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Trenched hands-on preview – three things you think you know that are completely wrong [VIDEO]

You there! You look manly and macho. Do you like your meat red, your commies dead, and your flag red, white, and blue? Then you need to watch the newest video of Trenched, the WWI-era mech shooter from developer Double Fine, who also created Stacked, Costume Quest, and Brutal Legend. Unless you hate your country, you’ll love it – things explode. If you have seen it, it surely got your red-blooded, All-American man juices flowing and you probably think you know what the game is all about. And you’re probably wrong. Sorry, soldier. But don’t cry like a little sissy girl. Square those shoulders, grab your boots, and prepare to salute, because we’re here to do our patriotic duty and deliver you the intel you need to fight any dirty propaganda you might have heard.

Point #1 – You think it’s serious instead of being funny. It’s still funny.

As you may have gathered from our feeble intro, Trenched borrows that over-the-top, chest-thumping machismo that permeated men’s magazines in the 1930s (Remember that? No? Well, just trust us), so enthusiastically, it’s farcical. Every soldier is an uber-man – each mech has its own whiskey cabinet and cigar humidor (which you’ll see the men use upon completing a mission), your commanding officer smokes despite being confined to an iron lung, and the soldiers’ biographies read like a cross between a man of the year application and the character breakdown for a John Wayne movie.

Speaking of which, the story is insanity. In a post-WWI world, two soldiers hear a mysterious signal from space and are transformed into geniuses. One invents “trenches” – mechs that are basically walking tanks. Another breeds armies of techno-organic monsters that explode into televisions when they die, and seeks to take over the world with them.

Also, there is an aircraft carrier with legs. So, yeah – it’s funny enough for you, if you’re man enough for it.

Point #2 – You think it’s a simple shooter. It’s not.

Trenched has a ton of shooting, no question. But that’s not all there is to it. The game is actually a tower defense game played from the point of view of a mobile unit on the field (up to four of them, in fact). So you’ll spend a ton of time using epic ordnance to blast giant holes in Tron-neon enemies, yes. But you’ll also need to collect the scraps of their shattered bodies and use it to purchase and place stationary defenses like flak cannons, enemy-slowing damper units, mine-layers, repair stations to heal your trench, and sniper turrets. It also has four player co-op, so your strategy and loadout can be coordinated with your friends’.

Point #3 – You think it won’t require much strategy. It will.

You can place at least nine different kinds of turret, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. And there are at least nine breeds of enemy, not counting bosses. This matters. For example, the flak cannon is great against flyers, but it can’t even hit enemies on the ground. Add to that three different trench classes: the standard, which can deploy three types of turret and usually has four weapon slots; the light Engineering class, which can deploy four types of turret but averages only two weapon slots, and the Assault trench, which typically carries only two turret types but has up to six weapon slots.

Speaking of which, you must also factor in six weapon classes: cannon, machine gun, sniper, shotgun, grenade, and area-of-effect style “broadcast” gear, and dozens of possible weapons (Borderlands was referenced) to choose from. Top it off with that four-player co-op play we mentioned earlier, moving through missions whose maps and waves of attacking enemies are so varied that one member of the design team told us, “There are no two missions so similar that I’d want the same loadout for them”. So, yeah – you’ve got some decisions to make.

But playing Trenched when it comes out later this year? That’s not one of them. That decision is easy.

Mar 9, 2011

I was the founding Executive Editor/Editor in Chief here at GR, charged with making sure we published great stories every day without burning down the building or getting sued. Which isn't nearly as easy as you might imagine. I don't work for GR any longer, but I still come here - why wouldn't I? It's awesome. I'm a fairly average person who has nursed an above average love of video games since I first played Pong just over 30 years ago. I entered the games journalism world as a freelancer and have since been on staff at the magazines Next Generation and PSM before coming over to GamesRadar. Outside of gaming, I also love music (especially classic metal and hard rock), my lovely wife, my pet pig Bacon, Japanese monster movies, and my dented, now dearly departed '89 Ranger pickup truck. I pray sincerely. I cheer for the Bears, Bulls, and White Sox. And behind Tyler Nagata, I am probably the GR staffer least likely to get arrested... again.