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While the often-delayed Huxley has long proclaimed itself the premiere MMORPG shooter, it seems a new contender is emerging in hopes of claiming that particular genre-hybrid crown. Vogster's urban gang-themed CrimeCraft is gunning down a very similar path, offering the mouse-and-keyboard crowd a dedicated shooter covered in an appealing MMORPG paint job. The title's developers are calling the Unreal 3 Engine-powered project a "PWNS" or persistent world next-gen shooter, and they're quick to point out it's a shooter first and an MMORPG second.

Sure enough, a quick glance at the action reveals scenarios that'll be instantly familiar to anyone who's ever hopped online and peered down the virtual sights; well-armed avatars running around maps littered with cover points, blowing the crap out of each other and the environment. And while we only got behind the trigger briefly, it certainly feels as though CrimeCraft has got the running and gunning down pat. The character controls are tight, the aiming precise, and unloading a clip carried the appropriate audio and visual kick. Nothing especially ground breaking, but the focus on twitchy action over tactical strategy is consistent with a tried and true formula that's kept PC players fragging friends for years.

Guns, grenades, and fashion accessories
What impressed us more than the solid shooting, though, was CrimeCraft's MMORPG side. Despite the focus on firefights, it's also retaining much of the deep customization you'd expect from the genre. Of course, you'll be able to personalize your own gang-banger; from minor facial details to wardrobe selections, no two ass-cappin' characters will look alike. In our demo, we got behind the ass-kicking and attitude of a female hottie - complete with painted-on jeans and cowboy hat - who wouldn't have looked out of place prowling the streets of Saints Row's Stilwater.

While character customization is expected in an MMORPG, the extent to which you can tweak your weapons should impress even the most seasoned social gaming fans. A robust crafting component will allow you to outfit your guns with a variety of scopes, stocks, laser sights, and other skill-amping accessories, but more passive pimping will allow the truly creative to toss polka dot grenades or cover their AK-47 in tiger stripes, if they so desire.

Good to be a gangsta'
Even cooler is the ability to outfit your clan or "gang" with similar guns and gear. So, if you and your crew want to rule the streets with pink pistols and berets to match, go for it - just plan on being the target of ... everyone. Gangs can also personalize their own cribs with plenty of cosmetic touches and, at higher ranks, with crafting stations, which in addition to creating weapon upgrades, can also manufacture performance-enhancing boosts (the developer wouldn't call them drugs, but c'mon, we weren't born yesterday).

Rounding out the gangsta' specific traits are passive and active abilities that'll assist your gun-toting baddie on the urban battlefield with things like health perks or Molotov cocktail-constructing skills. With over 40 of these abilities - you can only equip three at a time - gangs will have to carefully coordinate to ensure its members strategically play off each others' strengths and weaknesses. This gang-focused gameplay, supported by intense, intimate battles of up to eight-on-eight, could shake things up in a genre currently dominated by military shooters and fantasy world hack-and-slashers. Toss in all the MMORPG trappings, and CrimeCraft could even see a few of Azeroth's inhabitants trading their broad swords for sawed-off shotguns.

Apr 8, 2009