Publisher: Groove Games
Developer: Digital Extremes
Release Date: March 28, 2006
Someday, when we are too old to take care of ourselves, we'll be telling children about what it was like when we had to play video games by ourselves, or make our friends actually come over for multiplayer action. Oh, the horror! But it wasn't our fault – we didn't have an internet connection, and the games weren't even able to use the internet anyhow. It will sound to them like a story of walking to school everyday in three feet of snow, uphill both ways. Groove Games and Digital Extremes have seen the future and approached a new PC/Xbox title smartly: create an online multiplayer FPS, and then build out a single-player storyline to prepare gamers for the real action on the servers.
Vanishing are the days when the average human wants to play a first-person shooter where only NPCs are available for sparring, as Joe Gamer wants real people on the other side of the monitor. Human-to-human competition, unpredictability, and social interaction is not just an added perk anymore; it is a necessity. In Warpath, a world comes alive that is quick, clean, and ready for action.
Marketed as a value title, Warpath supports 16 players online, and comes in at a price of $29.99 on the Xbox and $19.99 for the PC. The game is an online FPS, completely focused around multiplayer action, but lacking any split-screen modes. The single-player campaign is a conglomeration of the deathmatch levels laid out in board game fashion, where each of three races grabs a corner of the world and pursues world domination one deathmatch level at a time. Yes, it's rather clever, but it's more of a giant tutorial to prepare gamers for the big show – online action.
Simple, straightforward, and fast are the best descriptors of Warpath at this point, which is exactly what's needed. There is no time to stand still and few places to hide, as the levels are open and seem to lack any dead ends. Most of the level design is square-ish, lending Warpath to easy memorization for fast-action killing. It seems that the mission of making levels to support fast, fun, play with high frag counts is going to be successful from the levels which were playable, and there did not appear to be any real stronghold positions within the levels, critical to keeping a 16-player game fair.
The actual gameplay mechanics seemed to be settled in fairly well, with all of the control comforts of home any user would expect, and there weren't any major surprises or complications in navigating the character around the map. What was apparent during the session was the slower speed of the Xbox version, especially when turning left or right. This is always a challenge for users on a console when used to PC gaming, but the developers showed off Warpath's ability to manage sensitivity independently for left/right and up/down, letting the controller have the ability to turn around quickly without forcing the slightest upward twitch to yield an instant view of the ceiling.
There are only seven weapons in Warpath and a player can only have three of them in a match. Always equipped is a blade to slice and dice in close quarters, and each race brings two weapons to the table. While this may sound a bit unexciting, there is more. Warpath introduces the Combat Augmentation Module (CAM) for making improvements in each weapon present in the game. CAMs are made available as drops, and each weapon can accept three CAMs for modification. For example, a rocket launcher improves from a basic bazooka with no CAMs to a death-dealing menace with six CAMs, as it gains the ability to fire four heat-seeking missiles at once. Another weapon is a plasma rifle, and by the time it has six CAMs integrated, it will fire a sticky plasma nebulous which attaches to whatever it hits and shocks anything in close proximity. Equipping the CAMs to the weapons isn't difficult, if the player can find time to do so without getting killed by the competition.
Another useful item is Warpath's implementation of health. A sort of cross between a battery charger and a health bonus, the EMAD unit cycles to restore health. The catch is that it replaces a weapon in the user's hand, which means there's no attacking while healing. RUN, Forrest, RUN! Adding CAMs to this unit will lower the cycle times and increase the overall amount of health a player has. Applying CAMs to any of the units is real-time, and they remain installed even if the player dies. To achieve the first level of modification, one CAM is required. To upgrade to the second level, two additional CAMs are required, and for the third level, it takes another three CAMs to make your weapon a superstar.
All in all, Warpath appears to be making the most of the Unreal engine and Havoc physics. Another refreshing fact is that Warpath is a straight-up shooter, without all of the nasty gore and guts splattering everywhere. If it's action you want and a lot of it in a small space, Warpath has your number. Finding matches, joining them and leaving them is quick and easy, and if for nothing else, Warpath will earn kudos for being simple, clear, and direct.
But don't take our word for it, download the PC demo from WorthDownloading today and see for yourself!
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