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World in Conflict - hands-on

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World in Conflict is an RTS set in a Cold War scenario where the Berlin Wall never fell. That means we get loads of cool '80s and '90s tech to play with - and fully destructible environments to let loose in.

The first thing you'll notice when you get into a game is that it's big without being too sprawling. The camera swoops in from what looks like a mile above the conflict zone, down through fluffy clouds and into the action. The graphics did cut up a bit during our playtest, although tinkering at both ends will result in a smoother game for the final version. But overall, this is a good-looking engine.

Players will choose a role before each game starts, be it an aggressive, support or infantry role, although you can reselect a role mid-game if you see the need to. There are special abilities for each class, which means artillery strikes or even nukes can be called in at times - the latter producing the jaw-dropping but sobering sight of a white flash followed by a mushroom cloud billowing into the sky. It's dramatic and well-realized.

Matches we played were closely contested and it became clear that detailed knowledge of units' strengths and weaknesses would be needed in order to stand any chance of winning. But there's little time to analyze the playfield as choppers swoop in and tanks roll up to your front line. This is a more all out action-oriented affair than, say, Command and Conquer 3, with funds awarded from captured bases but no resource gathering from raw materials involved. New units are selected from a list in the top-right of the screen, then deployed by parachute after 15 seconds or so, which works well.

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