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Empire Earth - First Look

One of Empire Earth III's weapons really sucks. That would be an uncharacteristically harsh judgment to make of a game that’s just making its first faltering steps into the public spotlight, except I mean it in a good way.

We're talking about the firearm mounted on an ED-209-esque robot that creates a pinhole singularity in the battlefield. Watch tanks tremble, trying to escape the pull before getting flipped off their tracks and tumbling towards the event horizon. It's even more impressive when deployed in a settlement, with roofing ripped off before the whole edifice submits.

While that's just one of the units, it's a good example of the change in tone. Empire Earth II, while solid enough, was a distinctly unglamorous wander through the choicest parts of humanity's history in an RTS fashion. Its handful of novel features were dressing on a very traditional, even staid, core. Thankfully, Mad Doc has decided a conservative approach is no longer appropriate. EE3 is actually a little radical.

A new freeform campaign structure borrows a few pages from Total War - except rather than being constrained to one period, you play across the entirety of history, starting with clubs and ending with sexy future-tech. Decide where your armies are going to head on the attractive spinning globe- after a suitable pause for cackling "One day all this will be mine, mu-ha-ha" - and then enter a skirmish game to decide who wins and loses.

Anything you discover is unlocked for your entire civilization, rather than you having to stomp up the tech tree on each level. Survivors of the battle will be available on the strategic map to either garrison the new area or form the core of your onward-marching army. Similarly, any buildings you've constructed in an area will remain if an AI player invades. Many developers have tried to reduce the amount of dead time any RTS game starts with while you're building infrastructure, but few have gone nearly as far as Empire Earth.