Thursday, October 18, 2007

Enemy Territory: Quake Wars Review

Enemy Territory: Quake Wars, developed by Splash Damage and id Software and published by Activision.
The Good: Team-based gameplay, each class has a purpose with multiple objectives, neat deployables, concentrated battles, accurate combat model, experience unlocks reset every three maps, capable bots, useful interface
The Not So Good: Needs full servers for optimum enjoyment, repetitive assault-only maps, two sides are almost identical with only subtle differences, generic weapons, lacks VoIP
What say you? An enjoyable team-oriented objectives-based first person shooter: 7/8

Multiplayer games are becoming increasingly team-oriented. In the case of the first person shooter, titles of the past have normally been an individual endeavor, trying to rack up the highest number of kills. However, clans and the use of voice-over-IP have made playing as a team a more viable option. Online shooters like Battlefield 2 started offering in-game squad organization and organized play is certainly popular in MMORPGs (which stands for “hi, I am a nerd”), where gathering a band of merry men is a common occurrence. We’ve seen more games force the team dynamic on players lately, like personal favorite World in Conflict. Another example is Enemy Territory: Quake Wars, which takes the gameplay from the free Wolfenstein add-on and applies it to the Quake license in order to sell more games.

While some people aren’t exactly impressed with the graphics of Enemy Territory: Quake Wars, I found them to be good enough. There are some instances of great texture detail present in several of the game’s levels, but then you encounter some bland maps as well (though I guess it’s hard to make New Jersey not look bland). The game features a good attention to detail, as most of the outside areas feel realistic, although the building interiors feel a bit repetitive and overly metallic. I like how the vehicles in the game have semi-realistic displays that show speed, rather than just showing a generic wheel. Enemy Territory: Quake Wars has some nice effects like bullet hits and a number of the explosions are impressive. The character models are well done, although most of the time you’ll be shooting from far enough away where you’ll just see the friend-or-foe indicator. The vehicles appear futuristic as well, and the game’s overall theme of near-future combat seems plausible enough through the graphics. The sound ranges from appropriate background music to some annoying effects. The jarring whistle heard when starting a new match is tremendously irritating. The game’s sense of humor with audio responses is funny at first, but then just gets old. I do like the sound indicator when you successfully hit an enemy: very useful. The music does fit the overall impending doom of the game well, though. So while Enemy Territory: Quake Wars might not be the most technologically advanced game on the market, the presentation is sufficient.

Enemy Territory: Quake Wars features the tense struggle between the human GDF and the alien Strogg. There are really only small differences between the two sides: the weapons and vehicles are identical (with different skins, obviously) and the abilities are the same with only a few differences. Enemy Territory: Quake Wars is designed to be a multiplayer game, but the same objective-based gameplay is available against AI bots in a single player mode. The bots are good for the most part, as they will achieve the objectives and generally act smart, though they will occasionally drive into objects or stand around. Multiplayer is integrated into game well, with browser filters that actually function correctly (I’m looking at you, Battlefield) and it’s easy to join a game. The game is occasionally laggy online, though this really depends on the server you choose. The game features stat tracking, but unlike Battlefield 2142, this does not permanently unlock new weapons. Experience bonuses are only gained in each campaign (a set of three maps) and are reset each new game. This is much better than the alternative, as new players are not at a disadvantage to players who play nothing but Enemy Territory: Quake Wars night and day. It is hard to gain ranks, however: your rank is supposed to be relative to others on the server, but after a good deal of playing I have yet to get above the entry level position. Rank doesn’t do anything, but it’s either broken or there are just too many experienced people on the servers I play.

Enemy Territory: Quake Wars features four three-mission campaigns (that’s a total of twelve…I can multiply!). All of the maps in the game are assault (one attacker and one defender); there is a lot more that could have been done to increase the variety in Enemy Territory: Quake Wars. As it stands, every map involves driving, constructing, destroying, hacking, or transporting objects, or defending against these actions. As a comparison, World in Conflict features three different modes of play, but we are limited in Enemy Territory: Quake Wars. The advantage to the assault-only gameplay is that each battle is very focused: there is almost constant action and everyone is fighting in the same area, instead of spreading out over the entire map. This is helped by forward spawn points, and each map features both indoor and outdoor areas for a little variety. The map size does not scale according to the number of players, so you really need a full 24-player server for the game to work well. Other than the three-map campaigns, you can do a single-map match or the stopwatch mode that switches attacker and defender roles and sees who can do it faster. The interface of Enemy Territory: Quake Wars is good, as it shows objective locations, enemy and friendly units, and other pertinent information in a clear and informative manner. And Enemy Territory: Quake Wars doesn’t require having the DVD in the drive when you play…bonus!

There are five classes to choose from in Enemy Territory: Quake Wars, and each class has its role in the overall scheme. I have yet to find a “hated” class and all are equally fun to play (unlike World in Conflict where I dislike the infantry role). The weapons each class gets are pretty generic (a standard assault rifle for most), considering the Quake heritage. In fact, a lot of the weapons from Quake games aren’t even included in Enemy Territory: Quake Wars: where is the plasma gun, chaingun, super nailgun, hyperblaster, or BFG? The five classes for each side are identical and are simply given different names. The basic soldier/aggressor can choose between the standard rifle, a machine gun, a rocket launcher, or a shotgun. Soldiers also get explosives that are required to complete some of the objectives. Engineers/constructors can deploy defensive turrets (anti-personnel, anti-vehicle, or artillery interceptor) and repair things. Medics can revive dead teammates (to half health) and Strogg technicians can make spawn points from fallen GDF soldiers. Field ops/oppressors and deploy artillery and order air strikes. Cover ops/infiltrators are equipped with long-range sniper rifles and can deploy radar (extremely useful…probably my favorite deployable) and remote cameras. Experience earned in each class can allow you to run faster or unlock better weapons, but they are reset after the end of each campaign (again, a welcome feature).

The gameplay of Enemy Territory: Quake Wars can best be described as a fast-paced tactical model. It only takes a few shots to kill someone, but you can run fairly fast and respawn times are generally short. It’s not the same style as Quake, with large health and drawn-out skirmishes, so the “Quake Wars” moniker is somewhat misleading. Enemy Territory: Quake Wars uses an accurate shooting model which “guesses” where you meant to shoot, to make up for lag differences. The result is a lot more accurate shooting and more enjoyable gameplay as a whole. Enemy Territory: Quake Wars does emphasize teamwork, so everyone needs to deploy their turret (one per person) and support each other to bring about glorious victory. It seems odd, then, that Enemy Territory: Quake Wars lacks voice-over-IP; although I don’t use it, the lack of this feature is surprising and it makes planning more difficult. Enemy Territory: Quake Wars puts more emphasis on infantry than the assortment of vehicles; because things are easy to destroy, even with basic assault rifles, vehicles are more for transport than assault purposes. I think this is a good thing, as there isn’t the helicopter dominance of Battlefield and taking on enemy armor is a possibility without a rocket launcher (as long as you have some help). Maps and servers that feature longer respawn times are more enjoyable, as it favors the medics and self-preservation; though it does involve some running, a fifteen-second clock is a bit too short. In general, I had fun while playing Enemy Territory: Quake Wars and the game is a few small issues away from being one of the best online shooters.

Enemy Territory: Quake Wars should satisfy your need to execute enemy forces in a team-based setting. Is it a Battlefield-killer? Well, I had more fun playing Enemy Territory: Quake Wars, though the gap between the two games is small. The game does feature some curiosities that prevent it from being completely enjoyable. The Quake license seems very extraneous, especially with identical forces and generic non-Quake weaponry. The maps are all the same, assault-only, and the objectives are repetitive enough where maps don’t retain any individuality. The maps don’t scale for smaller battles and Enemy Territory: Quake Wars lacks VoIP, which hinders online coordination. However, there are a lot of good things in Enemy Territory: Quake Wars: the shooting model, the equally useful classes, the focused action-packed battles, the decent AI bots, and the resetting of experience bonuses. I certainly did have fun playing the game, so much so that Battlefield 2 has been uninstalled (Battlefield 2142 has long since been deleted). So if you are willing to fight through some small problems and like a more tactical game, Enemy Territory: Quake Wars serves up some satisfying online shooting.