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World in Conflict preview

World in Conflict is really a timeless title for a video game. I mean, the game itself could be set in the middle ages, in the early 20th century, in the present, even in the future. The world is, it seems, perpetually in involved in some kind of conflict and perhaps this is why video games based on war are so popular -- they resonate with our inward acceptance that people will always point guns at other people.

However, whilst war may be timeless, games are not. Old games are crap, and new games are good. Thankfully, World in Conflict delivers on this front, with the game engine being built around the latest DirectX 10 technology, meaning that the game should look super spangly on the latest GeForce 8800 hardware (or even the Radeon X2900, which may even be out by the time WiC ships).

The game is being built by the guys that made the Ground Control series, Massive Entertainment, which means that the game will share a genetic line with some of the most hardcore war RTS games ever to hit the PC. But contrary to its heritage, Massive says that the aim with WiC is to open up the genre to new players, and to make the game the most accessible RTS around, putting it on a par, both in single player and multi player, with FPS games like Counter-Strike and Quake. What?

World in Motion

But let's start at the beginning. The premise of the game is thus: the Cold War is still going on. The Americans are still hating on the Russians, and the Berlin Wall is still standing. The Nuke hasn't been deployed - yet - but things are heating up. The plotline is crucial to the single player campaign, unlike most RTS titles, and the exact details and the final denouement are being kept heavily under wraps by the developers. When we sat down and played the game, it was only broadly outlined to us, and the mission we played didn't impact too heavily on moving it forward.

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But suffice to say that, following a cunning diversion, those darned Ruskis invade the US, causing all sorts of calamities, and much of the game will be spent driving them back out again. Unlike many modern RTS games, there's only one campaign -- you can only play as the Americans, not the Russians. But you can bet your bottom dollar that an expansion pack will tell the story from the other point of view.

The Americans have some fairly advanced military capability -- although the game is not futuristic, weapons and tanks are a little more advanced than we have today, even though the game ostensibly takes place in a contemporary setting. The locations are also an interesting mixture, with the campaign taking you around the world - from Europe, to small town America, to the American desert, to the snowscapes of Russia itself. This makes for interesting and divergent gameplay, rather than having the same locations over and over again.

The locations are also fully destructible, and this is part of an interesting aesthetic characteristic. As towns get destroyed, as war zones get ever more blown apart and people die in their hundreds, not only will buildings deteriorate but so will the visual conditions. If a battle is going badly, expect the sky to darken over, the seas to get stormy, and the rain to start pouring in. It's pathetic fallacy at its finest, and it really adds to the mood and your enjoyment of the gameplay.

Atmospherics, as you might have guessed, are crucial to the game and Massive is keen to drawn the player into the game not just through gameplay, but through the experience. Hundreds of lines of dialogue have been recorded, both in Russian and English, so that troops can talk and act realistically. As you swoop down to close up on the map, you can hear troops babbling over the comms in a tank, or snipers whispering to each other in a building. Touches like this add to the interaction, and set WiC apart from the vast array of other RTS games on the market.