What's the game about: After getting into console gaming with his family, Civilization-series creator Sid Meier decided to bring his dauntingly complex, leagues-deep society-simulation series to the consoles (it hits the 360 and PS3 in spring 2008, and the Wii later in fall '08). And his first orders of business for capturing this new audience: make the game prettier and simpler. After picking your nationality, you can take it from the stone age all the way to interstellar travel (your ultimate goal) in about three-and-a-half hours--a much zippier process than in Civilization 4 for the PC. The multiplayer matches, straightforward four-player races for domination, take even less time. But Revolution is still a Civ game at its academic core, and as fans would expect, you can win in multiple ways: take over your enemies via force, conquer them economically, shine as a utopian society so that all cities want to join you, or just win the space race to Alpha Centauri.
What's new for E3: Developer Firaxis was eager to point out Revolution's console touches: how you don't need to wade deep into menus to accomplish tasks as simple as map exploration or as complex as technology research. Some actions that required your command in the PC game are automatic here. Nearby ships, for instance, will support your troops in battle without you lifting a finger. Unfortunately, they didn't have the Wii version on display because they decided to bring Revolution to that system late in the game.
What we like: If Civ 4 intimidated us on the PC with its History Channel presentation and pretty but impersonal visuals, Revolution invited us in with its lush landscapes, volumetric fog of war, and famous figures that percolated personality. Build a Wonder of the World for bonus points and it comes to life on the screen rather than pops up in a photo. Historical figures like Napolean and Cleopatra posture and puff up via animations that breathe life into these characters. Even the battles between your forces and enemies are fun to watch, which is good, since you'll be watching them a lot.
What we dislike: Series faithful will balk at the cartoony graphics and finale sequence that--seriously!--has every character and craft dancing for joy. "Sid called and said he wanted that dancing sequence in the game, and we were all skeptical," says Programmer Jacob Soloman. "But now that we have it running, it just works."