I remember when the first Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory was released as a free stand-alone game and all of my gaming buddies jumped over to it instead of playing what was hot at the moment. The stat-based, mission centric gameplay was hot at the time, as you could see with the massive adoption of the game. Return to Castle Wolfenstein graphics, sprinkle in a little Assault from UT2004, and add an experience based system that unlocked upgrades depending on your performance as a team-member.
Interestingly enough, Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory started off as a full fledged expansion but as the single player portion did not pan out, the multiplayer portion of the game was released for free by Splash Damage. This might have also been a major part in why so many people became attached to the game. Now Splash Damage has to top their first success with a commercial product based off of a heavily modified Doom 3 engine. Enemy Territory: Quake Wars is not set in the Wolfenstein universe, but is instead located in the Quake Universe. The Strogg are looking for new races to assimilate for food and troops and Earth just happens to be in the way. The GDF are just trying to keep the Strogg from overrunning Earth and harvesting the populace for its nefarious schemes. You will take the role of a combatant on either side and attempt to complete the objectives (or hinder the other side from completing said objectives).
Reviewer’s Rig: E6300, 3 gigs of Ram, 8800GTX, Xfi Sound Card, Vista Ultimate x86.Megatextures! This is the is the next big buzzword that you will see in future games that are based off of the Doom 3 Engine. Megatextures is a technique of rendering static textures with a single large texture that can be streamed off of the hard drive, decreasing ram usage and increasing texture quality. Now that we have the technical term of the day out of the way, how does the game actually look in motion?
We have already seen the Doom 3 engine render outside environments (not only the small jumps onto Mars’ surface) in Quake 4 and, to say the least, it looked outstanding. These graphics were pushed up a couple of notches with Quake Wars and it is evident in both the environments and the character models. Most environments are open and vast, with everything ranging from human buildings to strogg machinery littering the landscape. When turrets and such are called in, it is spectacular seeing the C130s or helicopters fly in from offscreen to deliver their payload. The strogg’s delivery method is a tad bit more futuristic, as they call in their reinforcements from orbiting motherships. The weapons on the GDF side are the usual human-created fare while the strogg weapons are integrated into the actual infantry. In my own personal opinion, the strogg characters definitely look better, as everything from shields to flying explosive drones are part of their arsenal, and I am getting bored of the usual human getup. I think this is why I drifted more towards playing the Strogg.
Sadly, there is always a downside to what a graphical engine can accomplish. The character models themselves move a bit jerky and it makes you wonder if a little more polish could have fixed this problem. Also, artillery stopped by little shanties or a concrete wall dispels the some of the battle fervor real quick like. This is one game where a destructible environment would have procured a definite genre bending winner. Still, this is more on my wishlist than an actual fault of the game as it is based on the Doom3 engine, and that engine itself didn’t have those capabilities.The explosions and weapon effects are nothing to write home about. The human weaponry sounds just as you would expect. The explosions of the artillery and the beams from the sky don’t have the ooomph that something of such proportions should have. VOIP is sadly missing, but the voice commands that can be given through the push of a button will have to be sufficient. Luckily, VOIP is supposed to be added in a future patch, which will improve team communication by an exponential amount. Most of what I have written in this paragraph might sound negative, but the game’s sound is just average. Nothing special about it. Music is barely present in the game, only in the intro and while waiting for the mission to load. With the push of a button, you can bring up a map, the spawn menu, or the mission menu. Movement and shooting, as always, is controlled through the mouse and keyboard combo. You have the option to remap controls if the default setup doesn’t deliver the optimal feeling of control that is needed. Other than that, if you have played a first person shooter before, you will feel right at home with the control scheme that is present in the game. As with the previous incarnations of Enemy Territory, the game is mission based, with each mission containing multiple objectives. In Quake Wars, to achieve certain objectives, different classes will have to be played on the team. Having a team full of snipers or soldiers might seem like a good idea, but won’t allow the player to achieve victory in Quake Wars. For example, the player might have to hack a terminal and a covert ops character will be needed, as they are the only class that can hack. If everyone chooses a class other than the covert ops, the team will never have the opportunity to win. In online matches, it was nice to see a nice balanced loadout of classes, instead of a team of snipers or whatever flavor of the month class there is.
While we are on the subject of classes, both sides have 5 different variants that are similar in most aspects but do have some subtle differences. Usually, Strogg weapons cause more damage, but are prone to overheating. Human weapons don’t overheat, but have to be reloaded over time. The Strogg Aggressor/GDF Soldier can plant explosives and have the largest arsenal to choose from. The Strogg Infiltrator/Human CovertOps can steal uniforms from dead soldiers, hack objectives/turrets, and either use a terror drone (Strogg) or third eye (Human). The other three classes are the human medic/Strogg technician, the GDF Engineer/Strogg Constructor, and the Strogg Oppressor/GDF Field Ops. Through experience gained through the mission, unlocks are opened up. For example, faster runspeed, better or new weapons, and the ability to call in vehicles are just some of the unlockables. These are carried throughout the three missions in the campaign. Lets not forget the massive amounts of terran and aerial vehicles available.
One feature that I believe will bring this game out on top is the ability to grab missions. Think of them as quests that you can do for experience. For example, a covert ops might gain experience by disabling a turret while an engineer might gain experience by constructing an objective or repairing a structure. This makes it so that everyone is always doing something that will benefit the team.
The game has a both a singleplayer and multiplayer portion. Both are similar in structure, consisting of different theaters of war, with three missions in each theater. The single player experience will be amended with bots, who are surprisingly effective compared to some of the players you meet on public servers. After you set up a single player campaign, you can populate it with bots and go at it. Through the voice commands you have the ability to request help from your AI teammates and they respond much better than some of the human players. I keep on mentioning that the AI is better than most of the players on public servers, but I will go into detail about this in the multiplayer portion. That pretty much covers the singleplayer campaign, as it prepares the player for the online portion. No bot can compare to the human mind.
The multiplayer section functions the same way as the single player campaigns. You can jump on a server or host a server and populate the server with bots or just wait till your friends jump on. Quake Wars has a build in friend list that allows you to see who is playing and communicate with your buddies. Also, the friends list will inform you on which server your friend is playing and allow you to join him/her with the click of a button. The clan menu shows you what clan you are part of and functions the same way as the friends list, letting you join your clanmates whenever you like or shoot out a message to the group. Also, the ability to track your stats after you play on a ranked server is a nice touch, giving you a plethora of information at your fingertips. With a great group, this game becomes amazing as everything works like clockwork. With a sub par team, you will wish you had some more bots on your team. The bottom line is that this game is dependent on the people you play with…they will make or break a game. Then again, most game communities are constructed or torn apart by the community.I purchased the special edition of the game, giving me a nice case with a small map booklet, detailing all of the missions. A bonus disk with some goodies on it and cards of the units round out the collector’s edition. Once you are done messing around with the extras, the game, in my humble opinion, has some immense staying power. Once VOIP is integrated into the game and the first map pack is released (before everyone has grown tired of the included maps), players will find an enjoyable game that rewards teamplay rivals the now released Team Fortress 2 in depth. Lets see what the future brings.