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E3 Preview

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Dog-Fight2_lg-01.jpg (6947 bytes)Without a doubt, the biggest surprise of the show for me. Though HW:AR has been released in Europe for a while and will be released in the States in about a month, we’d barely heard of it and our expectations weren’t exactly high. Foolish us. HW:AR  is a strategy/action game that takes place in the near future, after the world has managed to establish peace between all nations. Of course it’s too good to last, and the remaining “old world magnates” decide to stir things up by building military bases on an archipelago of islands and launching missiles from them. Your job is to salvage the last of the “adaptive carriers”, the Antaeus, and conduct an island-hopping campaign that puts an end to war forever.

AAK-AAK-Explode_lg-01.jpg (7565 bytes)Loosely based on the old chestnut Carrier Command, the game is an intriguing blend of  Battlezone-like action and real-time strategy. The Antaeus is both your base of operations and production center through the game’s 21 missions, and you’ll use it to create and upgrade units, issue commands on the strategic map, and transport your expanding army from island to island. You can command up to ten vehicles, and can jump between them at any time. The units you’re not in direct control of can be equipped with “soulcatcher chips” which contain the memories of long-dead soldiers, each with their own strengths and weaknesses; for example, some are excellent pilots, others better with tanks. From what we saw, the unit AI looked pretty good. It had better be; the action aspect of the game is fast and furious, and carrying out the more ambitious strategies made available by the command interface will require some tight teamwork. And speaking of interfaces, the gameplay interface itself was surprisingly elegant. It takes a little while to get the hang of,  but it’s a very smooth ride once you figure it out.

7_lg-01.jpg (5299 bytes)It’s real pretty, too. HW:AR is a visual treat, and was easily one of the best-looking games at E3. And from what we could see, the game told a compelling (though creepy and M-rated) story with plenty of plot twists. While the game will be shipping without multiplayer, a patch has been promised. We’ll know for sure soon enough, but this one looks like a hit to us.

Rick Fehrenbacher

 

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