Previews

Rome 2: First look at the biggest Total War ever

We feast our eyes on the huge strategy sequel

For more info, check out our massive Rome 2 interview with the game's lead designer.

We're being shown a pre-alpha version of Rome 2, but already it looks stunning. It's running on a totally new engine, designed for the next wave of PC hardware, and the detail and scale is awe-inspiring.

The Roman Army is invading Carthage: a vast city perched on a hill, and the capital of one of the ancient world's greatest civlizations. The battle begins at sea. Naval and land combat are now seamless. A fleet of Roman ships sails towards the beaches of the ancient city, heaving with Legions of soldiers and siege equipment.

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When the fleet hits the beach, the army disembarks en masse and begins the invasion. James Russell, the game's lead designer, says this is the equivalent of a 'boss fight'. You won't be invading Carthage in the first mission: it's the penultimate battle of a long campaign.

Amazingly, despite the staggering visuals, Creative Assembly say they're aiming for Rome 2 to have the same min spec as Shogun 2 - so you won't need a monster rig to play it. It's early days yet, though, and Russell asks us not to hold him to that.

Roman soldiers flood into siege towers, and catapults batter Carthage's huge stone walls. As the towers roll towards the city's perimeter, the camera suddenly zooms into the head of a single soldier. This is a new feature, and is designed to give battles a more human feel.

The battle looks amazing from above, but seeing it through the eyes of a soldier on the front line is absolutely mind-blowing. The Creative Assembly developer controlling the demo spins the soldier's head around and looks behind him at the ships we saw earlier, and we see thousands of soldiers amassing behind us. The scale is almost dizzying.

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Russell described it as "the Saving Private Ryan of the ancient world", which makes perfect sense when you see the invasion in action. It even has the same jerky, documentary-style camera effects as Spielberg's war epic when you're inside the head of a soldier.

As the siege tower approaches Carthage's walls, the commander of the unit we're currently viewing the action from yells orders at his troops, and prepares them for the impending battle. You'll see tiny details like this whenever you zoom into a unit.

If a soldier gets an arrow in the neck, his buddy will recoil in horror, or try to drag him to safety. Being able to flick instantly between a vast overview of the battlefield, and these tiny, human moments, makes it the most immersive and cinematic Total War yet.

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