GC 2008: Tom Clancy's EndWar Preview
Written Wednesday, September 24, 2008 By Dan WebbView author's profile
If there is a game this year that will go down as being the most innovative game of the year, if not the century, that game is sure to be Tom Clancy’s EndWar. If you would have said to me 5 years ago, hell, if you would have said to me 2 years ago, that in 2008, we’ll be controlling our own troops and operations by voice in an RTS game, I would have laughed at you before sectioning you under Section 2 of the Mental Health Act. Anyway, I digress...
EndWar is the first of its kind. It’s a voice activated RTS title from the guys over at Ubisoft Shanghai and the game takes us forward a few years to the year 2020 and the world is on the brink of war. You’ll be given the chance to take control of 3 factions (Europeans, Russians and North Americans who have a certain Scott Mitchell in their ranks) in an attempt to control the conflict.
Ubisoft Shanghai’s Julian Gerighty said that the mandate of the developer in creating EndWar “was to take the core enjoyment of a strategy game, which is making intelligent decisions and cross that with the visceral excitement of a first person shooter.” You’ve got to remember as well, that the Ubisoft Shanghai team have some pretty well known talent amongst their ranks when it comes to RTS titles. I mean the creative director on the title is no other than Creative Assemby’s Michael De Plater who was behind the classic Total Rome amongst others. So they know what they’re doing.
One of the big changes between EndWar and other RTS titles on the market is the camera view. Instead of the traditional RTS top down view, the camera takes the player down lower in to the thick of the action, so not only can you see how your guys are doing with some incredible detail to boot, but you can sit back and watch war unfold on your screen as your troops find cover, storm buildings and ultimately defeat the opposition.
Of course, the main difference that will set this game apart from other RTS consoles is the voice command. One of the main issues with console RTS titles in recent years has been the control issue. Ubisoft have thrown the rule book out the window by allowing you to control your squads entirely by voice. The voice control is simple, you pull the right trigger and then give your units your commands. The commands are broken down in to 3 stages; the squad, their job and the location, for example, “Unit 2 secure foxtrot” will send your second unit in to take control of the foxtrot strategic point. Of course there are other voice commands to control the camera, get the map up and such, but the vast majority of your commands will work on the 3 step formula.
The mode in action we saw was “conquest” and it was a simple Russia versus America where the first person to wipe out the opposition or take over half the strategic points won. Each strategic point has its letter of the NATO phonetic alphabet assigned to it which corresponds to the voice commands and the same logic applies to your units but with numbers.
The voice control as previously mentioned briefly can be used for a whole array of other actions, but one of the more important commands maybe the grouping method, a simple “unit 1 plus unit 2 create group” creates your group. Simple as anything. So instead of 30 clicks, you can do things in literally a few voice commands.
The combat chain in EndWar is fairly simple and so long as you remember it, you’ll do just fine, it’s a rock, paper, scissors sort of scenario. Tanks beat transports, transports beat gunships, gunships beat tanks. Of course it won’t be as easy as that, but it’s always important to remember the fundamentals of gameplay.
As far as EndWar modes go, there be 3 different modes to sink your teeth in to. Firstly you’ll have the story mode campaign. In the first 10 missions you play the road to World War III and this allows you to get some hands on time with each faction before you stick with one on the path to world domination. The second mode is skirmish which is as you would expect from skirmish, 20 minute games that act out kind of like deathmatch games. Last but not least is the “theatre of war” and it’s what Ubisoft call their most ambitious online mode ever. This is a persistent World War where you choose a specific faction, pick a commander with a speciality and then go on to help your faction to worldwide domination. One of the features of this mode is that it carries persistent units that earn experience and money in every single battle, but only if they survive. If they survive, you can take the experience and money and upgrade them using one of hundreds of different upgrades available per faction.
Also featuring in EndWar is what they like to call the “barracks” where you can customise your units both aesthetically and functionally. The whole purpose of this is so that you feel a part of your unit, so that not only will they respond to your commands, the situation whilst having the camera on the frontline so you can see the play live, but so that you can customise your experience and squad that little bit more.
EndWar at heart is all about realism. It’s all about throwing you down on to the frontline to get involved with the action rather than being a distant spectator. In essence, the game is simple with a rock, paper, scissors combat chain and so long as you adhere to that and pay attention, EndWar should be an enjoyable romp. The completely brilliant voice command system should have little problems with accents wherever you are in the world, but until it hits the masses and until we’re shouting commands at our review copy, we won’t know entirely. What we do know is that EndWar has the potential of changing the RTS genre forever and maybe even the gaming world forever by introducing a new concept of voice command.
Tom Clancy’s EndWar is available on the Xbox 360 and other platforms as of November 4th in North America and November 7th in Europe.