Summary: JCal goes hog wild under the sheets with a beta build of Digital Extremes' WarPath.
While Digital Extremes is still working on their next main project, the sci-fi action game Dark Sector (due out in 2007) the developer has decided to release a kind of side project later this year in WarPath, yet another sci-fi themed first person shooter but one with more of a multiplayer feel to it. FiringSquad got a beta build of the PC version of the game from publisher Groove Games to check out for ourselves (It's also coming out for the Xbox as well).
The back story for the game is actually a somewhat complicated one, especially for a game that ultimately doesn't really have a single player storyline. There are three playable races in WarPath, the human Coalition, the alien Ohm, and the Kovoseach. All three are trying to gain total control over an alien world. Each of the three races with its own weapons but you can unlock more as your progress through the single player campaign, from futuristic machine guns and shotguns to rocket launchers and sniper rifles.
Some of the game levels also have support for land vehicles. There are three in the game; two are one man vehicles while a third is a two man vehicle with one driving and the other firing the main weapon...which sounds an awful lot like Halo's main land vehicle. It's definitely not the only similarity between WarPath and Bungie's classic Xbox shooter.
One thing that is different about WarPath is how it handles its single player campaign. Instead of a completely linear campaign, it adds a touch of turn based strategy to the table. Once you pick which race you will play as in WarPath you see a hex grid with your race's claimed locations. You choose which of the surrounding hexes you wish to occupy and then it jumps to a level where you take on your enemy. When you win a match you gain points that can be used to upgrade your weapons. Then the enemy gets its turn and you have to defend a territory you occupy.
In terms of gameplay, WarPath itself doesn't stray too much from the standard science fiction first person shooter formula: shoot the enemy until they die. The matches tend to be very fast paced and frantic so fans of id's Quake or the Unreal Tournament series should feel right at home.
Graphically the game uses the 2.5 version of the Unreal Engine, the same version that was used by Pariah, which means that while it may not be the best looking shooter on the market it's still quite solid even in the last legs of this engine's life. The art style of WarPath certainly reminds us of Bungie's Halo series with its metallic sheen look. There are also a few extra visual effects, such as heat shimmers with some of the weapons. The maps are well designed but don't have a lot of visual variety, with a few exceptions such as a skybox on one level that has animations of alien ships flying above.
One major problem with our beta build is the AI for the single player portion and skirmish modes. Quite frankly it's pretty bad at this point with the AI bots always gathering and running around in the same spots in the deathmatch levels. We hope the AI gets improved before the game ships to stores.
Based on playing the full beta build, WarPath is looking like it will be a fairly standard first person shooter with a couple of twists to make things interesting. The fact that the game is also targeted for a $29.99 price point for both the PC and Xbox certainly makes it more attractive if you are a gamer on a budget. Will WarPath be able to improve its AI and become a solid multiplayer shooter? The final answer to that will have to wait with the game's release in June.
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