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Blizzard announces StarCraft II

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There is no release date yet, but after a mere nine-year wait, publisher Blizzard has given the world its first glimpse at StarCraft II, the sequel to one of the most popular real-time strategy games of all time. Before a crowd of rabid Korean fans packed into an Olympic stadium, Blizzard showed first a short CG trailer. It begins with a Terran (i.e.: human) marine being encased in heavy battle armor, followed by a flashing series of images showing units from the bug- like Zerg and cybernetic space-monks, the Protoss - and also human hottie turned insectoid Queen Bitch of the Universe, Kerrigan. The trailer concludes with a computer voice instructing all marines to prepare for launch, and the marine saying “Hell, it's about time.” (Get it?) We get our first look at the logo.

Lead designer Dustin Browder then took the stage to guide us through 20 minutes of actual gameplay footage from the in-development alpha version of the game - with the obvious caveat that nothing shown here was final. The engine looks gorgeous, and recreates the famous units in levels of detail that, until now, existed only in the minds of the fans. The demo began with Protoss units being dropped onto a space platform map. Familiar Zealot infantry (complete with psionic blades and personal shields) were the first on the ground, and showed off their new ability to charge enemies by decimating a group of Terran marines.



The Terrans bring in siege tanks on higher ground. In a classic maneuver, the tanks deployed their stabilizing struts and begin shelling the hell out of the Zealots, who are forced to take the long way around a ridge to reach the tanks. They don't make it. In response, the Protoss deploy their new Immortal heavy dragoons. Immortals have a specialized hardened shield that activates only when hit by large-caliber weaponry - like, for example, siege tank shells. The siege tanks don't stand a chance.

Terrans come back with Reaper jump-jet infantry. Basically fast-moving Marines armed with dual pistols and jetpacks, the Reaper squad rushes in and pelts the Immortals with
small arms fire that bypasses their hardened shields, taking them down quickly. “This is the kind of fast, bloody raid the Reapers really excel at,” says Browder. Then they rush into the Protoss base, leaping over obstacles that would have protected against a direct assault in the first game, and taking out a power pylon to deactivate the Protoss base
defenses.

But the Protoss have a new trick. A unit called the Phase Prism (which doubles as the new troop transport) deploys into a new power pylon - it can do this anywhere on the map - and reactivate the Protoss base defenses, driving the Reapers out.

Browder then gives us a look at warp-in, a new Protoss mechanic that enables players to build units anywhere on the map within range of a power pylon. In this case, he creates Stalkers, a new type of dark dragoon that specializes in destroying enemy infantry. It also has a "blink" ability that allows it to avoid certain types of impassible terrain, or to keep up with faster units as they flee - like those unfortunate Reapers, who fell to the Stalkers' anti-infantry cannons.

Then the Zerg make their dramatic entrance: A giant Nydus Worm bursts through the ground, calling to mind the scene in Empire Strikes Back where the Millennium Falcon escapes the asteroid worm, and spews out Zerglings from its gaping mouth. The Immortals are overwhelmed, but buy some extra moments of life using their blink to stay ahead of the Zergling swarm.

"To deal with a Zerg infestation of this size, we need to bring in some additional reinforcements," Browder says, and warps in a dozen Zealots to take on the Zerglings. But even that isn't enough to hold them back, so in comes the Protoss Colossus - a huge four-legged walker that sweeps energy beams across the battlefield, making it a perfect weapon against swarms of units like Zerglings. The Colossus can also easily stride over obstacles and up ledges, thanks to its long legs. Browder points out that the legs use a new inverse kinematics system.

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