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Star Wars: The Force Unleashed & Spore

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed (Xbox 360, PC, PS3, Wii)

Why get excited?

It's the first major Star Wars game in ages, and the first LucasArts game to exploit several very cool chunks of cutting-edge technology. Set between the prequel and classic Star Wars trilogies, it puts the player in the shoes of Darth Vader's secret apprentice. An action game with a heavy emphasis on force powers, it incorporates Digital Molecular Matter, a technology that allows for the spectacular destruction of objects and surfaces in real-time, and Eurphoria, a behavioural simulation engine that adjusts character animation so that they react realistically to the changing environment, balancing themselves when needed, falling back when punched, or moving within a crowd as you might do in real life. Best of all, the Wii version might have to do without HD graphics, but it does give you the opportunity to use the force and wield a light-sabre using the Wii nunchuk and remote. Do Star Wars fans need to hear more?

Curb your enthusiasm?

We still don't know that much about the actual gameplay, and Star Wars games have never been a sure fire bet in quality terms. Fingers crossed that we're talking about the next Jedi Knight II and not the next Shadows of the Empire.

ETA: April


Spore (PC)

Why get excited?

Reason one: It's a new game from Wil Wright, one of the few people out there to invent a genre not just once (Sim City) but twice (The Sims). Reason two: It's a bold new style of God game, where you watch over the evolution of a species from its beginnings as a simple organism to the point at which it becomes an advanced entity capable of space travel. Along the way, your charge will have to survive several phases, during which the game takes on facets of action games, RTS games and city/civilization builders.

By combining procedural generation, an adaptive, learning AI and user-created content, the idea is that nobody's experience of Spore will be quite like anyone else's. In many respects, the idea is to simulate the way that life itself works, with procedural generation as an analogue for the work of DNA. Wright's genius has always been in binding high concepts to games that a mainstream audience can appreciate. None of us know exactly how Spore works or how it plays, but then that's a big part of its appeal.

Curb your enthusiasm?

For one thing, we still can't be 100 per cent sure that Spore will ship in 2008. For another, even repeated exhibitions at the big trade shows haven't demonstrated how the various components of Spore will all work together in the finished game. Will it be too bitty? Will all that big science make for an enjoyable game? The heart says yes, the mind just sits there, getting boggled.

ETA: 2008 (probably)

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