Genre: First-Person Shooter
Developer: Nerve Software (360), Underground Development (PS3)
Release Date: May 27, 2008
Released on the PC last fall, Enemy Territory: Quake Wars was yet another resounding success for id Software and Splash Damage. Exploring the early years of the Strogg invasion, ETQW serves as a prequel to the events in Quake 2 and Quake 4, but the gameplay has more in common with the "Enemy Territory" part of the name than the "Quake" part of the name.
Enemy Territory: Quake Wars got its start as the multiplayer portion of Return to Castle Wolfenstein. Two years later, it evolved into the multiplayer-only, completely free PC release, Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory. Enemy Territory was a departure from classic deathmatch because it heavily emphasized class types and team play, basically forcing you to work as a team in order to succeed. If everyone played as a stylized Rambo, the whole team bit the bullet.
Unfortunately for the cheapskates out there, Enemy Territory: Quake Wars wasn't released as a freebie, but it did add a number of new features to the series. Perhaps the biggest change is the addition of asymmetrical teams. Although both sides are fully balanced in terms of firepower and ability, they are not a pure one-to-one match, as in the Wolfenstein days. Another is the addition of bots to automatically round out teams with missing players.
In the time since the PC version hit store shelves, both Nerve Software (known for its previous work porting id Engine titles to Microsoft consoles) and the now-defunct Underground Development were hard at work bringing the game to the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, respectively. Both companies were allowed a free hand in porting the title and tweaking it for the target platforms. The end result is a console version that retains the quality and features of its PC lineage, though there are a few minor differences apparent between the two. Those differences were the first thing that got highlighted when we sat down to play.
Most of our time was spent looking at the Xbox 360 version, which looked beautiful running on an HDTV. We started the run through the console version with a brand-new training mode that is exclusive to the Xbox 360. Veteran players won't need it, but for newbies to the series, it's a welcome addition. Jumping into the PC version was a bit chaotic, whereas the training mode quickly leads players through basic concepts while keeping the action going fast and furious. If you didn't know it was a training level, it'd be easy to mistake for a standard mission.
While the world itself doesn't look different (all of the environments, maps and weapons appear to have made the transition intact), the HUD on both console versions has been cleaned up. Things are more streamlined, and there is less extraneous information so you can focus on the immediate objective. Side by side, the Xbox 360 appears to have a bit more visual polish due to lighting effects, but aside from that, the two are very similar graphically. Other differences between the two include Achievements on the Xbox 360 version and a custom mission system on the PlayStation 3 version.
Because the focus of Enemy Territory: Quake Wars is the multiplayer aspect, that was the most polished facet of the PC original. Unfortunately, the bot AI in the PC version didn't quite get as much work. It was not uncommon to see AI players running around in circles or ignoring commands when it mattered most on the PC. With the console versions, there is a noticeable improvement in both bot AI as well as their ability to interact with a human player. Whether you're practicing your maneuvers in the single-player campaign or using bots to fill in empty multiplayer slots, they feel more like actual teammates rather than cannon-fodder filler this time around.
The control system has been streamlined a bit for console play, making it easy to pick up a controller and jump into the fray. Aiming assist has been added, allowing for a greater kill zone than on the PC. Mines have been simplified, as they now auto-arm as soon as they are set — this was an upgrade in the PC version, but it's now standard fare. Tool selection also happens automatically. In the original, you needed to spend time swapping to the correct item before using it, but here, if you have it in your inventory, it will automatically engage when you go to use it.
Ultimately, the biggest issue for Enemy Territory: Quake Wars is going to be player communication. The developers have included a number of quick messages that can be sent in-game, but for a team to really shine, voice communication is needed. This was most obvious when we sat down to play with 16 people on a local LAN, and everyone had earphones but no mics. Gameplay generally went well, but there was little organization on either side. Because Xbox Live supports voice communication by default, the 360 version will likely have the edge in this area.
It is somewhat unusual for a console port to ship with no extra content over the PC version, but with Enemy Territory: Quake Wars, there really isn't a need. What's here is an amazingly faithful translation of the game that plays just as well, if not better, than the original. FPS haters will want to avoid it, but those with lesser-spec computers will likely flock to the store when the console ports hit shelves at the end of next month.
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