Go on, have a guess..." "Napoleon: Total War?" "Nope." "Mutant Space Monkeys: Total War?" "Sorry, wrong again." "Mods Vs Rockers: Total War?" "Close, but no cigar." "Give up, dunno." "It's..." drum rolls, fanfares, really need a piss I'm so excited... "Medieval 2: Total War!"
That was about the extent of my conversation with PC Zone's commander-in-chief Sefton about the imminent announcement of the new Total War game, a discussion that concluded with me jigging around the room in a urine-streaked stupor, while Sefton called security to have me removed from the building.
If you've played any of the Total War games before - most notably the latest instalment of the series, Rome - you'll understand my spontaneous impersonation of an incontinent Michael Flatley. Maybe you're even doing one yourself right now. After all, these screens drip with visuals so luscious they'd prompt even a 90-year-old arthritic drunk to rise from his seat and dance around his colostomy bag from sheer delight. But as you're about to find out in this, the world's first-ever look at the latest instalment of the all-conquering Total War series, Medieval 2 isn't just a visual feast - it's also packed with meaty goodness in the gameplay stakes, too.
RAMPING IT UP
Having appeased Sefton with flowers, chocolates and enough cash to put down a deposit on a new house in his native Yorkshire (3.20 GBP in real money), he re-instated me as the man chosen to speak with Bob Smith - project director of the Australian CA team behind Medieval 2. And so, with medieval torturing tools at the ready - just in case he wouldn't talk - I met up with said Smith for an afternoon of interrogation and song. Actually, it was pretty much just interrogation, though I did have a rendition of Killing Me Softly ready, just in case the thumbscrew didn't work.
"Our aim is to improve upon the gameplay of Rome and bring its awesome gameplay to the medieval era, while raising the spectacle of the Total War series to a whole new level," Smith told me. "The period is renowned for huge castles, lots of armour, colourful flags and heraldry. We're raising the bar right across the board from the campaign map to the historical and multiplayer battles. The overall structure and gameplay will be similar to Rome's, but it'll also incorporate some elements from the original Medieval such as the Pope and the Crusades."
I'm gonna go out on a limb here and guess you've probably already taken a sneaky peek at the rest of the pages of this preview, drooled lustfully and maybe even contacted your bank manager to discuss the possibility of a loan to cover the cost of a new graphics card. Well, for starters, you needn't panic if your machine's still packing a 'more mature' 3D card, because just like its predecessors, Medieval 2's titanic battles will be massively scalable to cater to the power of your PC. And even though it's still too early to talk spec specifics, Smith seemed confident that Medieval 2 is set to be every bit as friendly to OAP cards and processors as Rome was.
But what about if you've already taken out a third mortgage for a PC that'll enable you to play Medieval 2 in all its glory? What's in store for you? Well, for starters, Medieval 2 is doubling, yes, doubling Rome's polygon count. "The amount of detail in some of the textures is amazing, right down to the names of programmers inscribed on gravestones in the churchyard," enthused Smith. "We've stripped down and fully refurbished large chunks of the Rome engine. The methods for building and rendering cities and units is completely new, and the combat animation system has been heavily revised."