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Pandemic unveils Lord of the Rings game

Battlefront in Middle-Earth. Be Sauron.

Pandemic has finally unveiled its long-rumoured Lord of the Rings game, due for release on PC, PS3 and 360 this autumn.

It's called The Lord of the Rings: Conquest and is effectively a continuation of the Battlefront series but in the land of Orcs and talking trees and a big scary eye, according to the IGN reveal.

That means you can pick any of the key fights from the books or films (as well as fictitious ones) and jump in as a melee warrior, third-person shooter archer, support class mage or stealthy scout.

You have no control over what your army does, but can swing the tide of battle by successfully completing objectives such as stopping siege towers reaching the walls of Minas Tirith.

Each battle has you pick a fresh role, which you can also do after every time you die. There is a per-unit upgrade system based around you getting better at filling up your combo meter to unleash the best attacks.

Pandemic will be giving you limited-time access to heroes such as Gandalf, Frodo, Aragorn and Legolas. Each is a super powerful version of the core class types with their own fancy moves. You can play them for as long as your health bar takes to tick down to zero, and can prolong your stay by going on successful kill rampages to refill your gauge.

However, the best bit about The Lord of the Rings: Conquest is that it lets you be almost everyone from Middle-Earth, including the baddies. You can expect to be Cave-trolls, Oliphaunts, Ents, Balrogs, and even the Witch King, Saruman and Sauron himself.

There is an entire evil campaign waiting to be unlocked after you finish the good story, and it begins with you as a Ringwraith capturing Frodo and delivering the Ring to Sauron.

You can play both campaigns with up to four friends online or in split-screen, or just hop into eight-player competitive battles.

Competitively there are a host of modes: Conquest, where you capture control points; Capture the Flag; Deathmatch; Hero Deathmatch; and an interesting addition called Ring Bearer.

This casts one of you as Frodo and the others as Ringwraiths. The idea is to stay alive as long as possible, and whoever captures Frodo becomes him for the next round.

Frodo has his Ring and Sting blade, but when he turns invisible he shows up on the mini-map, even though he disappears on-screen. Clever Frodos will apparently try to attract more than one Ringwraith who will then proceed to fight over him while the hobbit sneaks around and stabs them in the back.

Pandemic promises around 150 characters on the screen at any one time, enormous maps to fit them all in and plenty of fancy visuals. You can ride around on horses and wargs as well, and command all sorts of siege equipment like siege towers, catapults, ballista and battering rams.

We wonder if you can throw severed heads around like the orcs in the films, too.

Sounds rather exciting.