Enemy Territory: Quake Wars Preview
It's Quakecon 2006, and finally gamers here in Dallas, Texas are getting their chance to play Enemy Territory: Quake Wars. This multiplayer-only shooter, developed by id Software and British developer Splash Damage (creators of the wildly popular online shooter Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory), puts you at the start of the war in 2065 between the human Global Defense Force and the Strogg, the invading aliens from Quake 2 and Quake 4.
But this game isn't about hopping around on jump pads, and while there are plenty of classic Quake weapons given new life here, this is open war. The forces of the GDF and the Strogg include five playable classes each, with plenty of weapons, gadgets, vehicles, and deployable installations which you'll need to use to win. And your objective isn't just to raise some silly flags randomly spread throughout a map, with every player "going solo" and too little fighting going on. If you've played the original Enemy Territory, you'll probably be very happy to know that every map here has a story, and every story involves different objectives. I'm going to look at this battle from the Strogg perspective, and our buddy Filth will be writing from the GDF's point of view.
For Quakecon, there's one map called Valley being played. The Strogg have installed a contamination system into the local water supply, hoping to poison the human forces in the area. As the attackers, the GDF have their work cut out for them on this map, as they've first got to repair a bridge, then send a Mobile Command Post vehicle across the bridge and through a very dangerous tunnel, and out into the open. The MCP can then launch a huge missile at the water plant to breach the security, but oops! The Strogg have put up a shield defense system over facility. So the GDF must also infiltrate the nearby Strogg base to knock out the shields. Then the missile can blow open a hole in the building, the GDF troops can get inside, and a soldier using a heavy charge can finally blow up the contamination system.
And every map will have a distinct and unique story with its own objectives. Some maps, we'll see the Strogg as the attackers and GDF as the defenders, too; Splash Damage is taking great care in trying to make these maps as balanced as possible, as this is not like some other games' modes where you switch sides and try to complete the same goals in a quicker time. Each side has their own unique objectives; on this map, the GDF's objectives will cause spawn points to change for both sides as they progress, and the Strogg's job is simply to stop them from completing their objectives.
The Strogg are a unique race of aliens who have all kinds of mean-looking technology like jet packs, towering mechs called Goliaths, hover tanks, and a metal-mosquito-like hovercraft that can dogfight with the best of them. On the ground, most of the Strogg's ammo comes from a shared pool of energy juice called Stroyent, and if you run out of it, you can even sacrifice your own health in order to beef up your ammo stock. The five classes here are the Oppressor, Infiltrator, Constructor, Aggressor, and Technician. Three of these five classes can get stationary installations like turrets, anti-missile systems, or the like dropped in via a drop from orbit (the GDF use huge transport aircraft that automatically fly overhead).
The Infiltrator is the Strogg's stealth/scout/sniper class. He's got a rather weak pistol and a Railgun, although you'll find that the old Q2 days of randomly pop-shotting people with perfect railgun accuracy - while hopping around at that - are gone. You're going to need to zoom in to get any kind of accuracy, but you can fire pretty quickly and the thing packs a lot of punch, as a solid shot resulted in a kill for me on several occasions. The special effects for the zoom are very cool, too, as it has a digital pixellation to it that's got to be seen to be really appreciated. Aside from sniping, the Infiltrator can use remote-controlled drones to fly around and blow people up with, and they can even have small radar stations air-dropped in to track local enemy movements. Finally, he can use a wacky little device to kill a GDF opponent and then "possess" his body to infiltrate into the enemy base undetected.
The Technician is the medic of the Strogg force, but he isn't just here to heal and fire off a few of his own shots. He can also summon up small force fields for his buddies to get cover behind, and even respawn his teammates right on the front lines - if he can find enough dead GDF troops to turn into Strogg, that is.
The Constructor is much like the Engineer in some games, as he can repair the game's many vehicles and air-dropped installations. He's also pretty good with a gun and can drop tripmines and proximity mines, and even call in unmanned turrets to take on enemy troops and vehicles.
The Aggressor is the soldier of the bunch, and he's got the nastiest small arms weapons in the game. He's got plenty of grenades and a high-tech version of a satchel charge, allowing him to fight even the nastiest of ground vehicles the GDF has to offer.
Finally, the Oppressor is the artillery expert. He can call in a Strogg airstrike which brings a massive, deadly beam down onto the planet from orbit, but if that's not enough he can also call in deployable installations to do major damage to both the GDF's troops and their own vehicles or installations.
All of these classes have their choice of at least a couple of main weapons aside from their complement of grenades, pistols, and the like. The Lacerator is a great assault weapon, while the Railgun is the Strogg's sniper weapon of choice. The Hyperblaster, which you might remember from Quake 2, is back but in a more twisted, evil form. Then there's the Obliterator, and (yes, you guessed it) the Nailgun. All of these weapons feel great in the player's hands, and the Strogg animations are truly sinister and just plain evil. You also won't need to reload any of the Strogg weapons, but many will heat up and need cooldown time before pulling the trigger again.
Splash Damage continues to tweak Enemy Territory: Quake Wars and work on new maps for the game. Their release date has been pushed back from the 2006 holiday season into 2007 in order to balance the game as much as they reasonably can, and considering that only one patch was ever released in over three years - and it only included relatively minor changes and fixes - I'd say that the guys behind this game will be sure of its quality before releasing it.
And now, let's hear a bit on the GDF site from our guest writer here at Quakecon, Filth.
When it was announced that the new game from Splash Damage, Enemy Territory: Quake Wars, was going to be in playable format at this year's Quakecon, I was (needless to say) very excited. But would the pre-hype actually live up to my, and other, hardcore gamers' expectations? I can honestly say, without hesitation, yes. Yes, it does. Finger and I took time to jump right on over to the booth showing off ET:QW, and after a brief training video setting up the mission, we jumped right into combat. Finger decided to play as the Strogg, and I decided to play as the Global Defence Force, or GDF for short.
If you are an avid fan of the Battlefield games, then the gameplay is certainly very easy to pick up. But even if you are not a fan of Battlefield, the controls are very easy to pick up on and figure out. Very little time is wasted on learning how to play. In fact, if you can control the vehicles in Unreal Tournament 2004 with ease, you'll fit in just fine.
When the game first starts out, you pick your class, and you parachute right into your teams base. You can pick from Soldier, Field Ops, Engineer, Covert Ops, and Medic. Once you land, you notice right away that a array of vehicles is around you. In this Quakecon demo, the mission was this: build a bridge, get across it and take down the shield generator, and finally take out the Strogg contaminator.
The classes are very similar to those in Team Fortress, and should be familiar to most gamers. You have to use the Engineer to build the bridge while under heavy fire. Coordination with Soldiers, Field Ops, Covert Ops and Medics is crucial, as the Strogg will do anything they can to make sure the Engineer fails.
The Field Ops are better suited to work in the background, as he can deploy air strikes from defenses built by the engineer. For example: a Field Op can hide in the foliage, and call in a massive air strike on Strogg forces. The Covert Ops are the backbone of any winning mission; in the map shown at Quakecon, he has to hack into the shield in order to take it down, which is essential to the GDF getting into the Strogg base and destroying the objective.
As with any game that requires a group based goal, team coordination is tantamount to a successful outcome, and Splash Damage has done a wonderful job of coming up with missions that fit that bill. ET:QW is looking very polished, even in this early stage, and with a release date of 2007, the extra time should prove to be worth the wait.