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Future Tactics: The Uprising review

It's been a long and no doubt gruelling road from conception to Pillage to Future Tactics, with the gloomy footnote that Zed Two closed before its game reached the shelves. In the sense that the game fulfils its intent - to prune that most spiky of genres, the strategy RPG, into something manageable, intuitive and bright - it was worth the uncertain wait.

It was evident from our first preview that stripping away the clutter and complication of movement grids, action points and rules within rules was an engaging design, and that hasn't changed. Even when you've become accustomed to your freedoms you'll send characters bounding across the landscape just because they can: scrambling up cliffs, leaping walls, surveying the battlefield from every rooftop, treetop and outcrop. What can't be traversed can be flattened, with the shortest path to any destination only a terrain-gouging explosion away. Your enemies, sadly, give the sensation of having two-dimensional brains never quite able to comprehend such a changing 3D world.

But what frustrates is that the care taken in reworking the mechanics isn't so evident in addressing other genre throwbacks. The initial difficulty curve is as mountainous as the most hard-bitten SRPG, with a single tactical error often enough to lose you a character and forfeit the mission. Bizarrely, an early plot development (though not early enough for newcomers) lifts this sudden-death threat, and difficulty evaporates - with any mission inevitably conquerable in a last-character-standing grudge match rather than requiring the player to build on hard-won experience.

Multiplayer sorely misses its potential, offering such limited numbers - two teams of two - that no amount of unlockable modifiers can enliven it beyond a deathmatch writ slow. Slower still when you're waiting for the other player to calibrate their target reticule over your head. Multiplayer could have been the highlight, so it's a shame more thought seems to have gone into the criteria for unlocking options than the mode itself.

As an example of unabashed, often exuberant Britsoft that pulls out the SRPG's staples and rebinds it in approachable ease, Future Tactics is remarkable, deserving of cult success. As a game intended for a wider reception it falls short - not so far as to undo all its good work, but enough to make what should have been a rallying cry just another voice in the crowd.

Future Tactics: The Uprising will revolt on Gamecube on 27 August

As an example of unabashed, often exuberant Britsoft that rebuilds the SRPG with approachable ease, it's remarkable, deserving cult status. Yet falls short of mass market appeal

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Available Platforms: GameCube, Xbox, PS2

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