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Armed Assault

You start the conflict taking orders and achieving objectives set by your commanding officers. Armed Assault isn't very forgiving, and it's a one-hit-one-kill business, so moving sensibly through hard cover is your best hope of survival. It's harsh, but the heightened danger makes it all the more satisfying to swiss-cheese your opponents.

If you're happy to take orders and run with the other grunts, that's fine, but there are other exciting possibilities. Armed Assault enables you to flick between pre-determined soldiers mid-mission - why not assault an enemy position as a regular trooper, then switch to a sniper to cover the next wave of allied attacks before zipping into the body of a tank-gunner to pursue the retreating enemy. And there are a number of vehicles to pilot, from tanks to missile-packing helicopters.

Between missions you'll have strategic choices to make about your next operation. Faced with having to either defend a city or invade an enemy camp, for example, you need to be aware of the consequences of your decision - if you destroy the camp there will be fewer enemies to assault you in the city, but if you defend the city first then you'll receive reinforcements while you attack the enemy camp.

As for multiplayer, Bohemia has some thrilling ideas. Aside from Capture the Flag-style objective-based matches, you'll be able to create gigantic battles over the entire island, with AI soldiers filling out the number of combatants. A 'join in progress' option means these battles could be near-endless, with new players joining all the time to keep the war raging. The first massively multiplayer wargame? It certainly sounds like it.

Armed Assault is just over two-thirds complete and heading for a release in the summer, although the visuals you see here are basically finished. It's a bit ugly - especially when you place it against beauts like Oblivion or even Doom 3.

Still, Armed Assault's strength is in the staggeringly real, engrossing military sim that's bubbling along nicely under the slightly dated graphics. We'll have to wait to find out if that's enough to enlist a new army of fans.

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