blame Friction for this but the Wii as these people will shake their gun or they will constantly push the start button to try and reload which will happen on other light-gun games that use the same method. The game uses the screen flash when firing or reloading, I had to adjust that particular gamma when we were in a darker environment so it wasn’t so pronounced.
There are three levels to choose from which have you venturing through underground facilities of some kind. The only time you are outside is at the beginning of one level that starts in an alley way. There are various storage rooms and hallways you make your way through but there are also industrial factory settings, office spaces, mines and caves. Bosses are massive and take quite a bit of effort to shoot down, giving ample opportunity to test the “how can I figure out to fire this like an automatic gun” skills of the player. They follow patterned attacks and generally call minions in which are really to give you a chance to grab a helpful power-up.
The game can be played with or without Gore settings. Without the setting active, the enemies are robots that will spark with their internal circuitry exposed when they explode into chunks. With gore, dark red blood will fly along with some detail from the innards although nothing too gory. I’ve seen just as many people enjoy the gore setting as without, and never any complaints.
The game was first released as a kit which can be installed into practically any CRT cabinet. It has been seen in everything from an Area 51 to a Time Crisis II cabinet and the kit supports CGA, EGA and VGA monitors. I myself took the monitor section of a Tsunami motion cabinet, ditched the seat (which was busted anyways), gutted what I didn’t need of the innards and after about an hour or so I had a new and much better earning game. This game paid itself off in about six months and it often beats out my Super Deluxe House of the Dead 4 and competes well with my Terminator Salvation Deluxe. Pretty impressive for a kit. The dedicated version features a 42″ LCD screen and machine gun shells where the in-game guns work similarly but as mentioned this latter version is only really available in China at the moment. It actually was developed completely by a US team, the reasoning for this so far is that it just comes down to how certain business deals work out.
Graphically the game runs at a solid 60 fps at 640×480 resolution for the VGA kit version. The dedicated version runs at 1280×720. The funny thing is that when on a lower resolution it still looks really good on a CRT, I believe it also uses anti-aliasing to a degree which helps. It also features volumetric textures(displacement maps might be the correct term) to give them greater depth than bump mapping provides and in addition to the destructible objects some enemies also burst apart. When you go crazy shooting stuff it can make for some mayhem in the game throwing a lot of stuff around the screen but it doesn’t cringe under pressure. Textures are also high resolution so you are dealing with nice detail instead of blurry filters. It also makes use of particle effects in explosions, smoke, dust falling from the ceiling, and blood spray. The only thing I don’t care for is the screen gunflash, which I’m not a fan of overall. Overall it’s a very good looking game, made more impressive by the fact that it wasn’t put together by a large team of programmers and artists. The developer was inspired by F.E.A.R. on the PC and it does show in the overall influence of the look.
While I’ve been writing this review I managed to get one of the songs stuck in my head but it’s one I like(from level 3/one on the right). Techno rock is probably the genre I would fit it into and it fits the game well. The sounds generally consist of gunshots, grunts, explosions and wood breaking apart as you burst crates apart. The game is capable of pumping out some very strong sound – I have the internal volume set under 10% and its always easy to hear it over the other surrounding games. There isn’t any voice to build on characterization of enemies/bosses, just voiceovers to tell you which weapon you’ve picked up.
For the kit version, the guns are standard Happ optical pistols with a plastic shell and rubber covering at the tip. There is no force feedback but I believe you can install these to get feedback if wanted. The dedicated version uses a rifle shell similar to GHOST Squad, force feedback and all.
This is pretty much N/A when it comes to the kit version since that depends entirely upon the operator and the kind of cabinet they want to put it into. I can say that the kit is easy to install – you just need a CRT, you don’t even use JAMMA wiring and for someone non-technical like myself I managed to put it together without much trouble. In fact the cabinet I put it into has been commented on to look nice and the manufacturer Coast-To-Coast Entertainment has used my picture of the converted cabinet in their marketing over their own conversion (which was a Time Crisis II). Either way the kit is very versatile. For the dedicated version, I have only come across that a couple of times at trade shows bit it does its best to stand out – plenty of artwork covers the panels and the gun holders look cool, with back-lit art. It didn’t use any other lighting effects that I can recall, or other technologies than an LED sensor net to work with the LCD.
The action is fast and relentless, you rarely have a moment of peace, which is good in a game like this. While the game has no presented storyline or voice acting (where you could say it lacks personality), it makes up for it in destructive fun. Every light-gun game has stuff for you to blast that doesn’t include the on-screen enemies but Friction took it up a notch. Causing explosions never ceases to be fun and even timed ones can cause an enemy to fly into the screen. There are several fodder enemies to shoot that differ in appearance and a few other types such as ones that throw grenades or walking robots.My only complaint is the flash can be a bit much and indicators of getting hit aren’t always clear. Every level ends with a statistics round-up and if you are playing with someone else, something to compete on. It tracks headshots, power-ups collected and even explosions, rounding out the stats with a graded score. The high score level can be permanent or can reset once every day, a week, month, etc.
For operators a definite yes. It is a great game that pays itself off pretty quickly and its arcade exclusive. It doesn’t need to be set to a dollar a play either and still does fine. I also think its great to support independent, new developments that create solid games. For players, it is a fun game that should satisfy any fan of rail-shooters or anyone that likes blowing stuff up. I have several regulars that play the game often and some have told me it is one of their favorite games. I have heard of operators saying it has not done well for them – it obviously wasn’t done with the same level of detail as Terminator or Transformers but when I had a House of the Dead 4 SDX, Friction often beat it in earnings. As of Jan 2015, it still maintains a consistent level of play. Why some locations didn’t see what I have out of it, I don’t know. I don’t have any focus on redemption either so it is probably the crowd I draw in being different and older on average.
Direct video feed:
Video from my arcade (unfortunately my camera stinks with the focus at times)
My kitted out version
Dedicated Chinese version
Photo of the game in kitted form at IAAPA 2010 in a Time Crisis II cabinet (November 2010)
Prototype seen at Amusement Expo 2010 – March 2010
Another look at the prototype from Amusement Expo 2010 – March 2010
Direct Video of early beta build
Another direct video of an early Friction beta
ARCADE HEROES STORIES: See our various stories regarding Friction. We were the first to break the story of this game since it was first revealed in September 2008.
Say Hello to Friction – A New Arcade Company and a New Game (September 2008)
Back from AMOA ’08 – some thoughts, impressions and a fire (and my little part in all this) (September 2008)
Brief update on indie arcade titles Dark Presence and Friction (January 2010)
First full look at the indie arcade game Friction (January 2010)
Amusement Expo 2010: Friction Game Studios, Pipeline Games, Lights Out Boxing, & the ICE booth (March 2010)
Amusement Expo 2010 Wrap-up part 2 (this time in pictures!) (March 2010)
Friction debuting at IAAPA next week (November 2010)
IAAPA Pics Round 2 (November 2010)
IAAPA 2010: Touch FX, Pirate King, Friction, Sea Wolf (November 2010)