Banjo-Kazooie 3 is up there with Gears of War 2 as far as 360's monster games of 2008 go for us. We've seen a bit about Gears 2 already, and now Rare's finally lifted the cauldron lid on Banjo's third adventure.
To get an idea on what we can expect, and how the chance in direction came about, we scored a very exclusive interview with Rare's head of design, Gregg Mayles, who was on the team of the very first Banjo game all those years ago.
So Banjo's been out of the limelight for a while now. What's he been up to?
Gregg Mayles: He's been slobbing out. As you'll see in the storyline, Banjo's no longer his slim, fit self and he's been in retirement and gone to seed. He's in retirement, Grunty is just a head so you think these two are never going to star in another game ever. But we'll bring them back to life and, as you see, Grunty gets a mechanical body, Banjo will be reformed to his formal self and off they go again on another adventure.
Last time you made a Banjo game you were under Nintendo's wing. Now you're in bed with Microsoft. What's the difference?
Mayles: In terms of our thinking behind the Banjo game, zero. We consciously have made no decisions because it's for a different company. Obviously we've got the use of multiplayer this time, which - although in Banjo-Tooie we did explore it to a certain degree, we certainly couldn't do half the stuff we've got planned for multiplayer this time.
I guess that's really the only difference. Everything is much the same. The humour's the same, the characters are the same, the feel of the game.
What's been the reaction to the game outside of Rare so far?
Mayles: People have grasped it a lot quicker than we thought. We thought there might be some kind of, 'This isn't Banjo any more, what's going on?' But this hasn't proved to be the case. People can see what we've done and how we're trying to approach the platform genre in a slightly different way.
The traditional Banjo game was like, 'here's a character, we'll give you some moves but they're fixed abilities, and you use those fixed abilities to try and discover the solution to a designed problem.'
[In the new game] we're giving you a load of abilities, and you're able to combine those abilities however you feel will solve the problem. So rather than it being a case of trying to find the designer's way of doing it, maybe you can find your own way of doing it. I guess that, in a nutshell, is really what the game is, just having the freedom of trying to find your own way of doing things rather than what we tell you.
How do you think the Banjo hardcore will react to the changes?
Mayles: I think the generation of players that have played Banjo before are probably going to be shocked to start with. They're probably going to look at it and say, 'Hang on a sec, this isn't the Banjo I was expecting. What have you done? You've ruined it!'
But then hopefully, in a very short space of time, they'll be able to see what we've done and like it. You're never going to be able to change people's opinions of the old games and how they felt at the time. Obviously you're going to get a certain amount of rose-tinted glasses looking back on the old game being this wonderful masterpiece and nothing was ever wrong with it.
We saw the Dallas intro piss take, which was awesome. Presumably the game's going to be full of classic Rare humour?
Mayles: Yes, very much so. The humour of Banjo comes a lot from me, being that I led the first two games and now I'm on this game as well. It's that kind of humour that'll carry through, and I've made sure that whoever is working on the dialogue carries that same humour through, but fortunately we all think pretty much alike.