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Send us to a distant planet, slap a shotgun in our hands, and we're usually pretty happy. The budget-priced WarPath, currently on track for a June release, delivers space-shooter carnage in its not-quite-complete stages, but we're not sure if its best ideas are enough to givethis bargain blaster ($30 on Xbox) anedge against its toughest opponent: Halo 2.

WarPath frames its first-person blastfest within a Risk-style board game that determines whether your next battle is a round of Capture the Flag, Assault or Deathmatch (solo or team). You stake a claim on a map, then battle one of two enemy armies on the chosen battleground with your choice of upgradable hand-cannons.

The action looks and feels a bit like Unreal Tournament - the sci-fi surroundings and battle vehicles make the comparison hard to avoid. So far, however, the enemiesaren't too bright. They're smart enough to travel in packs, but not smart enough to realize you were running behind them in formation with a shotgun aimed at their melon. Running with the precious flag in a capture match, it was discouraging not to see the enemy in front of us get mowed down by our teammate to his right. We also saw a few ill-timed jump attempts that sent our computer-controlled allies to their free-fallin' deaths.

However, WarPath is designed as an Xbox Live game (there are 25 multiplayer levels packed in) and shooters are always better with friends.If you're actually tiring ofHalo 2, the king of shooters, WarPath is determined to takea shot at becoming your next online diversion.