Even though they are working on a new game with a new engine, Id software won’t let the Quake series die. Because they are currently occupied with making Rage, Id relegated development of the latest Quake title to Splash Damage, a partner they’ve worked with before. Splash Damage released Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory a few years back as an expansion pack for Return to Castle Wolfenstein. Now they’ve given the Quake universe the team multiplayer treatment with Enemy Territory: Quake Wars—this means humans, Strogg, and some serious tactical combat.
Let me get this out of the way first: if you’re expecting a lengthy, story-laden solo game, prepare to be disappointed. The game takes place during the Strogg invasion of Earth, as indicated by the opening cutscene. In other words, this is a prequel—you aren’t continuing the story of Corp. Matthew Cain from Quake 4, or even the nameless marine from Quake 2. The invasion sounds like a cool opportunity to fill in some background, but alas, Quake Wars is strictly multiplayer. The story serves only to set up the game, and the only solo experience you’ll get is playing the computer. Quake Wars is intended to be played with other people.
If you played the Wolfenstein version, Quake Wars will be very familiar. You choose one of the two teams (Earth Global Defense Forces or Strogg, instead of Axis and Allies) and then play as one of the five classes. You and your team are deployed in your starting territory, and then move to complete various objectives located around the map. You either defend your turf or take the offense against the other team, depending on the situation. This may sound a lot like any team multiplayer game, but think of it as Team Fortress on a grand scale.
The maps are huge, and have three or more objectives apiece, which range from hacking turrets to storming strongholds. Each class serves a distinct purpose, and while there are corresponding roles on each team, some of them differ in key aspects. For example, the GDF Medic restores health instantly, but the Strogg Technician takes a while to revive a fallen comrade. To make up for it, the tech can also replenish ammo and turn dead GDF soldiers into spawn points. The other classes include engineer, spy/sniper, support, and infantry. I liked how the engineers weren’t the only class that could erect turrets; the support class can also build some heavy artillery, but they can only be fired remotely when the target has been “painted” by the player.
The weapon assortment is also divided up according to class, but there are some familiar Quake series guns to keep with continuity. Old friends like the Hyperblaster and Railgun make a return, along with the typical assortment of pistols, SMGs and explosives. A few of the classes have specialized grenades; the air strike smoke markers were especially fun. The involved system of checks and balances between the two teams makes playing on each a unique experience, and avoids the “palette swap” feeling that some team games have.
Each class can also earn upgrades for performing specific actions or completing objectives. Players can gain XP and field promotions, which they can then use to level up class exclusive abilities, weapons and even vehicles. Upgrades are good for a single three map campaign, but are lost when another campaign is started.
When on the offense, making headway is the most important goal. Even if a team hasn’t made much progress, there is a way to get moving quickly: vehicles. The last Enemy Territory lacked this feature, and it opens up Quake Wars’ gameplay significantly. ATVs, hummers, tanks and even aerial units can be taken into battle. These can be used to transport players into a hostile area or for clearing out ground defenses. Many of the vehicles’ mounted weapons can only be operated by a second player, further emphasizing the necessity of teamwork. Heading into a warzone without a buddy manning the turret is a bad idea, and will earn you a toe tag fast.
The vehicles are all about taking ground, and the offensive team wants to establish territory as quickly as possible. Setting up camp lets players spawn much closer to the front lines, and thus reach objectives faster. This is accomplished by taking key points on the map and building defenses, by driving a large “fortress” type vehicle to that location. One established, these mobile command posts become defendable strongholds, equipped with heavy turrets and spawn points for vehicles and players.
As you can see Quake Wars has a lot to offer, but it might be a little too much for novice players. The layers of depth, from the class options, upgrades and objectives to the vehicles can be a bit overwhelming at first. You’ll definitely be playing longer at a shot than in many other team multi games. The host of a game can set the match’s time limit to whatever they desire, but to have a really fun time (and complete all the objectives) you need at least twenty minutes on any of the game’s massive maps. This sustained combat, the forward push or the trenching in, feels a lot more like tactical war than the short and sweet matches of Team Fortress 2. A fun game of Quake Wars takes team coordination and strategy, so don’t go in expecting a mindless fragfest.
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