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Defiance hands-on - a Halo moment for MMOs on Xbox?

Trion Worlds' intriguing TV-game crossover packs a punch

Thunk. A weird, glowing yellow spike is sticking out of your shoulder. Thunk. Another buries itself in your neck. Thunk. Right in the knee. You do your best to shake them off and get moving, but they begin to grow. Like a tick fat with blood, they expand into bulbous, translucent sacs of goo. Then they burst off your body, sprout legs, and start scrambling around in search of their next victim. Welcome to Defiance. It's brutal out here.

Rather than go the traditional route with an MMORPG, developer Trion Worlds has opted to bring the third-person shooter experience to the loot-hungry genre. This means thousands of players on a server, a huge open world, and persistent action. It's ambitious, and potentially overwhelming for a genre that's almost completely untested on Xbox.

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Fortunately the player-against-player modes of Defiance are there to ease your transition. Rather than taking place out in the wild, players can jump into smaller matches against an opposing team. These 'instances' basically function like a multiplayer mode in a game like Gears of War, but anything you find in those small-scale battles can be brought back into the open world. Guns, gear, currency - we didn't get to taste-test the loot system in our demo, but Trion promises it'll be extensive in the final game.

The gunplay itself feels great. The grenadier's launcher was tough to get used to, but once you get the timing down, it's as satisfying as hurling jars of jam out of a top window. There's even a touch of Borderlands in terms of quirky weapon attributes, with a sniper rifle that gets more powerful the longer you stare down the scope.

Also included were a sample of the abilities that'll get ample workouts in the final game. Those who prefer stealth can pick up the active camo to navigate the maps undetected, while a temporary but incredibly speedy sprint ability will help you get where you're going faster.

Given Defiance's many features and options, what may truly define it could be its relationship with the accompanying SyFy Channel TV series. Events that take place in the television show can have an impact on what's going on in the game, and vice versa. What you see in the PvP modes may only represent a tiny skirmish in the overarching fiction of Defiance, but your results may just be felt throughout the game and TV show's world. That's an experiment we're truly eager to see come to fruition.

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