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Medieval II: Total War hands-on

We've just had a double whammy of Medieval II: Total War - first the makers talked us through the new game and then we were let loose on a playable version of this superb strategy-action sequel. And here's what we've found...

The campaign map has received a total facelift. The flat map-style look is gone, replaced by a textured 3D world. Secondly, there's a deeper level of interaction with your opposition. Tap a nearby enemy/ally unit and a small piece of dialogue will play, indicating your relationship with that faction, for example, "You have nothing to fear from us."

Diplomacy has been enhanced with interaction in mind - plus, now your princesses are far more than mere trophies to be married off and forgotten. Princesses are the driving force behind many diplomatic agreements and their personal charm rating will affect any alliance, trade negotiation or other agreement you offer another ruler.

Successes improve your dainty lady's charms and, if you can tempt away an enemy's prized general with your maiden's fair hand, you'll actually gain control of that leader along with his personal retinue. Then there are the improved real-time strategy battles. Rome: Total War was visually stunning, but Medieval II goes a huge step further. You no longer field armies of clones, instead each soldier is an individual with his own combination of armor, insignia and uniform based on your army's colors. If you zoom right down to a unit you can see and hear them clinking, shuffling and jostling individually as they stand in formation.

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