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Mobile Suit Gundam: Crossfire - updated hands-on

We've been pretty hard on Mobile Suit Gundam: Crossfire in the past, and with good reason. The last couple of times we played it, the giant-robot simulator was flat, lifeless and clumsy, with mechs trudging around in barren environments that were little more than window dressing for unremarkable third-person shooting.

In the short span of time since then, though, the game has gone through a whole raft of improvements. When we saw it during Sony's PS3 preview event in San Francisco, it was nearly complete, and while it didn't exactly blow our minds, it's starting to look like a strong contender for launch day.

While our last couple of stabs at the game were set in dull desert-canyon and jungle landscapes, this was the first time we actually got a chance to bust up some buildings. In the game's first mission (for the Earth storyline, anyway - we haven't seen too much of the opposing Zeon campaign yet), our nameless pilot was charged with testing out the GM, a mech developed by Earth's forces to counter the towering, one-eyed Zeon Zakus. This meant stomping through a little ruined city and blasting a few captured Zakus as they lurched out from behind the shells of buildings.

The actual combat was largely the same stuff we'd seen before, but it felt a little smoother and looked a little flashier. Enemies can be locked onto easily, at which point you can let loose with head-mounted cannons, your mech's assault rifle or whatever other long-range weapons you're carrying. Alternately, you can zoom in on specific parts in sniper mode, or dash up close with your robot's jetpack and start taking your enemies apart with a giant lightsaber.

One of Gundam's cool features is that its robots can be dismembered and handicapped, something we saw firsthand as the enemies blew our mech's head clean off. It turns out that headlessness is a problem you can live with, as all it really does is take out your radar. Far more problematic was the loss of our GM's right hand; since the left hand was carrying a shield, and because our head-cannons had been sheared off, this left us unable to fight back - at least until we figured out how to drop the shield and use our left hand to deal damage.

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