Summary: Get ready for the most complete Enemy Territory: Quake Wars preview yet! Actually, no need to get ready, just click.
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.
On the heavier end of the vehicle scale are the GDF Titan tank and Strogg Goliath walker. The tank works like you'd expect a tank to, except that the primary crew position has only the main gun to fire. If you want to use the machine gun, you need to jump to the top MG. The Goliath, on the other hand, is much like a MechWarrior Mech. The top rotates separately from the legs, and it has a much higher vantage point from which to fire. On the other hand, its anti-infantry options are limited. It must drop down and deploy into a turret-like stationary platform to be effective. Even then, it has difficulty at close range against GDF infantry forces. The Goliath is better in a toe-to-toe fight against the Titan, but the Titan's speed, low silhouette, and maneuverability give it the ability to hide behind hills and buildings, which the Goliath usually cannot do.
In the air, the GDF find their Anansi Attack Helicopter matched up against the Strogg Hornet. The Anansi was difficult to fly in our experience but much faster and in a way more maneuverable. It is definitely a vehicle that benefits from having two crew, since the pilot can then focus on handling the beast in the air while the gunner can aim the weapons in a broader arc than is allowed to the pilot alone. The Hornet was easier to fly but didn't offer the speed or maneuverability of the Anansi. On the other hand, it was much simpler hovering above a Titan or Badger and blasting it into oblivion, than it was attacking ground vehicles with the Anansi.
The Strogg have another tank with the Desecrator HoverTank. It can only fire its cannon in hover mode, and that only directly ahead – there's no turret – but it can deploy as an anti-infantry turret on the ground. The GDF don't have a direct counterpart, but they do have the Trojan APC, which is amphibious and obviously carries infantry. It also has a missile launcher for air defense. Finally, the last ground units we saw were the Badger Truck, which is not unlike a Hummer, and the Strogg Hog Scout. Both are excellent light vehicles with manned machine gun positions.
It should be noted that only one deployable is available per person. While the deployable classes do have a choice of three each, only one can be placed at any single time. An engineer must then decide whether anti-infantry, anti-vehicle, or anti-artillery turrets are going to be most valuable. Similarly, Field Ops and Oppressors need to choose the kind of artillery best suited to the task. These are divided into fast-reloading standard artillery, slightly slower rocket/plasma barrages, and finally the big, one-shot Hammer missile/Dark Matter cannon.
One significant change from earlier plans is that turrets can no longer be manned. Previously, id and Splash Damage had it so that players could build a turret and jump into it. However, due to balance issues, this idea has been since shelved.
Also new are forward spawning areas. Attacking teams can capture closer spawn locations to their objective, saving movement time and possibly bringing the attack from a different direction. Defenders will thus be pressured to leave their safe ground and meet the attackers in the middle, should they want to relieve the pressure and recapture the forward spawn.
Though it will have only 12 maps, from what we've seen, these are really outstanding maps. Both Valley and Sewer resulted in heated, close matches by the end of the day. Early on there were a few blowouts, but by the end of the day, on both maps the games ended in last-second saves and victories. In Sewer, the explosive charge on the final objective was disarmed with only six seconds to go! When we replayed Valley, a similar result was achieved.
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