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World in Conflict

Steve Hogarty discovers that the Cold War is hotting up again. Those pesky Russians

Sweden's great. Did you know that, in Sweden, they don't call it The Carphone Warehouse? Oh no, the Swedes realised that they're not selling carphones, and they're not selling them in warehouses, so they call it The Phone House instead. They cut out the needless verbiage and hit you in the face with a sledgehammer of raw facts. Here's a house, it sells phones.

It's this very same no-nonsense attitude that you'll invariably find in World In Conflict. Here's a strategy game, it sells explosions. Here's a game that's invented a new way of sorting wheat from chaff, a game that appeals to strategy fans as a KFC boneless meal appeals to a chuckling fat man.

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I don't want to make it sound like I've turned my back on the various elements of the RTS genre that involve base-building and meticulous unit production, because I haven't - but my god, what Massive have done with World In Conflict is so excitingly good that I really could.

They've remodelled the RTS genre and yet have ended up with something that is, on the face of it, far more immediately captivating, far more strategic and far more fun to play. They've purified it, and now it sits on a happy middle-ground between those who hate and those who love the RTS genre.

MEATBALL MARINARA
Before they show me the game, we sit down to a smorgasbord of Swedish pizzas (while the testers dig into a lesser, Burger King smorgasbord). After this, Massive are ready to show me some of their new multiplayer game modes. We've already sampled Domination mode, which works in a similar way to Battlefield's control point system. The more control points you capture and hold, the faster your team rolls giddily towards victory.

Each control point is made up of two or more adjacent areas you must sit your units in, and by choosing to sit tight in those areas you can fortify them with bunkers and anti-vehicle weaponry.

Of course, sitting tight prevents you from pushing forward, so as with many choices in World In Conflict, communicating your intentions to your team-mates becomes paramount. It's handy then, that World In Conflict's VoIP and chat system works not only in the game itself, but on every loading screen you encounter. "Nice loading screen!" you might shout to your internet buddy. "After this we should properly trounce the opposition! What say you to that?" And you know what? He would probably agree - such are the joys of talking through a loading screen.

When you come across somebody who's managed to defend a position long enough to fortify it up to the eyeballs, the rock-paper-scissors analogy comes charging into action.

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ROLE UP, ROLE UP
Each unit has its secret nemesis, its militaristic phobia, its dark strategic allergy. A building filled with dug-in infantry falls prey to long-range artillery controlled by whoever chooses the support role (each team is commanded by anything up to eight players, each choosing one of four roles). That long-range artillery is susceptible to tank attacks (controlled by the armour role), and similarly, those tanks will be wasted by a quick-thinking heavy helicopter (air role, and the final one is the infantry role, if you haven't already realised).

The role you choose determines which units you can purchase (although it's possible to buy units from other roles at a premium), and your purchases are airdropped in at regular intervals. You're only ever commanding a small clutch of units too, and that means your attention is never spread too thinly.

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