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Indiana Jones and the Great Circle looks dated, but I still can’t wait

Machine Games has revealed the latest Indiana Jones game, and it feels like a solid throwback to the PS2 and PS3 blockbuster games of old.

Indiana Jones and the Great Circle: An image of Indiana Jones and Gina.

As a lifelong Indy fan, I’ve probably watched the Indiana Jones and the Great Circle footage at least 15 times (and counting) since it debuted at the Xbox Developer Direct. However, despite my love for the franchise, I wasn’t immediately convinced by the trailer. There’s a quality to The Great Circle’s trailer that just feels, for lack of a better word, dated. But, on further reflection, maybe this could be a good thing.

The trailer depicts glossy visuals, highly detailed character models and environments, and a promising homage to John Williams’ work from composer Gordy Haab. All the hallmarks of the best Xbox games in the modern age are there, but there’s a distinct feeling to the game’s blend of first-person and third-person action that reminds me of late-era PS2 and early-era PS3 titles – especially movie spinoff games, which were very prevalent at the time. 

From James Bond: Nightfire, to Peter Jackson’s King Kong, to The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena, each of these classic games put us directly in the shoes of famous movie stars as they embarked on a set piece-laden journey of Hollywood-style thrills. King Kong and Riddick both rely on the visual language of their respective movies, weaving their aesthetics seamlessly through faithful art direction. Dark Athena relishes the darkness, using a Splinter Cell-like approach to depict Riddick’s eye-shine as an interactive aspect. 

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On the other hand, King Kong strives for bigger and bolder setpieces. With an ensemble cast featuring Adrien Brody, Jack Black, Naomi Watts, and more, King Kong is a star-studded FPS focusing on larger-than-life action. Out of them all, though, Machine Games’ Indy adventure shares a lot in common with Nightfire. Aside from the PS1 iteration of Tomorrow Never Dies, most Bond games before and after it were first-person entries. Nightfire is different, putting us in the shoes (and tuxedo) of James Bond for its action while pivoting to third-person during climbing or vehicular sections.

The Great Circle might not feature any driving sections, but the Developer Direct confirms we’ll switch to third-person while swinging through the air with his whip, or climbing up walls. The expectation that Indy’s latest outing would be a fully third-person experience is valid, but Indiana Jones isn’t about imitating franchises like Tomb Raider or Uncharted – both of them influenced by Jones. The prospect of the Great Circle embracing old-school tie-in games is far more exciting. Like Dark Athena or Nightfire, the Great Circle doesn’t strike me as a game that will be very long either – and that’s completely fine.

Not every new Xbox game needs to be a hefty 30+ hour story. These old PS2 games thrived with shorter campaigns, enticing me to go back and replay specific levels over and over until the disc wore out. I can’t even count how many times I replayed missions like ‘Night Shift’ or ‘The Exchange’ in Nightfire. The latter echoes the non-linear design ethos Machine Games is opting for with the Great Circle, as I could take Bond in multiple directions to infiltrate the villain’s castle in the Austrian Alps. I’m looking forward to doing the same with Indy, discovering secrets and possible easter eggs along the way.

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Do you know what else Nightfire and the Great Circle have in common? Neither have the voice of their real-life counterparts. Pierce Brosnan wouldn’t lend his voice to Bond until 2004’s Everything or Nothing, while Harrison Ford is happy to let talented voice actors handle the gig for him. Sure, it is still strange to have Ford present in this respect, but I don’t doubt that Troy Baker will do an excellent job.

Of course, The Great Circle isn’t the first Indiana Jones game. I spent many hours playing The Emperor’s Tomb, enjoying the opportunity to spend more time with a character that I loved. The Emperor’s Tomb wasn’t exactly innovative, but it didn’t need to be either. It just needed to be a good time and faithful to the source material. 

I’m not expecting The Great Circle to be a genre-pushing title like Alan Wake 2, or even its more direct competitor, the Uncharted franchise. I just want to go on a captivating tale of discovery with Dr. Jones, while punching every Nazi soldier I encounter along the way. Though, in this day and age, it won’t be long before we Indy trick-shot enemies with his revolver.

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The Great Circle just needs to stick to these core tenets, and anything else beyond that will be a bonus for Xbox players. And if this is the start of a brand new series of Indiana Jones games that harken back to the golden era of movie spinoffs being among the best games around, then I wish Machine Games nothing but fortune and glory.