Enemy Territory: Quake Wars Review

Set in the Quake universe, id’s EnemyTerritory: Quake Wars was to act as a sequel to previous Quake games, (Quake II for example) and features Mankind’s first encounter with the Strogg. Taking a tangent from the usual FPS format, this instalment is focused around objective based scenarios and teamwork reminiscent of the Battlefield series.

Think 'Independence Day, but in less pixels...

First hitting the PCs back in 2007, it was heralded as a feverish multi-player experience, with multi-layered maps, interesting classes, and blow-for-blow action. It was, in essence, a good game, and the players loved it. Naturally, we console lovers also wanted a piece of the Quake Wars Pie and the game finally made the much anticipated move over to the 360 and PS3 at the beginning of June. What we got though was more like a cheap tart.

Having left the task for developing their shooter for the 360 up to Nerve, (the PS3 port was developed by Underground) you can’t help but feel that id software only gave them half the story: poorer graphics, bland environments, smaller groups and uninspired/repetitive objectives make this iteration something of a let down. With other more solid titles out there like Call of Duty and Halo, even Frontlines: Fuel of War, which is a more similar game, it’s hard to justify purchasing the game for the price it is – £42.99rrp.

Whilst it is generally known that PCs can do things that consoles can’t, even this title’s watered-down scenery is taking things a bit too far. Obviously if you never played the PC version you probably won’t notice anything hugely wrong. Still, it’s clear that Microsoft’s console is not being pushed to limits in this case, as Quake Wars’ graphics make the game look like it belongs on the original Xbox. A HDTV is certainly wasted on it.

Still, that’s not to say it’s a complete disaster. Provided you can look past its visual failings, the game can and will grow on you. As either the GDF or the Strogg, you get access to five classes a piece. Even the ‘equivalent’ class in each race varies slightly, ensuring that the player tries both sides, and allowing for variations between the tactics of each side.

Together, all things are possible...

Experimenting with these different class types, their abilities and their overall role on the battlefield can prove interesting. Thankfully, this was one aspect of the game that did make a successful transition as each class is unique and diverse. Whether you’re sneaking behind enemy lines, calling down an artillery strike, or simply patching up a team mate: using each class’ abilities to help complete your objectives is oddly satisfying. However, you’ll often find yourself whipping out the instruction booklet from time to time, as the more complex or advanced abilities don’t exactly lend themselves to you.

Vehicles and maps also remain strong points in the game. Rather then being simply a tool for getting around, or a placeholder to keep the tank-lovers happy, the vehicles add an extra layer onto the battlefield, forcing a player to evaluate their tactics. From aircrafts that are a pain to fly, to a mech that packs quite a punch, the diverse choice of vehicles makes for some interesting matches. The levels are also quite expansive, with varying climates and layouts. Obviously some maps are more interesting then others, but this is generally always the case. Whilst they may not feel like they’re in a particular region, (For instance, the ‘African’ maps don’t always seem very African.) the architecture is sound. Unfortunately, the same can not be said for the objectives, and you’ll find yourself doing nearly identical missions across several maps. This takes away from the playability of some maps, as the lack in difference will eventually make you just want to play the map you prefer.

The newly-added single-player campaign, whilst helping the player ‘settle in’, really acts as one large tutorial. (There is actually a proper tutorial, which is basic and random, but none-the-less helpful.) The single player mode also gives the game a certain degree of longevity, with four campaigns consisting of three maps each, and three difficulty levels. Despite being a decent size however, this mode is completely devoid of context or plot. It’s simply there. The most information you get as to why this game exists is in the opening video, and even that is questionably ambiguous. Those unfamiliar with the Quake-universe are unlikely to learn anything from this game.

In all truth though, the single player mode, whether good or bad, is merely a distraction for the main event: online. Like its PC predecessor, the multiplayer mode is the key selling point of the game. Even though the AI is surprisingly competent, nothing quite beats working side by side with your friends, and with voice chat support via Xbox Live, co-ordination is as good as it can be. Unfortunately, it’s not perfect: loading times and odd hosting rules can make getting a game started up difficult, and is actually very off putting – there’s always one person who refuses to click the ready button, preventing the game from starting. But once you’re in, the fun begins.

Death from above...

Boasting an extensive online record and stats system, it adds a healthy sense of competitiveness into playing online, and even supports its own ranking system. Earning XP and stars with a particular class also unlocks new weapons and abilities, however these are reset after every campaign – three missions - and so render them virtually obsolete – a missed opportunity, especially compared to COD4’s extensive customisation, but then that pretty much sums up the whole game.

If it had not been a port, or had it come out at the same time as the PC version, you could pass off its faults as not going as far as it should have – the fact that it is a port makes thing all the more worse. Instead of sitting down and thinking about it, or putting the effort into making sure it came out of the transition at least on par with its PC counterpart, the entire game was simply converted, compressed, and slapped on a 360 disc. It’s a shame, because this game had the potential to be another fine addition to the 360 roster. Instead, it ended up looking like a half-hearted attempt at appeasing the console-playing demographic.

Bland and uninspiring, with no note-worthy sound tracks. Those looking for a hard-hitting Halo theme or an epic moving sequence from COD4 will be gravely disappointed. Add to that basic weapon noises and repetitive character sound bites, and you’ll probably just end up muting the game. Of course then you won’t be able to hear the objectives. (No subtitles.)

As mentioned in the body of the review, the graphics here are nothing special, and definitely don’t utilize the 360’s full capabilities. The tutorial’s poorly animated instructor is the closest thing you get to lip-synced speech, and the graphics are grainy, and barely this generation. Still, looking into the distance looks oddly surreal.

Surprisingly, controls are quite intuitive and easy to use, and the navigation menus are pretty straight forward. Switching between the classes is also nice and easy, with just a few moves of the analogue stick to pick type, weapon and spawn point and you’re good to go.

The main menu looks quite impressive, with a pretty revolving earth. Opening sequence, whilst short, probably shows the best graphics in the entire game, and the set up and presentation of the sub-menus are inviting.

In terms of achievements, there’s nothing really new or outstanding, but there’s a good mix of online and offline tasks. These tie in nicely with the various game modes and make completing these achievements worthwhile, and within reach. Those looking to improve their Gamerscore will at least find this game a helpful stepping stone.

Despite all of its flaws, it’s quite possible to just look past it all and simply enjoy it for what it is. Or just get the PC version. The basic elements are there and whilst it’s probably better to pick it up cheap or second hand, if you’re a fan of these types of games it’s worth a try. Still, it won’t be long before you end up trading it in when the next Battlefield title or something comes along to claim the FPS throne.

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