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Enemy Territory: Quake Wars

Platform(s): PC
Genre: Action
Publisher: Acivision
Developer: id Software


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PC Preview - 'Enemy Territory: Quake Wars'

by Reldan on June 20, 2006 @ 1:14 a.m. PDT

Developed by Splash Damage and built on id Software's new MegaTexture rendering technology, Enemy Territory: Quake Wars pits the armies of Earth against the invading alien Strogg in the ultimate online strategic shooter. Featuring strategic team play, persistent character promotions, day and nighttime combat missions, and the universe's most powerful weapons and vehicles, Enemy Territory: Quake Wars transports players to the front lines of an epic new war for Earth.

Genre: FPS
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Splash Damage
Release Date: Q3 2006

Enemy Territory: Quake Wars is exactly what the current FPS genre needs to set a new precedent for what is possible in online multiplayer gameplay. Online FPS gaming has fallen into a rut lately, with Battlefield 2 being the only really notable game in recent memory. Their vehicle-centric sandbox style of play may be entertaining for some gamers, but many other players are clamoring for a more direct, goal-oriented action FPS. Enemy Territory: Quake Wars promises to be everything those gamers are looking for and more.

Splash Damage is a well-known development house based out of London, comprised primarily of former high-profile modders and dedicated entirely to making online multiplayer games, having gained most of their popularity for releasing the best free game in history, Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory, back in mid-2003. The multiplayer portion of W:ET, originally intended to be an official expansion to Return to Castle Wolfenstein, was released as freeware due to issues with the single-player mode that caused the project to be canceled. Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory is one of the most fun and well-designed online FPS experiences out there, and I find myself recommending it to people even to this day. Enemy Territory: Quake Wars gives Splash Damage the chance to not only finish what they started but expand upon it as well, while taking advantage of id's impressive Doom 3 engine.

Enemy Territory: Quake Wars tells the story of the battle between the elite Global Defense Force (GDF) and the otherworldly Strogg, the Borg-like villains of the Quake universe. In fact, the Quake universe's tale of an invasion of a horrific alien menace sets the perfect stage for this game, where maps are generally laid out in an assault/defense form. The maps are then often grouped into campaigns consisting of three or four sets in a rotation, and each campaign acts as a separate setting for players to gain experience in, leading to more health and improved abilities.

Each side features five classes which for the most part parallel each other, albeit with some minor differences to give each side a distinctive flavor. Fans of the original Enemy Territory will immediately feel at home using: Field Ops, a leader class that can call in large artillery barrages and deploy artillery in friendly territory to be used to "Fire for Effect" at a later time; Medic, soldiers who can re-supply and resurrect their allies; Engineer, who can build defensive turrets, repair mission objectives, and deploy anti-vehicle, anti-infantry, and anti-missile emplacements; Soldier, who are grunts that get to play with all of the cool destructive toys; and Covert Ops, sneaky infiltrators with sniper rifles who can deploy "third-eye" cameras for surveillance and radar devices to track enemies on the mini-map.

Every class is viable, essential, and fun to play. What's more, as you play your class and use your class-specific abilities you gain experience and levels which make you even better at fulfilling the role your class was meant to play. This experience will carry over during the course of the current campaign, so in a sense, the game rewards you for sticking to a particular class for each gaming session. This isn't to say that you feel shoehorned into playing in a specific way, but more that success for your team is dependent upon everyone working together to accomplish the objectives.

Much of the gameplay is reminiscent of the classic Team Fortress style of play. This is not a bad thing at all, especially since it seems likely that we are never going to see Team Fortress 2. Squad-based fighting is encouraged through the power of Medic classes to revive nearby wounded teammates. Also, some classes possess special explosive devices which can modify the layout of the battlefield, often opening up new assault path opportunities.

Vehicles are a new addition to the Enemy Territory style of play, and my impression is that the larger vehicles are very menacing and not something that a lone infantry would want to take on. However, I was able to deal substantial damage to some of the smaller vehicles – like the buggies – with just my Medic gun, leading me to believe that the light vehicles are not very armored and are susceptible to small arms fire. This is reassuring, as it should keep the emphasis on infantry fighting instead of turning this into a vehicle game, like BF2.

Both sides in Enemy Territory: Quake Wars boast similar classes but still bear a few differences to keep the game asymmetrical and make each side a unique experience. The Strogg have an emphasis on making use of the newly dead to activate special abilities. For example, the Strogg version of the Medic class, or the Technician, has a needle that, in addition to reviving fallen Strogg soldiers, can be used on fallen GDF to turn them into remote one-use spawn points. Also, the Strogg Covert Ops, the Infiltrator, will be able to take over fallen GDF soldiers and use their bodies for espionage or sabotage purposes. Some general differences are that the GDF weapons all are based around ammo clips, while the Strogg weapons use Stroylent, which means that they do not need to be reloaded but that they can "overheat" if they are used too much within a short duration.

One of the best features of Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory was the maps, which were designed to require one side to accomplish several objectives in a certain progression in order to win, while the other side attempted to stop them at each step of the way. Enemy Territory: Quake Wars will be no different and should ship with around 12 maps. The objectives vary widely and often require the skills of specific classes in order to proceed. Additionally, as certain objectives are accomplished, more of the map becomes open and the initial spawn points of both sides shift around, allowing for a wide variety of play on each map.

In the demonstration map set up at E3, the GDF had to have an engineer repair a bridge, have the entire team escort a Mobile Command Post across the map to a new staging point, and then have Covert Ops sneak in and disable a defense shield so that a Soldier could finally plant a heavy explosive charge on the primary objective. This is all just a single map, but the changing requirements needed for each objective really mix up the pace of the game. Whatever the current objective is dictates where and how the fighting will take place. When you're trying to repair the bridge, all the fighting centers on the bridge, and likewise with the Command Post and the Shield Generator.

The Doom 3 engine is put to excellent use here, making the graphics look positively sick. Enemy Territory: Quake Wars features a new method developed by John Carmack for providing terrain textures, called "megatexturing," which uses a single 32,000 x 32,000 texture (a "gigapixel" texture, if you can wrap your mind around that) to provide non-repeating terrain texturing. This makes each patch of ground unique in a way that modern tiled-texturing techniques cannot replicate. Put simply, if you have a decent gaming rig, this game will be very rewarding for your eyes.

I, for one, am openly excited about the upcoming release of Enemy Territory: Quake Wars. When I initially heard that Splash Damage was at it again and making another Enemy Territory title, I was overjoyed because I loved the Wolfenstein version so much. At the same time, however, I was apprehensive that they would change the things that made the original great. After seeing the game in action at E3, the apprehension is gone, and anticipation is all that remains.

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