Battalion Wars E3 2005 Preshow Hands-On

The game formerly known as Advance Wars: Under Fire will be at E3, and we've played an updated build. Check out new impressions.

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The biggest change that's been made to Advance Wars: Under Fire since we played the game last year is the title. It's now called Battalion Wars, and though it's technically no longer an Advance Wars product, the game shares the same cheerful aesthetic and large-scale battlefield mayhem as Intelligent Systems' now-classic GBA strategy games. We went hands-on with a new version of Battalion Wars recently and found its unique, quirky brand of action entertaining.

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

Even if it's not called Advance Wars anymore, the action in Battalion Wars resembles a soldier's-eye-view of that game's chaotic clashes between good and evil military forces. Our demo began by placing us in control of a small detachment of soldiers, which included a handful of infantrymen, a couple of bazooka-wielding anti-armor troops, a jeep, and a tank. You'll directly control only a single soldier at any given time, but the rest of your troops do a nice job of keeping up with you and helping you lay the smack down on your enemies.

Battalion Wars makes it easy to interface with the multitude of unit types under your command. Each general type of unit is represented at the bottom of the screen by an icon, and you can quickly scroll through these icons with the C stick. Once a unit is highlighted, you can direct it to follow you or send it to a specific point on the map to take up an offensive position. Even better, you're not confined to just one unit per mission--you can use this icon interface to switch to any other type of unit under your command at any time. If you see an enemy tank rumbling over the hill, you'll want to jump into a bazooka soldier's shoes and take it out, for instance. The icon bar even indicates the health of every single unit in your squad, so you can switch to a guy that's about to die and try to extract him from the fray if you're really into micromanaging your troops.

In fact, you may have to micromanage to make sure enough troops stay alive to successfully complete the mission. We tried to make it through the demo mission by simply charging the enemy position with guns blazing, and that got us and most of our allies killed real fast. Thankfully, you've got a wealth of combat aids at your disposal to help you save your own neck. A lock-on helps to direct your aim, while diving and rolling abilities come in handy when you're under heavy fire and need to retreat to safer ground. There will be a bunch of vehicles on offer as well, such as the aforementioned tank and jeep, and reps told us some of the bigger vehicles will even feature multiple positions, such as a driver and a gunner.

How the loss of the Advance Wars name will affect the storyline in Battalion Wars wasn't revealed to us (we didn't see any recognizable Advance Wars COs, for instance), but it seems clear that at least the game's endearing and playable design will trundle on regardless. We also didn't get a look at any sort of multiplayer action, though the game seems suited to such a mode. Battalion Wars is now scheduled for release on September 19, so stay tuned for more on the game in the coming months.

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