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Jade Empire: Special Edition

One of the most popular and critically acclaimed RPGs for the Xbox is headed to the PC in Jade Empire. Set in a mystical version of China (but crafted by Canadians), the game offered a fantastic story populated by colorful characters speaking excellent dialogue and mixed it with deep gameplay full of magic, monsters, and martial arts. The PC version brings all these qualities as well, while managing to bring the kung-fu chaos to a whole new level.

As you'd expect, the graphics are the most obvious improvement in this translation. A lot of work has been done to ensure that this is the best looking iteration of the game you'll ever see. The textures have been redone to take advantage of high resolutions. The action we saw was gorgeous and running at 1600 x 1200.

The frame rate seems a great deal more consistent as well. The choppiness found in the Xbox version - particularly during heated battles featuring several characters - was nowhere to be found in the gameplay we saw. The one niggling disappointment we had was that the frame rate, while smooth, was locked at 30 frames per second. Seeing the game at 1,600 x 1,200 at 60 frames per second would have been orgasmic.

Another expected PC advantage is the reduction of load times. As you can imagine, the load times in the PC build are miniscule compared to what you see on the Xbox. Not only is this more convenient for you, but it also helps keep the game flowing more naturally.

BioWare is well aware that improved graphics and load times are not enough to keep its ardent PC fans happy. There's a bunch of new content (ergo the label "Special Edition") in this version. There are two new fighting styles (iron palm and viper), a new difficulty mode, new monsters (rhino demons), and a character who was previously only available in the Xbox limited edition. A first-person view is also available, but can only be used while moving - it simply wouldn't work for the game's acrobatic combat style.

The new difficulty mode is a nice feature for gamers that like to play the hell out of everything they buy. Dubbed the Jade Master mode, it allows you to start the game over from level one with ridiculously tough opponents, while letting you keep any fighting styles you've earned in previous runs.

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