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Tiberium

Preview: GDI Marine Jamie Sefton is ordered into a field of suspiciously glowing rocks by an unseen god-like commander

Forget global warming - the greatest threat to planet Earth and the survival of mankind is a green radioactive extraterrestrial crystal that is spreading like a cancer across the entire surface of the globe. Or maybe Deal Or No Deal. Anyway, this new form of matter happens to also be a rather excellent resource for a globe starved of oil, and three factions - two human, one alien - are now at war over control of it.

Welcome to the brutal, sci-fi world of Tiberium, a new squad-based shooter set in the C&C universe of the GDI (Global Defence Initiative - good), Brotherhood of Nod (led by evil baldy/beardy Kane - bad) and the Scrin (mysterious aliens - very bad).

"Tiberium is the catalyst for everything, it's our One Ring, our Matrix, our Force, and that's why it's the name," says executive producer Christopher Plummer. "We really want to take people deep into this universe - unravel these great mysteries and mythologies. We hired in scientists to work on the science of tiberium, such as how it works at a molecular level, for example. These elements allow the universe to really hang together and allow us to present our ideas with conviction."

This is classic sci-fi stuff with the promise of a great, twisting campaign mode stuffed with balls-out first-person blasting - if you're expecting the C&C series' trademark RTS micromanagement, you're better off looking elsewhere.

"I think if we do our job right, Tiberium will be for both C&C fans and gamers who've never played it," continues Plummer. "This isn't a strategy game, it's a shooter with tactical elements. You'll recognise certain bits from C&C, but this is a story-driven FPS concentrating on action rather than building bases."

Tiberium is set 11 years after C&C3: Tiberium Wars, when the Scrin were finally defeated - but not before they had managed to build an enormous indestructible tower on top of the world's largest tiberium field, just off the coast of Italy. You play as Ricardo Vega, a war hero who is dragged back into the GDI as a Forward Commander to investigate the Scrin's giant structure after an earlier RAID (Rapid Assault and Intercept Deployment) team disappears.

Fortunately you're backed up by the technology of the GDI war machine, and the first of your considerable arsenal is a unique transforming weapon. Described by the development team as the "rock, paper, scissors of FPS weaponry", the GD10 packs four different states: Mag Rail (standard assault rifle), Missile Launcher (rockets), Explosive Indirect Weapon (grenades) and Energy Cannon (sniper rifle).

Each of these weapon states has alternative fire modes too, so you could launch multiple homing rockets with the Missile Launcher for example, or take direct control of grenades to roll them around corners with the Explosives option.

In combat, this means you have access to a range of different attacks through just one weapon, allowing you to choose whether you sneak up on one of the alien invaders and blast them in their otherworldly nether regions, or hang back and snipe their stupid faces, tossing in a casual grenade or two for kicks. This flexibility was in evidence in the first level we witnessed inside an industrial tiberium reprocessing plant. A group of Shrike - the spiky grunts of the Scrin - began to attack as soon as Vega entered the facility, and were easily dismissed with a few blasts of the Mag Rail.

However, when a pair of tough, ridged Archon warriors stepped into a dimly-lit corridor, only the one-two punch of directed grenades could flush them out, followed by a flurry of rockets that saw them explode in a mist of blue entrails.

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