E3 2008: Robocalypse Hands-On

With stylus in hand, we marshal our robot troops and wage war on legions of polite appliances bent on world domination.

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When military AI accidently infiltrates a line of high-end kitchen appliances, the world is in serious danger. In Robocalypse, you must gather resources, amass a robot army, and stop the advance of the robots-gone-wrong. We stopped by Tecmo's booth at E3 2008 to take a look at a near-final build, and so far things are looking good for this real-time strategy game.

We began with a tutorial that guided us through the process of setting things up and introduced us to some of the units. You begin most levels with a home base already built, and this is where you build the builder robots that will automatically harvest resources, such as scrap metal, and repair your buildings when they are damaged. Buildings can be built only on preset build spots, which eliminates strategic building placement and makes sure that you don't go wild building an excessive amount of structures. We constructed a barracks-type building by tapping the build spot with the stylus and selecting the building that we wanted. Shortly thereafter, we had produced an infantry unit and queued up a few more.

The infantry unit is the basic soldier who does a reasonable amount of damage but is fairly weak. You command these units indirectly by selecting them and then tapping a spot on the map to place an action flag. Your infantry will head toward that vicinity, but it will patrol the area nearby instead of standing directly on top of the flag. This enables you to set up defense perimeters as well as attack your foes, given that your infantry will automatically engage any enemies that wander too close. Other basic military units include medic bots that shoot healing lasers at friendly troops, and heavy-artillery units that pack a more powerful punch.

In addition to your basic units, you have a few hero units that have special abilities. We controlled one big guy who had Gatling guns for hands. His special ability? Shooting like crazy. Another hero unit could lead a number of other units wherever he went, making him like a moving action flag. You control hero units directly by tapping them with the stylus and pointing to a spot on the map. These units are key to your strategy, and in one assault we pincered an enemy encampment with the big-gunned hero on one side and a group of infantry led by the field-marshal hero on the other side. If they fall in battle, then you can rebuild them, but they cost significantly more than regular units.

Hero units are also the only ones that can be ordered into unexplored areas of the map, so you'll want to use them to expand your visible area. You can claim victory by destroying your enemy's base, and you'll want to capture control points along the way that will enable you to gain an advantage. In later levels, we're told, you'll be able to construct turrets on build spots near these control points and establish forward outposts to aid in your advance.

Robocalypse will also support wireless battles between four players, all of whom will command their own armies. The game looks quite sharp and features a whimsical cartoon style. With the purportedly robust single player campaign rounding things out, Robocalypse is an appealing title for anyone looking for some on-the-go strategy gaming. For more on this game as its October release date approaches, keep your eye on GameSpot.

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