Gaming Today Reviews Enemy Territory: Quake Wars
Sitting down to play Enemy Territory: Quake Wars for the first time, I must admit to being a wee bit excited. After all, I’d just spent a fair bit of time in the beta test, and knowing the potential that this multiplayer online shooter possessed, I was anxious to see how much of that potential was realized at retail.
As a gamer who spent countless hours immersed in the Battlefield series of games, I have been waiting for a successor to that series to emerge since Battlefield 2142 drove a stake through the series’ heart. Would Enemy Territory be that game?
Set in the years prior to the events of Quake II, Enemy Territory: Quake Wars drops players in to the heart of a war-torn Earth in the year 2060. The Strogg, cyborg soldiers of the evil Macron, have invaded Earth in the hopes of harvesting humanity for spare parts and protein food for their cyborg army. The Global Defense Force (GDF) is fighting for their very lives against the Strogg invasion.
ET:QW really shines on presentation. Weapons have a gritty, at-war feel to them. The game environments contain several examples of war-torn, futuristic landscapes that just seem to feel right for the GDF vs. Strogg showdown. Vehicles and deployables show damage, so that a player can simply glance at one and know if it is in need of repairs, rather than depending on a meter of some type. There’s no squinting into the distance to determine if that moving target is friend or foe, either. Thanks to some distinctive character models on both sides, and the radar tags, it’s fairly easy to determine who’s who.
The game’s menu system is intuitive, and simple to grasp for anyone that has played any of the myriad online shooters of the past. As an added bonus, the game incorporates a built-in friends list that allows players to add their friends, and follow them directly into online games, almost obviating the need for a third-party client such as Xfire. It also contains a great assortment of filters to allow you to customize your server list exactly the way you want it.
About the only downside to the presentation in ET: QW is that a lot of it has already been done. Sure it’s new to this game, but all of these features have been seen before, with the possible exception of a quality in-game friends tool.
Graphically, ET: QW isn’t groundbreaking, but it does look good. One extremely positive thing about this game is that the system requirements for it are actually quite manageable. This is due in large part to the fact that the game is built on the somewhat dated Doom 3 engine. However, it’s a pretty souped-up version of that engine. It utilizes what id is referring to as ‘Megatexture’ technology. In basic terms, this technology allows the battlefield to be rendered without the standard ‘foggy’ look in the distance.
Is it cutting edge? No. Will you truly notice? I doubt it. The graphics fit the feel of the game, and they look slick and well-rendered, even on a rig with a quickly-becoming-obsolete 7900GT sitting in it. Framerates at high detail were eminently playable.
The game sound in ET:QW is solid. Not perfect, but quite good. The various weapons have audio that matches what gamers have come to expect from their shooters. In addition, the sound of an anti-personnel turret firing your way quickly becomes distinctive in your ears. “It’s the preferred weapon of your enemy, and makes a distinctive sound when fired at you.” Boy, does it ever. Larger weapons, like the GDF hammer missile, have correspondingly larger explosion sounds tied to them.
One area I felt the sound was a bit lacking was in the ‘voice chat.’ Like many games of its genre, ET: QW incorporates a number of pre-programmed voice commands that can be accessed through an on-screen menu. These commands allow players to quickly communicate with their teammates. Unfortunately, the recordings that accompany those commands are lackluster at best. In my first round on the retail game, I must have heard people spamming the “Owned” voice macro over a hundred times, and every time it sounded pretty blah.
Sound and graphics are nice, but if you’re a fan of online shooters, you’re there for gameplay. I’ve got good news for you: ET:QW delivers in spades.
The first thing that struck me about the game was how much work had obviously gone into encouraging players to play as a team. As all of us are aware, gamers tend (at times) to act like lone wolves, each forging their own trail across the battlefield to glory. Well, that won’t work so well here. ET: QW utilizes an objective-based system that has players working through objectives to advance through the battle, all under a set time limit. Accomplish an objective, and you gain more time. If time runs out, you lose.
For example, the GDF might be tasked with repairing a bridge to allow their forces to advance to the next area of the map. At the same time, the Strogg will be tasked with defending the destroyed bridge and preventing its repair. These objectives are timed, and accomplishing them awards experience points to the players on these missions.
Another interesting facet of the gameplay is objectives tailored to certain classes. For example, a player may be assigned to hack an enemy station, which only the Covert Ops class has the ability to accomplish. Players who spawn as engineers can select a mission to deploy a defense turret, or mine an area. All these experience points you’re earning aren’t for naught, either.
Much like the unlock system in Battlefield 2, ET: QW awards players additional weapons, upgraded tools, or perk such as faster sprinting. Where this system differs is that these awards last only until the end of the round the player is participating in. At the start of each new round, everyone starts on equal footing. The plus to this system is simple. Unlike Battlefield’s unlock system, the fact that these unlocks are not persistent is huge. This means that new players have something to work towards, but they do not feel alienated by a horde of players with weapons that new players have no chance to access.
The objective system means that players must work together if they hope to win. One player can make a difference, but not the huge difference that was possible in previous titles of this genre. It is at once the most compelling and revolutionary facet of the gameplay of ET: QW.
Replay Value (9/10)
Can you say multiplayer? Good, I thought you could. There is no singleplayer campaign in ET: QW. While there is a pretty decent set of bots to hone your skills against, this game is meant for online play. Herein lies the replay value. Much like the Battlefield titles of the past, you can expect ET: QW to still be around in online ladders, leagues, and casual servers a year from now and beyond. If you enjoy the game, you’ll have folks to play this one with for quite some time.
Is Enemy Territory: Quake Wars the next Battlefield? Well, I certainly believe it has the potential to be, but only time will tell. Whether it is or not is irrelevant, as it is certainly good enough to stand on its own two feet.
It carries with it the fans of the Quake series, as well as the legions of fans from the Enemy Territory mod for Return to Castle Wolfenstein. All I can say is that those folks are in good hands for the near future.
ET:QW gets pretty much all the big stuff right, and nearly all the little stuff as well. Sure, there are still a few balance issues with some of the weapons, but that’s to be expected in an online shooter that has just gone live. All in all, it was a fun experience that I plan to go back to quite often. In fact, I’m heading back there now.