Enemy Territory: Quake Wars has been on our radar for some time. From the first E3 video to this latest trip to Activision, we have eagerly kept up with development. Set in the Quake II universe, during the Strogg invasion of Earth, Quake Wars is set on 12 maps divided into 4 campaigns of 3 maps each. Like the original Enemy Territory, Quake Wars is completely multiplayer.
There are always two teams per map, and each team has 5 character classes. Though the Strogg and Global Defense Forces have different names and weapons (ie, Field Ops/Oppressor), they generally serve the same function. Constuctors and Engineers concern themselves with building turrets, repairing vehicles, and planting defensive mines. Aggressors and Soldiers are the basic combat units, with a variety of weapons – from assault rifles and machine guns to anti-vehicle weapons. Field Ops and Oppressors call in artillery units and then use them to initiate artillery strikes, while Technicians and Medics do the obvious job of healing their own. Finally, Infiltrators and Covert Ops are primarily focused on sniping and sneaking into the enemy's base. Covert Ops rely on stealth, Infiltrators disguise themselves as the enemy.
What sets Enemy Territory: Quake Wars apart from most of its competition is its objective-based gameplay. Players are not tasked with a simple capture the flag job. Rather, they face multiple tasks on a single map, though they are all sequential. The familiar Valley map, for example, first has the GDF build a bridge, then drive a Mobile Command Center through a tunnel to the forward Strogg base, followed by hacking a Strogg facility, and launching a missile at the Strogg compound. Finally, the GDF must rush inside and place explosive charges. All this while the Strogg engage in a vigorous defense and have the benefit of time on their side.
The other map we played, Sewer, features a Strogg assault on a GDF position. Unlike Valley and most original Enemy Territory maps, almost half the action is inside a compound. ETQW started with the Doom 3 engine and Splash Damage, the development team, has really fleshed it out. It handles outdoor and indoor transitions seamlessly and performance was very good for a product still in beta – though admittedly the computers the game was running on were very fast. However, when we talked with Kevin Cloud from id Software, the goal is for Quake Wars minimum requirements to be about the same as what Quake 4 managed, which will be a considerable achievement considering the time that has elapsed since Q4 was released.
A key difference between Strogg and Human units is how health and ammunition are counted. Strogg have a single resource – Stroyent. They can convert health to ammunition if necessary, and simply recover their health by getting stroyent packs from medics. Humans naturally have health and ammo, and need to acquire both separately. This doesn't make for a dramatic difference in gameplay, but it does simplify matters somewhat for the Strogg in certain situations.