Shogun 2: Total War:
I'd sat through a good 15 minutes of the lead designer of Shogun 2: Total War showing off the game before I had a chance to ask him about co-op modes. By that time I had already gotten pretty excited about the game. Can you imagine my elation when he told me that the game fully integrates co-op into the campaign mode if players choose?
Shogun 2 takes place in 16th Century Japan during the Warring States Period where various clans were warring for power. This eventually ended when the Tokugawa clan won. In Shogun 2, you have the chance to change history. In the campaign, you pick a family which you'll be playing throughout; furthermore, you have a lot of different customization choices you can make for your chosen family. You can make political decisions for your clan (e.g. proposing marriages to seal alliances with other clans). You can choose whether your clan specializes in the Way of Chi or Bushido (these are like tech trees). You even get characters on the campaign map that you can level up and specialize as you see fit. These characters can be generals (which are used for the RTS combat which I'll get to in a second), government policemen, and yes, ninjas that you can use to assassinate other characters. There's a huge amount of RPG-like elements incorporated into the campaign to give the game a real sense of telling a story.
So what about the RTS elements of the game? The game promises some epic battles. Some of the battles in Shogun 2 will feature tens of thousands of units on the field at once. There will be a huge amount of variety in the maps, including different weather conditions (e.g. rain makes your units run slower), times of day (e.g. during night you cannot receive reinforcements), and different seasons. There are about 30 unit types who each possess special abilities (I saw some archers with fire arrows rain down some nasty damage on charging calvary). Oh, and uphill/downhill advantages will come into play as well as momentum on charges.
Okay, okay - but what about the co-op? In a co-op campaign, you each get your own families (so you can make your own choices about your tech trees and campaign characters), but your families are automatically entered into an alliance. The win condition is either one of you becoming Shogun, and we were assured that there is no backstabbing allowed in this alliance. It sounds virtually the same as the single-player campaign mode except you're working together to win the game instead of just you on your own. It sounds like a great system.
We were told that Shogun 2: Total War is currently slotted for a March 2011 release date. We were treated to a pre-alpha version, but what they have looks very promising.
That about wraps it up for Sonic Free Riders and Shogun 2. Again, expect a write up on Conduit 2 later this month.