It’s been over 4 years since id Software gave us the team-based FPS, Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory. Not implemented well in other team-based games, ET let players interact with each other over a network in two teams (Axis and Allies) to defend or destroy mission objectives. The first ET was first destined to become a stand-alone game, but unforeseen technical challenges caused id to release the game in a different state since the single-player version was not coming along as expected. Id released the multiplayer version of Enemy Territory as a free download for PC gamers, and set the stage for years of free, and incredible online gaming.
Fast forward, and now it’s 2007, id has taken the team-based concept to the next level with the futuristic and updated adaptation, Enemy Territory: Quake Wars (ETQW). Developed by the infamous team at Splash Damage, imagine a mix of BF2 and Counter-Strike, with deeper, and more provoking team based activity. ETQW is set roughly fifty years into the future during the Strogg’s initial invasion of Earth. Some avid Quake players will recognize the Strogg, as the main antagonist in the Quake 2 and Quake 4 games. ETQW is set as a prequel to the Strogg invasion, and how the human race, led by the Global Defense Force (GDF), expelled the perilous threat for the collective freedom of Earth.
Game play is fairly straight forward standard FPS controls, WASD, mouse to select through your various weapons, zoom, fire, use, etc. Rinse and repeat. This is where the cookie cutter molding ends, and gets a significant stroke of the artists brush. Splash Damage took a lot of effort to balance teams and gameplay, yet managed to vary the different sides to the point where playing the different teams (Strogg and GDF), is similar, yet completely different. Unlike CS, TF2, the BF series, which are great team-based games in their own right, QW goes beyond the narrow-minded thinking offered by those games, and adds elements which will both surprise, and amaze you for hours on end.
Before I get to the teams, roles, and rewards systems, let me state for those that don’t know already, this is a Multiplayer online only game, but surprisingly will hold its own for a time as a single player game. While you can play in an offline mode with rather intelligent bots, your best matches will be found on the online battlefield with real opponents. Single player action with bots will help you acclimate to the game before going online, and the bots’ AI is actually fairly intelligent, and variable depending on the level of difficulty you select.
I found on the easier settings, teammates would hop into vehicles with me, follow me into combat, and essentially let me lead the action. On the harder settings the bot behavior changes, my team refuses to get into the vehicles with me; I assume they have seen my Titan Tank record. On both settings I found it cool that Medic bots would actually heal and throw med packs down for heavy battles, but on either setting, that darn doc just refuses to hit me with the revive paddles after a sniper rifle dug into my left torso. Splash Damage deserves some incredible praise for making the bots shoot to win, rather than just shooting to shoot.
Quake Wars is an objective based game, and this is where the team-work elements really shine through. Most team-based games don’t focus the players, and as such, things end up very random, with battles taking place all over the map, and little in the way of coordinated battle efforts. QW smashes through this barrier by giving each class unique goals to accomplish, while maintaining a single focused objective for your team to accomplish as a whole (which is successfully completed by each member of the team working their role). Class based objective range from healing/resuscitating a fallen comrade, building a MG-nest, planting mines, or even deploying fire support or Anti-Personnel turrets. The team-based objectives further your overall progressive missions once completed, and although the objectives are somewhat limited in scope, they range from escorting a vehicle, building an objective bridge or other device, and even destroying and hacking enemy strongholds with the help of your team.
Classes are numerous and diverse in the game, I will tell you a bit about my personal favorite after giving you the veritable cornucopia of choices available. The GDF and Strogg both have their similar classes. For the classic Soldier type of player, you know rocket launchers and the like, the GDF have the Soldier, and the Strogg, the Aggressor. This class can plant explosives on targets, doors, and even enemy deployable units. Next up, the Engineer/Constructor; This class is responsible for deploying anti-personnel, anti-vehicle, and anti-artillery turrets, repairing and building objectives, vehicles, and even disarming explosives and planting mines.
Field Ops/Oppressor is my personal favorite, because with this class I can deploy the BIG guns. Hammer Launchers/Dark Matter Cannons (a big missile), Rocket Artillery, and even good old reliable ground artillery to pummel your foes senseless. This is accomplished by planting your deployable, and then using a targeting tool to “laser tag” your target or area you want o smash into oblivion. This class can also deploy air strikes, re supply ammunition, and even gets a nice weapon standard compliment. Medics heal and revive instantly on the GDF side, while on the Strogg partition, revival takes about 5 seconds, however the Strogg Technician can not only lay out Stroyent Cells (Med packs), but fallen foes can be turned into temporary spawn points. Finally, the Covert Ops/Infiltrator is quickly becoming a favorite class for me to play as well. Not only can this class hack objectives and deployables, but they are also able to take on the guise of an enemy, use sniper attacks, and even have a unique EMP based grenade to temporarily disable vehicles and deployables while your team takes them out.
With the selection of classes on both sides, it is important to mention the differences between the GDF and Strogg, as they both have advantages, and strategies which work best depending on the circumstances. The difference between medics on either side was mentioned, let me cite a few other examples I have noticed. The GDF team has to reload their weapons after 20-40 shots, Strogg weapons adversely, run on energy, and don’t need to reload, but rather deplete over the course of firing time, rather than the number of shots. I think the GDF weapons hit slightly harder, but the Strogg are able to get more shots off before their weapons overheat. I can’t confirm that fact on the amount of damage, but if I am correct, this was one cool way to make them different, yet balanced during play. There are a lot of little differences between the two factions, but the cool part is, no matter who you play, or which class, the game always feels a little different, and it forces one to devise new strategies on a regular basis.
If you play online on “Ranked” servers, XP comes into the game, granting you rewards and upgrades for your progression, XP gain, and completion of objectives for your class, and your team. An award system, statistics/ranking page, and experience gauge can all be found in-game and online to track, and compare your accomplishments against your friends. While the original ET allowed players to play on these types of servers, often the XP save would work against the system, allowing veteran players upgrades and awards which in turn would allow them to dominate new comers to the game. ETQW helps this situation by forcing an XP reset after your 3rd match on a ranked server. This means that after the 3rd battle, everyone is on the same page, and given an equal opportunity for upgrades during the course of the campaign. More diversity creeps into he game with upgrades; you can gain more accurate weapons, increased ammunition, a scope, more health, more vehicle drops, increased run speed, faster build times, and other class related enhancements.
The biggest improvement from the original ET in QW would have to be the addition of Vehicles, and even better, deployables. The vehicles range from your standard tank types, to more unique forms of aircraft and land vehicles on both teams. Again, he differences between the GDF and Strogg once again stand out. The GDF have more vehicles at their disposal, but the Stroggs’, seem more powerful to me. The Strogg get the huge and heavily armored Cyclops, a mechwarrior looking vehicle with dual rocket launchers. Nothing however, beats the GDF Platypus boat! I hope you know I am kidding....
I have been trying to think of something bad to say about his game during the week or so I have taken to write it; but the truth is, I can only think of one downside, and it isn’t all that bad. The learning curve is a tad longer than one would expect. This is not your average death-match type of FPS, and some players will take quite a while to get he feel for the game. The good thing on this aspect is that while you might die a lot at first, the game is quick to pop you back into the action, and with the team-based goals, people are rarely far from the main event thanks o an awesome travel and spawn system. The visuals, while not bleeding edge, are using an updated version of the Doom 3 engine, the only thing I saw that needed improvement was some of he ground effects and lighting, but this is about team-play, not being ultra-pretty, and QW is no graphics slouch either to say the least.
Sound is incredible when used with 5.1 and above settings and the proper speaker setup on your PC. Witty voice files from in-game can be accessed quickly with your middle mouse button, you can call out targets using this by the way, very effective for creating new destroy missions on enemy deployables. While the game did ship without VOIP in-game support, in the weeks since the game was released, we have since been blessed with the 1.2 patch, which added some superb, and complex VOIP features. Further patches and an SDK kit are on the horizon, both of which should increase the replay value of this game for years to come.