Still very early in development, the Rise of Clans expansion is the first for Buka's Hard Truck: Apocalypse. This apocalyptic driving shooter was recently published in North America by CDV, and the expansion is already in the works. We had an opportunity to take a firsthand look at what's in store.

First off, Rise of Clans is a standalone expansion, gamers will not need the original to step behind the wheel, and the story continues where the original left off. You'll be placed in the remains of Manhattan, driving around the crumbled Statue of Liberty and the ruins of a once great city.

The developers have recognized areas of improvement from the original release, notably the expansion will offer a more powerful engine and introduce more (and bigger) units, more destruction, and a larger array of upgrades available to each of the vehicles. Finally, the developers have tried to make Rise of Clans a more action-oriented game, one of the weaknesses they discovered in the original was the amount of open space in the game where few events were occurring. They've removed this from the expansion, and more emphasis on combat and keeping the action flowing.

Like the namesake, the big improvement with the expansion is the introduction of clans, giving players opportunities to establish their own clans, and defend yourselves again rival clans (as well, against the alien race that emerges from the underground in the original).

Another new element into the game is the introduction of weak points in each unit. As ammunition is a valuable commodity and is difficult to come by, the less you use on a unit the better off you'll be. Each unit has a different weak point, and although they are difficult to find, with good aim and a little luck, a few sweet shots and that enemy is history.

One of the most lacking features in the original (and also one of the biggest selling points in the expansion) is the introduction of multiplayer combat. For a game focused on massive vehicular combat, the exclusion of multiplayer in the originally caught me as a surprise, as it would be a real selling point and replay factor in such a release. The expansion will offer multiplayer for up to sixteen players, using the GameSpy matchmaking software. The game options are similar to what you'd find in Quake style multiplayer, choose a track, number of combatants, amount of armor, light or heavy weapons, winning conditions (time limit, kill limit, etc). Finally, the game will offer up a handful of multiplayer modes, the standard deathmatch and team deathmatch, Rise of the Clans (eight vs. eight), and Defend the Fortress, where one team begins inside and the other outside, and the winner whoever has possession of the fortress at the end of the game.

Hard Truck Apocalypse: Rise of Clans is still very early in development, and at this point it's difficult to get an idea of how well it will fair in North America. With that said, it's got all the elements of an enjoyable combat racer. We'll follow up on this one as the release date gets a bit closer.