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Last Updated: Monday, 27 September, 2004, 09:58 GMT 10:58 UK
Dawn of War proves fiendishly addictive
By James Bregman
BBC News Online staff

While Dawn of War, the latest title from the Warhammer 40,000 stable does not offer anything radically new, it does its thing with considerable style.

Screenshot from Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War
Dawn of War is a phenomenally good-looking game
This accessible and entertaining real-time strategy game puts you in command of one of several warring breeds as they come to blows in a number of gloriously-drawn post-apocalyptic environments.

The origins of such mayhem lie in a table-top strategy game that began in the 80s. The electronic version cuts out the dice-throwing element and is easily enjoyed by those new to the genre as well as devotees.

It is set in the 40th millennium in a violent new dark age, when human travel around the far reaches of the galaxy has antagonised man's enemies, which crop up in the guise of Orks, forces of Chaos, and the mysterious breed of Eldar.

Great graphics

The scenario comes with plenty of further detail for the benefit of obsessive fans of the franchise, but what it all boils down to is a liberal helping of good old-fashioned fighting.

Shifting your troops around the landscapes - in campaign / story mode, a quick skirmish or online multiplayer action - is child's play. Units are straightforwardly manipulated by pointing and clicking to get them to take up strategic positions, seize territory, and most of all, engage the enemy.

WARHAMMER 40,000: DAWN OF WAR
Screenshot from Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War
Format: PC
Graphics: 10/10
Sound: 8/10
Gameplay: 8/10
Enduring appeal: 7/10
Overall: 8/10
When the warring forces do come to blows, the results are great fun to watch.

Dawn of War is a phenomenally good-looking game, and that extends to the brilliantly-animated, if rather violent, hand-to-hand combat.

Whichever angle you choose to view proceedings from, the backgrounds and figures all look superb. To keep things practical you generally need to be zoomed out a fair distance, but you can close the camera right in to witness the confrontations in glorious detail.

And as well as being aesthetically pleasing, the various protagonists ooze character, with proper distinct personalities, voices and ways of doing things.

Hammy voice-acting adds value in this respect, with great fun to be had as the slimy, sneering cockney Orks face off against gung-ho human marines and the creepy Chaos forces with their exotic accents.

Action galore

The scale of combat ranges from simple long-range gunfights that are over in five seconds, to all-out battles involving heavy machinery and massive explosions.

The game is action-heavy, so things can get fiddly when you need to flick between units at speed. Leaping around the map is not always as easy as it might be.

But that is a small price to pay for the abundant excitement Dawn of War delivers.

While the emphasis on action may not prove ideal for strategy fiends, it is central to the success of a highly polished game.

To get the most out of it you will need to invest plenty of time, and head for the multiplayer option.

Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War for the PC is out now


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