Quake is one of the biggest names in FPS gaming, and despite faltering somewhat with Quake 4, the name still commands respect, especially as Enemy Territory: Quake Wars has already garnered award after award on the PC. And now, some time on from the initial PC release, 360 owners can finally get in on the action.
Just as id software did with Quake 3 Arena, QW:ET does away with any real single player story as such, and instead focuses on a fully multiplayer experience. But, although many mistakenly pigeon hole this outing as Battlefield: Quake, the game is actually a direct descendant of Return to Castle Wolfenstein‘s multiplayer mode, which was also called Enemy Territory. And, rather than focusing on occupying various sections of the map to gain points, this title is all about objective-driven missions, with one team attacking, and the other defending. Basically, this is Unreal Tournament‘s assault mode, Quake-style. The story (which is practically non-existent in the scope of the game) involves Quake’s antagonists, the Strogg, attacking Earth with the goal of enslaving humankind, turning them into more Strogg and using up precious resources. Of course, mankind isn’t going to going to stand idly by and let this happen, and the GDF, Earth’s defence force, steps up to the plate to take the Strogg head on. As either the Human or Strogg forces, the goal here is to enter the battle, select one of the various classes and achieve your objectives before the time runs out. These objectives are very basic, and involve blowing up generators, driving your command vehicle to its destination, hacking enemy consoles and so on. Depending on which side you plump for and which map you choose, you’ll either have to accomplish tasks before the time limit ticks by, or have to defend your bases until the time ticks down. There are a range of player classes to choose from, including the solider, who uses heavy weapons and can place explosive charges to blow up objectives and the engineer, who can repair vehicles and place sentry guns. Covert Ops characters use sniper rifles, can hack enemy systems and can disguise themselves as the opposition, and medics can heal team mates and call for supply crates. The Field commanders are tactical units who can call in air strikes and missile launches to decimate entire areas. Both the Humans and Strogg have the same character classes, although equipment is different. Humans have more traditional weapons like machine guns, grenades and so on, while the Strogg have rechargeable lasers, rail guns and other sci-fi fare. Of course, both sides also have a range of vehicles, such as tanks, jeeps, quad bikes and aircraft. The game, while aimed at the online market can also be played offline with bots, and there is a single player campaign of sorts, although this is simply all the missions collected together into four separate three mission campaigns (there are 12 maps included in the game). You can also set up one-off matches rather than play a whole campaign. Quake Wars plays quite well, and although visually it’s a bit of a disappointment, especially given the polish of titles like COD 4 and Halo 3, the core mechanics are solid enough. And, while I was initially unimpressed, the game grew on me the more I played it. At first, the lack of maps and the fairly limited range of objectives didn’t do much for me, and I wondered what all the fuss on the PC was about. But, eventually, something clicked, and as I started to get to grips with the character types, and found my way around the large maps, I began to develop more advanced tactics, using air strikes and deployable sentries to great effect. The character advancement, which grants bonuses as you perform class-specific duties, adds to the mix, and some of the missions are paced perfectly, with intense battles and pummelling base assaults. However, as much as the game has grown on me, I can’t overlook some of the uglier elements. For one, 12 maps are simply not enough for a full price title, and the objectives spread across these maps never really change. Far more variety is needed, and hopefully downloadable content will address this. Other problems include the poor vehicle handling, especially the airborne options, and the fact that vehicles are simply too easy to destroy. It’s actually better to forget vehicles entirely and stay on foot. And, while there are plenty of weapons between the two sides, there’s not much variety, and a standard assault rifle seems to be just as effective as a heavy machine gun. The 360 version also lacks a cockpit view for vehicles (the PC and PS3 versions sport this feature), which is odd, and I can’t see why this was omitted here, especially as it can make aiming and firing weapons in vehicles far easier. And, the fairly limited maximum number of 16 players online, while still action packed, can’t rival the PC’s 32 players. Luckily, ET:QW does have plenty of upsides. The AI when played offline is great, and on the higher difficulty levels will give you nightmares, and playing as either Human or Strogg forces does present a different experience. The 12 maps are huge, and tactically there are plenty of ways to achieve victory. Better still, both sides are well balanced, and the objectives and maps are never biased. Enemy Territory: Quake Wars is a good game, pure and simple. It’s nowhere near the epoch making title many have made it out to be though, so don’t expect a multiplayer revolution.