Publisher: Groove Games
Developer: Digital Extremes
Release Date: June 6, 2006
Based around the latest renditions of the Unreal Engine and Havoc Physics Set, WarPath is a team-based multiplayer gankfest that is played fast, loose and ruthlessly. The game allows you to choose among three races: the Ohm, Kovos and Coalition. Seven weapons give you options for killing foes, but two are specific to each race, while the other five are unlocked throughout the game. The gameplay is reminiscent of Quake 3, and its levels are designed arena-style, but there are strategic elements to the overall game. In single-player, there will be a campaign where you are trying to advance against the other three races' territories, and each zone can be team deathmatch, capture the flag or assault. Best of all, WarPath is also being slated as a budget-priced game, yet still touts some serious technology and features, which means you get some quality software at an affordable entry fee.
WarPath's immediate impact is its visual strength. Already in its early form, WarPath plays extremely fast, but with all of the flair we have come to expect from Unreal technology. Ragdoll physics make for some good fun when you blast the other team around, and all of the game modes play at breakneck pace.
WarPath's centerpiece will most likely be its assault mode. It is reminiscent of Unreal 2004's onslaught mode, where teams fight over nodes, only without the vehicles. The way it works is simple; each team has to control a node by finding it and standing under it. Nodes are connected, and to capture more nodes, you first have to capture the closer ones, which will keep the fighting focused around each map's hot points. The whole objective is to capture all of the nodes to make the opposing team's power core vulnerable. If the attackers succeed, they score a point and the map resets, but if the defenders succeed, then the last captured node becomes neutral. The design forces players to fight it out in concentrated areas but also makes momentum swings very real and very common.
Right now, WarPath is still finishing up its design cycle and hasn't gone gold yet. The preview build showed its graphics engine to be pretty much complete. All of the maps were playable in single-player mode, but there were still some issues with stability and play balancing to work out. WarPath is squarely aimed at more skill-based twitch shooting rather than spraying and praying for splash damage, which I think is a good thing. The pace that the game sets is beyond furious - if you blink, things will pass you by.
Don't expect much in the form of narrative. There is some background story about a war between these three races, but it all seems a little trivial, based on the gameplay. To think that WarPath will also be a rehash of old arena and team-based shooters would also be remiss. The seven weapons mentioned earlier may seem paltry, but they are upgradeable, which will make them much more potent and even change their characteristics. A regular assault rifle may get a bigger damage rating with one upgrade, but with two, it may get a grenade launcher or a charged energy blast. Players also are able to pick up armor and medical packs to heal themselves, which can turn these fast-paced firefights into more enduring affairs.
With Enemy Territories: Quake Wars a ways off and veering towards class-based multiplayer battles and with Unreal 2007 even further off in the future, there is very much a vacuum in the multiplayer arena shooter genre right now. I suspect WarPath will find a strong following among the Quake 3 and Unreal 2004 fan base, with its fast-paced action and streamlined, objective-based and team deathmatch gameplay.
So should you be excited about WarPath? In short, yes. It already looks awesome and plays extremely well on current hardware. The game's seeming simplicity looks to belie some more complex gameplay mechanics, with its upgradeable weapons and assault mode. While more evolutionary rather than revolutionary, assault mode trims the fat and makes a battle that can swing both ways at any time but still require some good old-fashioned teamwork. Get ready to get back in touch with your multiplayer shooter roots when WarPath is unleashed. It may not be getting as much hype or fanfare as other future games, but it will certainly make your eyes bleed and your fingers twitch, which is not bad for at all for its reduced retail price.
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