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Gears of War

Truth is, developer Epic is still keeping Gears of War wrapped up tighter than Michelle Marsh in a cling film dress. But brand new information on one of next year's hottest 360 games hasn't been impossible to find. Not by a long shot.

So it's time to tear this tasty shooter apart even more.

First up, missions. We've already seen three extraordinary levels: the first was set inside the ruins of what looked like a temple; the second was under cover of darkness and involved an approach to a hideout while bats swarmed above; and the third was also set at night, but this time awash with rain and lightning.

Now you can add a fourth to the list: a mission involving a search for a lost Locust 'energy' gun. It's located on a vast battlefield next to the body of a soldier. The twist? The battlefield is littered, for as far as the eye can see, with dead soldiers.

The scale at work in Gears is astounding, but it also does the closed-in claustrophobia just as well. One level sees you in a key firefight set on rails in a mine, but mission objectives vary greatly, so that huge sprawling levels like the one set on the battlefield are just as at home.

More details have emerged in other key areas, too. In an offshoot from the cover system, which encourages you to use objects to protect yourself (and prevent untimely death in the process), Fenix is able to approach doors and peer through them, in order to scope out what's on the other side.

Instead of cheap gameplay tactics such as AI enemies belting you with bullets as soon as you open a door that you didn't know they were on the other side of, Gears puts you in charge of the decision-making.

Are we going overboard? No. We can only go by what we've seen, and what we've seen has been far and away the most impressive piece of coding on 360.

It's not that Epic is doing anything particularly new, hard-ass marines, big guns and a post-apocalyptic planet are Sci-fi 101, but it's the way they've put it together. Watch this. Closely.

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