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Spore

(PC, Mac, other platforms undecided)
Not content with creating possibly the most ambitious God Game of the century, Sims developer Will Wright will also be able to claim a new genre come September; that of Massively Singleplayer Online.

Spore will see you not only interact with your own creation, but those of other players throughout the world through a constant developmental phase. You won't directly be able to play against a real person, but your creations will be uploaded to a central database and spread throughout the gaming universe, a bit like a... well, spore.

From an initial "tidal pool" beginning, your creature (nothing more than a microbe) will need to be guided around a 2D environment, snapping up slower and less fortunate creatures, eventually forming an egg that will allow you to modify more serious defensive and offensive attributes. Eventually, and presuming you don't get eaten, you'll move to a new phase allowing more minute adjustment, improving even more your creature's ability to survive against others.

Sooner or later, you'll find yourself sufficiently advanced to start a tribe, then a civilization, and in a mere blink of an eye you'll be in space - not unlike the human race.

What sets Spore apart from other run-of-the-mill empire builders is the sheer scale and attention to detail. Wright himself has claimed the eventual scope of the game would encompass over half a million stars, each with its own planet - more than one could visit in a lifetime.

All this aside, even if you hate empire simulators, you'll love the ability to create from scratch a completely unique creature, imbue your personality, flaws and skewed perspective on it, and set it loose in the world. After all, many of you have children of your own, so you should feel right at home.

Spore may not have an ending as such, but it will be beginning around September this year, and looks to change simulation gaming as we know it for quite a while to come.

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed

(Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, PSP, DS, PS2)
There are few franchises in the world capable of holding a light sabre to Star Wars. As a worldwide phenomenon, the film series has grossed over US$4.3 billion since 1977. It's fair to say that they're never actually going to stop making Star Wars merchandise, so the best we can hope for is that The Force Unleashed approaches the quality of Knights of the Old Republic.

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed is set in the time period between Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith and Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, and as the player you will control Darth Vader's secret apprentice, although some parts will have you playing as Darth Vader himself.

As with most Star Wars titles, expect a multimedia extravaganza with a deep focus on cinematic presentation, and a superb soundtrack to boot. The finished result will incorporate LucasArt's proprietary "Ronin" game engine as well as "Havok" for physics, Pixelux Entertainment's "Digital Molecular Matter" for dynamically destructible objects, and NaturalMotion's "Euphoria" for character animation and artificial intelligence.

Unlike previous blockbuster titles, development of The Force Unleashed has been farmed out to so many different platforms that simply which console you prefer may alter your game experience in a significant fashion. This appears to have been encouraged by the developers as a central theme in the "unleashed" brief, and will no doubt appeal to serious fans who seek additional content wherever they can get it. Speaking of content - expect a darker, more meaningful story than simply good vs. bad, and remember that George Lucas has had a huge amount of involvement at virtually every step of the development.

This could well be the title hard-core Star Wars fans have been waiting for, and we can't wait to see if the special effects stack up. If all goes well, we'll find out towards the end of September.

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