Remember Ace of Spades, the colourful free-to-play FPS that had two teams tunnelling through blocks to infiltrate each others' bases? Well, developer Jagex (which took over Ace of Spades' development in 2012) is giving the concept another go with Block'n'Load, a not-free-to-play team-based shooter with huge maps made of Minecraft-style blocks that you can destroy and build with as you please.
Each of its cartoon-archetype characters has a different selection of special blocks that help out the team in different ways - mines to protect the bases, radars that you can hide in underground tunnels to see when enemies are approaching, various turret-like constructions. Each team gets a couple of minutes to fortify their base before the shooting starts, accompanied by jolly Sims-style building music.
I played some rounds of an alpha version Block'n'Load over a couple of hours last week, and though the responsiveness and balance of the actual shooting isn't really there at the moment, the build-and-destroy dynamic of the maps is very much in place. We had teams digging networks of tunnels underneath the map to hide respawn points and attack bases from below, robots building giant walls in front of vulnerable bases to funnel enemies elsewhere and last-minute rushes with four of us all hacking away the enemy base's core whilst the enemy chucked grenades around in an attempt to dissuade us.
I can genuinely say that no two matches were the same, which is really promising. The shooting felt sluggish, though - sometimes I'd be shooting at someone for about twenty seconds before they dropped, and most of the characters have no melee attack option yet, resulting in weird standoffs where two players would stand opposite each other clicking the mouse button until one of them fell over. Still, it's early days.
Block'n'Load goes into beta in December. Sign-up's just opened on the game's website.