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Incubation has all the ingredients to become among the season's most popular strategy titles

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This winter, Blue Byte's Incubation will explode onto store shelves and show the world that turn-based strategy games have more than a little life left in them. Based in the futuristic Battle Isle universe, Incubation weaves the tale of a handful of Judge Dredd look-alike space marines who must help the human colonists of Scayra evacuate the planet before they are overwhelmed by the indigenous mutant Scay'Ger, wicked monsters born of an uncouth union between human bacteria and indigenous Scayra beast.

Incubation is powered by the gorgeous high-color 3D graphics engine complete with Intel MMX and 3Dfx accelerator support right out of the box, first seen in Blue Byte's action shooter Extreme Assault. Rich, multilayered futuristic landscapes and vicious monsters so life-like that you can see them frothing at the mouth mean Incubation is going to be one of the most visually stunning strategy games of all time. Its graphics aren't just eye candy; Incubation's 3D engine allows for an infinitely customizable perspective on the situation. You witness a bird's-eye view of your squad by default, but at the touch of a button you can pan up or swing right down to your soldiers' line of sight. You can survey the action through their eyes, or even from your enemies' point of view.

Incubation's highly intuitive mouse-driven control means you can spend your time planning your assault rather than referring to the manual. When you select a troop, you are shown exactly where that troop can move on the map and how many action points it'll have remaining afterwards. Now simply click where you want it to go then select the direction you want it to face when it gets there. Firing weapons is equally simple, as viable targets are clearly marked and just a mouse-click away from destruction.

Thus the challenge of Incubation lies not in mastering a top-heavy interface, but in carefully executing each turn. Your weapons are more accurate at close range, but the Scay'Ger move fast and won't give you a second chance should you not finish them off right away. You may be able to squeeze off several rounds of ammo each turn if you're packing smaller firearms, but those run the risk of overheating. And your weapons are susceptible to jamming at the most inopportune moments, so you'd better have a plan B in every situation.

The Scay'Ger will definitely have you outnumbered, but you just might have them outgunned. Dozens of different weapons and special tools are available to your troops. From standard-issue semi-automatic pistols and assault guns to anti-personnel mine launchers and high-energy lasers, you'll have the means at your disposal to do your dirty work. Of course, you'll need to save up the necessary resources before you can outfit each of your squaddies with a Multi-Target Destroyer, so you're going to have to be frugal if you want to succeed in the long run. Other items can help sway the battle in your favor, including med kits, combat drugs, and even a battle standard to help boost morale - those Scay'Ger are a frightful lot, and your troops may very well panic if they become injured or separated.

Your enemies come in nearly a dozen different varieties, from tiny to huge and from deadly to deadlier. Your first sightings of the vicious vermin may lead you to believe that all your enemies will merely charge headlong and attack with razor-like claws. Not so - some Scay'Ger are long-range weapons experts, while others boast nearly impenetrable defenses. A variety of weapons and strategies are required in dealing with all the different types of foe you will encounter.

The single-player campaign details the colonists' attempt to quell the Scay'Ger threat over close to three dozen branching missions. Each mission is interconnected, as the serious story unfolds through your squad commander's own words. Soldiers you lose in one mission won't be around to help you the next time out, just as those who fight and survive will grow more powerful and acquire special skills as they progress. Meanwhile, an instant action mode offers a quick dose of carnage for the solo player just like four-player network and Internet support mean you won't have to keep Incubation to yourself.

As it stands, Incubation has all the ingredients to become among the season's most popular strategy titles. Its exciting visuals, involving storyline, and tactical turn-based gameplay are sure to please anyone looking for a change of pace from the real-time overkill. Asked why he chose to make Incubation turn-based at a time when most companies are turning out real-time games, Wolfgang Walk, producer of Incubation, responded simply, "Your question is the answer. Also, when playing a strategy game, we like to think before moving, and we believe we're not the only ones."

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