The Secret World
Right, science time Imagine the characters of Left 4 Dead within an MMO: normal, heavily-armed people in extraordinary circumstances, surrounded by NPCs with intelligently scripted and well-acted voices and whose pretty ladies don't have up-front areas that come with a jiggle function.
Your next step is to remove the sprint abilities of the zombies and tie them into the Norse myth of undead mariners that was covered in Sylvester McCoy-era Doctor Who adventure The Curse of Fenric. Next: mix in two tablespoonfuls of (360-exclusive) Alan Wake, alongside a pinch of John Carpenter's The Fog. What you've just laboriously produced in your mind's eye is Kingsmouth: one of the early locations in The Secret World-a game that's fast becoming one of the more fascinating prospects around in modern MMOs.
The deal is that you play a real person, not some mana-slugging member of the faerie-folk, who's been inducted into one of the world's secret societies (Illuminati, Knights Templars or Dragon). Then from a base in New York, London or Seoul (and with growing specialisations in skills like gunplay, martial arts and magical voodoo leanings) you'll set out to uncover the truth behind the various myths inflicting damage on pretty much every continent available. Invariably, said myths will involve monsters of some description.
The American coastal town of Kingsmouth is beset by the living dead. And although the residents refuse to use the z-word, it's a phrase that Funcom aren't afraid of when showing off their frankly remarkable menagerie of beasts. Every night, accompanied by a spooky fog emanating from something Nordic and evil lurking out to sea, the townspeople come under attack. Said locals are quest givers, and each of them is written and acted impeccably - from the passionate government agent constrained by her by-the-book superior (think Scully if she'd ever listened to Mulder) all the way through to old ladies, worried petrol pump attendants and a grizzled and weary hunter obsessed with putting bullets in zombie heads.
In fact, with the evidence at hand it's fair to say The Secret Worlds characters will dole out their quests (presumably, "Go and kill 10 topless ladies with tentacles coming out of their stomachs") with a drama and gravitas that goes over and above those we've encountered so far in Star Wars: The Old Republic.
The subtle touch of Ragnar Tprnquist, writer of The Longest Journey, can be felt throughout the impeccable voiceacting, although whether sustained exposure will get tiring, or indeed whether players will want to sit around listening to drama unfolding when they could be out harvesting zombie tentacles is a matter that's yet to be resolved.
L4D: THE MMO
As for combat, the Funcom plan is to make it more reactive than your usual pattern of cooldowns and damage dealers. You'll take 14 skills into the fray, seven active and seven passive, but you'll also be aiming and strafing around the place in a far more organic way than you'll be used to.
Sure, Funcom have promised great shakes with combat that came to little in Age of Conan, but watching four people take on Kingsmouth's ghoulies, combining their various talents as a group, suggests a fighting style that avoids the rinse-and-repeat numbertapping that's prevalent in MMOs.
There are no classes or levels here either, you're free to build your character whichever way you want from the off whether you want to wave a flaming katana in the face of evil or pop heads from a distance with an automatic rifle. How big a departure this will truly be from MMO conventions so long-standing they have pretty much been hewn into solid rock is, again, yet to be seen - but Funcom's desire to open up massively multiplayer to those who would usually fear its intricacies and elf-centric nature is obvious.
There's much to be unveiled and explained in The Secret World, the way FVP will work as cabals (Secret-speak for guilds) take each other on beneath the Earth's surface in a fight for a resource called Anima, for example, as well as promised in-game shops and nightclubs back in your urban origin area that pretty much make a dance command a certainty.
Beyond that? Well the hope is that new and exciting troublespots, hubs and instances from around the world will be added over time. Rumour has it we're talking Atlantis, secret Arctic vaults, the Masons being behind it all... pretty much everything you've ever suspected, but The Man refuses to comment on. As conspiracies go, we hope this one goes all the way up to the top.
Download The Secret World
PC compatible, P-100
Systems: Windows 9x, Windows 2000 Windows XP, Vista, Win 7, Win 8, Win 10.
Game features:Single game mode