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Warhammer Online-Age of Reckoning & PROTOTYPE

Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning

Why get excited?
We all know that the big stories this year MMO-wise will be the launch of Age of Conan: Hyborean Adventures and the new Wrath of the Lich King expansion for World of Warcraft, but Warhammer Online could present some strong opposition. Why? For one thing, its pedigree. The team at EA Mythic created the seminal Dark Age of Camelot, and Warhammer Online carries on the powerful Realm vs. Realm tradition of that game.

For another, it's setting. The fantasy world Games Workshop created for the Warhammer games is one of the richest out there, based on a gritty, middle-European, post-renaissance Europe rather than the usual Tolkien-esque high fantasy kingdoms, and centred on an apocalyptic battle between humanity and the insidious forces of Chaos. The game looks good in a stylised, WoW sort of way, and it bodes well that EA Mythic pulled it back for tinkering after the initial beta phases rather than launch it half-cocked. Age of Reckoning might not have the mass appeal of Lord of the Rings Online or World of Warcraft, but it could win friends among the existing MMO and Games Workshop tabletop games fanbase.

Curb your enthusiasm?
The project has had a difficult development history, and the emphasis on Realm vs Realm conflict may put off players who prefer the Player vs. Environment style of WoW and LOTRO. There's also a risk that the distinctly WoW-style visuals will look dated in comparison to the other MMOs arriving this year. Will the game get the numbers it needs to be a force in the fantasy MMO genre, or will it go the way of Vanguard: Saga of Heroes? Nobody knows for sure.

ETA: Spring 2008

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PROTOTYPE

Why get excited?
It's Assassin's Creed meets Crackdown with elements of The Darkness, and it comes from Radical Entertainment, the developer behind the under-appreciated Hulk: Ultimate Destruction. In case you can't work out what all that means, it stands for a big, lively urban setting, dynamic, free-flowing movement up and over any surface in the city and an awful lot of super-heroic action, as our shape-shifting hero, Alex Mercer, takes on the authorities in an alternative New York.

By killing foes, Mercer is able to shape-shift and take on their appearance and their capabilities, while absorbing body-mass enables him to unleash awesome offensive and defensive capabilities. The emphasis is on destruction - and anyone who played Radical's Hulk title will know how much fun that can be - but you can also play stealthy or go in for high-flying, wall-crawling acrobatics if you wish. Add co-op gameplay to the mix and PROTOTYPE has the potential to be huge.

Curb your enthusiasm?
Hulk was great, but it did have its share of rough edges. What's more, Radical's last game, Scarface: The World is Yours, wasn't always as entertaining as it might have been. After Assassin's Creed, there's a real pressure on open-world games to deliver thrills as well as technical achievements. Can PROTOTYPE do the job?

ETA: Summer 2008

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