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Talk about an axis of evil.

The barbarian Hordes of Chaos, sinister dark elves, ratlike Skaven, orcs and goblins are threatening the Empire — and it’s time for you to choose sides.

"Warhammer: Battle March" is the latest digital incarnation of the popular tabletop war game that pits humans and high elves against a ragtag assortment of evildoers in large-scale battles. The tactical simulation from Namco Bandai and Black Hole Entertainment is available on the Xbox 360 and PC, where it’s actually an expansion of "Warhammer: Mark of Chaos."

The Xbox 360 version offers three single-player campaigns, a single-player skirmish mode and online multiplayer matches for up to four players.

In each mode, your job is to create, deploy and command an army. You can jump into the action and keep fighting without worrying about building bases, harvesting resources or other tedious tasks that occupy so much time in similar games.

However, the game is still complex. The six playable factions include more than 100 different kinds of units, most of which can be deployed in different formations and use special skills. Heroes can duel, wield special powers and use magical objects as they lead your troops in battle.

Commanding your army requires a quick mind — and nimble fingers. The control system uses every button and knob on the Xbox 360 controller in multiple combinations. Even after two spins through the tutorials, it took me several missions to nail them. This is a bit disappointing since games like "Command and Conquer" have made great strides in simplifying their controls for the Xbox 360.

However, once you get into the rhythm, the game is pretty solid.

The campaigns progress from small-scale confrontations to large-scale battles, with a few heroes-only missions thrown in along the way. Between missions you can heal your troops, recruit new units and buy equipment.

The skirmish and online modes offer a decent amount of flexibility. You can play as any of the different races and sub-factions in a variety of sieges and battles.

Generally, the graphics are very good, offering an excellent amount of detail and animation, and maintaining their quality when zooming from overhead to grunt-level views. However, the cut scenes tend to be a bit chunky and muddy.

The game is rated M because of violence, language, gore and "partial nudity" — such as topless harpies and dark elves who go into battle wearing armored thong bikinis. Of course that’s pretty standard fare for a fantasy title. I was actually more bothered by the constant stream of pseudo-religious mumbo-jumbo that flows through the game.

Overall, "Battle March" makes a good transition from the PC to the Xbox 360. Once you get a handle on the controls — and decrease the characters’ volume so you don’t have to listen to constant prattling about their gods — you’ll find a good tactical simulation.

Platforms: Xbox 360, PC

On the Web: http://warhammer.deepsilver.com


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