Enemy Territory: Quake Wars

Review

posted 6/4/2008 by Charles Husemann
other articles by Charles Husemann
Platforms: PS3
Although I didn't review the PC version of Quake Wars (check out Sean's review here) I spent a huge amount of time with the beta and followed the PC version of the game since it was announced. When I heard that Activision was bringing the game to the consoles I was a bit cynical as the game's asymmetrical class based game play may not go over well with the console crowd. These kinds of games require a lot of team work and coordination to really work well and I'm not entirely sure that console crowd meets those demands.

The back story of the game is a bit odd as it's actually a prequel to the second and fourth Quake games. In the previous games you attacked Stroggos, home planet of the half human/half robotic Strogg to beat back the Strogg. Enemy Territories:Quake Wars actually covers the Strogg invasion of Earth that precipitated the events of the other two games, allowing you to play both the defending humans and the attacking Strogg. If you're looking for more of a plot than that you're going to have to try and stitch together the events of the missions in the game because there's no real narrative to the game the background is just a setup to have two different forces beating up on each other.

The game is class based and you have your standard classes of soldier, engineer, medic, sniper, and support for both sides (although the Strogg do get somewhat cooler names for the same classes). There are some nice tweaks to the classes as your medic class and engineer classes aren't gimped and are actually useful in combat outside of their typical roles. You can customize your class a bit by choosing different weapons based on how you want to play that class and you can earn more weapons and utilities by earning promotions during the game. Promotions are earned by completing objectives and doing the specialized things that you class can do. This is where the game differentiates itself from the rest of the pack as it assigns dynamic mission objectives during the game. For example, in some missions my engineer is responsible for building a shield penetrating laser but since he's Mr. Fix-it and Mr. Turrent deploy-er he can get extra experience points for fixing damaged vehicles and deploying turrets. Likewise soldiers are assigned things like taking out enemy turrets and clearing out obstacles for the rest of their team.

The game contains twelve different missions which are broken into four, three mission campaigns. Each mission has three or more goals to accomplish and a set amount of time to get them done in. My personal favorite has you attacking a Strogg stronghold in Africa where you have to infiltrate their base, hack a slipgate to Stroggos, then drive the large MCPslipgate and use that foothold to take out a Strogg generator. Each part of the mission requires you to use a different set of classes to complete the objectives as you'll need a soldier to blow open the gates for the vehicles, a sniper class to hack the slipgate, an engineer to repair the MCV as it makes it's way to the setup point, and finally the soldier class to blow up the Strogg generator. There are some other mission types such as holding back a Strogg attack on an area or trying to deliver secret plans somewhere and there's enough variety here to keep you interested. I just wish there as a little more of an introduction to provide some backstory on the missions.

There is a nice variety of vehicles and weapons at your disposal to help you complete your missions though. The weapons are you standard variety FPS fare with a mix of machine guns, shotguns, rocket launchers, and pistols at your disposal. The Strogg get slightly different versions of the same weapons with a few extra toys tossed in for fun. My personal favorite is the remote drone for the strogg sniper class which allows you to send out a limited range drone to scout out an area and take out enemy soldiers and turrets without exposing yourself. It's not as well done as the drones in Frontlines:Fuel of War but it's still a bit of fun. Vehicles are also your standard FPS fare with jeeps, tanks, and giant walkers at your command. While they aren't the most original things in the world the execution is solid. You can also call in aerial strikes and place defensive and offensive turrents in territory that you own. It's a bit hard to figure out where the turrets can go at times but they are extremely important to helping you win the game.

Unfortunately the execution is less than solid in the PS3 version. Activision used Underground Development to do the development of the PS3 version, a studio that that Activision shuttered in April. The game is a nearly straight port of the PC version of the game which while understandable is a bit frustrating as the menu structures and spawn menus are lifted directly from the PC version and there are some options hidden on secondary menu pages. It's also a bit frustrating when you compare this to the excellent job that Nerve did with the Xbox 360 version. It's not like Nerve did a massive overhaul on the game but just consolidated a few menus and applied a nice coat of polish to the game.

The folks at Underground Development also didn't do a great job with optimizing the game for the consoles as the graphics don't look nearly as good as the Xbox 360 version and the game suffers from frequent slowdowns. I'm not sure what happened but there are a lot of bad textures and poorly ported areas all throughout the game. Again this is in sharp contrast to the very good looking Xbox 360 version which is almost as good looking as Gears of War in parts. I just hope some silly Xbox 360 zealot doesn't use this game as a basis to attack the PS3 because the game was developed by two different companies and you have to wonder who at Activision was responsible for keeping the two teams in sync.

The focus of the game is the online multiplayer and here there are some issues as well. Getting into a game and getting started is no problem but whenever there's a lot of action the game bogs down quite a bit due to lag. I'm not sure if this is fixable in a patch or not but I had severe lag when the action got thick. That would be excusable if the single player campaign was a bit more fleshed out but the folks at Underground took some cues from the old Battlefield games and the single player part of the campaign is just the multiplayer maps with Bot support. The Bot AI is average and it's nothing that is going to set the world on fire. You can play through one of the campaign sets but there's no real reward in doing so as the maps just loop over again. Sure you can earn more XP points to unlock more extras but it's not that satisfying of an experience.

I'm not sure what the disconnect was on the PS3 version of the game as the final product is not nearly as polished as the Xbox 360 version of the same game. The end experience is that of a very sloppy/un-optimized port which feels half baked and rushed out the door. The PS3 version does have better controls for the flying the vehicles and in placing turrents but it's not enough for me to recommend this game over other games in the genre such as Warhawk. It's a shame because the core gameplay is rock solid and a lot of fun, it's just a pity that so many corners were cut.


C-
While the core gameplay remains from the PC version, this sloppy port kills a lot of the fun with poor graphics and sloppy network code.


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