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Previews

Lair

Preview: Exclusive - six levels blown wide open

Up until now, Lair hasn't been sitting at the top of everyone's Most Anticipated lists beside Metal Gear Solid and Killzone 2. But that, we're willing to bet, is about to change.

Lair's graphical prowess hits you like a bus the moment you start the first level. It has that Factor 5 touch. You leap onto your dragon and launch into the air, and it stuns you with its ultra-high-detail environments that stretch far into the distance for you to gawp at as you soar through the sky on your giant dragon.

Factor 5 clearly still knows how to get a console's chips ticking, as it did when it produced the technically stunning Star Wars: Rogue Squadron games on GameCube.

Zoom

The first of the six levels we played during our exclusive hands-on is particularly stunning. A town with literally hundreds of buildings is sprawled out in a sort of canyon between two huge mountains. This awesome scene overlooks the sea, with the most amazing water ripple being lit up by a gorgeous sunset. In 1080p on a on a big screen, it really is a sight to see.

Another level has you flying around at night, in which a torrential downpour splashes water off your dragon's wings as they flap, and fierce lightening strikes light up the whole screen for a split second, momentarily revealing the impressively bump-mapped textures of the towering rocky surfaces around you before the whole scene plunges back into near complete darkness. It's awesome stuff.

It's an extremely cinematic game, with its top-notch visuals paired up with an epic, loud orchestral soundtrack and a motion control system that literally has you leaning with the action (as you should already know, you control the dragons by tilting the SixAxis).

Our favourite level is set along a river down which ships full of your men and equipment are sailing. Your primary objective is to protect them until they're safely within the confines of the city walls at the far end of the river.

You start off zooming down the river to maul a group of armour-wearing thugs that have decided to mess up one of your watch towers. Spying the troublesome group in the distance, you swoop down, yanking the L2 and R2 triggers to make your dragon slam on the brakes and land, before stomping over to maul their asses.

The ground combat is simple but satisfying. Dozens (and sometimes hundreds and even more) of soldiers surround you with their puny swords. You have choices at this point. Swing the controller left and right violently (or tap X if you're fat and lazy) to make your dragon batter through them like rag dolls, hammer Square to spit fireballs and roast them all or, our favourite, slam Triangle to snare a dude in your mouth and eat him.

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Again, this all looks amazing. As your dragon grips a soldier between its teeth the game occasionally switches to slow-mo and gives you a cinematic panning view of the action. The game is so huge and the soldiers are so small, yet you can still see their limbs reacting with realistic weight and momentum as the dragon thrashes around, and they drop their weapons which fall to the ground.

You wouldn't expect such fine detail in a game with such wide open scale.

Anyway, back to the mission. Once those punks are dealt with, you can take out what we can only describe as a giant cargo dragon - they're a bit like giant airborne stingrays with snouts and teeth, and carry what looks like crates of explosives in their gut. Blowing that thing up is awesome - it causes one of the most violent explosions we've ever seen in a game, whiting out the whole screen and scattering bits of bloody flesh hundreds of feet around it.

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