Previews

Kingdom Under Fire: Heroes

We've slain Orcs with a giant warhammer. We've rained death from above with our squads of skilled archers. We've cast down giant scorpions with fireballs from our fingertips. We're visibly shaken by the experience, dripping with sweat and almost tasting the elf-blood splattered on our faces. A follow up to cult hit Kingdom Under Fire: The Crusaders, Heroes looks set to deliver another stunning axe-smash in the face of other Xbox actioners.

The same mix of full-on third-person slash 'em up and meticulous strategy, the sequel incorporates loads of new features. The original four warlords do feature in the single-player campaign, although not as playable characters. Instead, seven new leaders are available, who featured as NPCs in the original, such as Gerald's bodyguard Rupert and super-tough ogre General Urukubarr. The action takes place five years before The Crusaders, though once again each character has an interweaving storyline. Missions incorporate specific objectives, like laying siege to a castle or scouting for traps, and the game clocks in an impressive 50-odd Campaign missions, not to mention the additional Custom ones.

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As players progress they'll earn XP to learn additional fighting moves and recruit more than 35 types of unit. Co-ordinating huge battles remains simple, but you'll need nerves of steel to effectively switch between units and assign them targets in the heat of battle. New, improved environments and terrain mean battles are more than just an eyes-closed button-mash - moving dragons, positioning your archers in elevated positions, flanking with your cavalry, charging with your infantry and healing everyone with your magical units are all considerations that are much more important this time round.

The impressive scale of the first title is carried over, with over 3,000 units in some of the larger battles and up to 200 characters on screen at one time, all impressively animated, scrapping away. The larger units are awesome, and for a game still a fair way off completion it's shaping up to be a corker. Multiplayer has been given its fair share of attention too, catering for up to six players online. Troop Battle is an all out troop-based tear up, Hero Battle is the same deal but with only one General per player, and Invasion modes are more objective based games. It's here the original four players from Crusaders join the new characters, bringing the amount of playable Generals to 11 online.

We can't wait for this. It looks awesome. It plays awesome. It's gonna be awesome online. Look out for the full review in a couple of issues.

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