Enemy Territory: Quake Wars Review

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Enemy Territory: Quake Wars Publisher: Activision and id
Developer: Splash Damage

Platforms: PC, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3
Reviewed on PC

Windows System Requirements: Pentium 4 2.8 GHz or Athlon XP 2800, 512 MB RAM, 128 MB nVidia GeForce 5700 or ATI Radeon 9700 or better video card, DVD-ROM, 5 GB HD space, internet connection, Windows XP or Vista

Humanity has finally encountered aliens, and the meeting – let's say it did not go well. In the year 2060, the cybernetic soldiers of the Makron, known as the Strogg, destroyed Earth's major cities, leaving the planet in ruin. Now they are harvesting humanity as raw material for their galactic conquest.

The Global Defense Force, the last hope of humanity, is struggling to combat the Strogg invasion, mustering all humanity's remaining strength to eliminate the unnatural alien constructs and preserve a future for the entire human race.

Kyle Ackerman

It's surprising that Enemy Territory: Quake Wars can evoke such visceral reactions from first-person shooter fans, but it's a very specific style of play that appeals far more to the strategist and team player than it does to the twitch player with nerves of steel and reflexes like finely tuned clockwork. Twitch skills will still do wonders, but the extremely diverse style of team play required in Enemy Territory: Quake Wars requires a keen mind and a sense of cooperation as much as it does a good mouse and a talent for headshots.

Teamwork Prevails

More so than many team-based multiplayer online shooters, Enemy Territory: Quake Wars requires a team of soldiers operating in careful coordination. Someone has to set up the radar that can map the battlefield for your team. Someone needs to supply and tend to the fallen and wounded. Someone needs to set up the artillery and call in air support to soften enemy positions. Someone needs to set up turrets, repair equipment and fill the landscape with mines. Someone even needs to carry the heavier weapons and plant demolition charges to destroy high-value enemy targets. And it certainly helps if you have several someones in each role, because no one person can do everything at once.

With so many roles to fill, each with its own abilities and equipment, Enemy Territory: Quake Wars has a bit of a learning curve. You'll need to spend time offline practicing and learning the ropes (and the flying drones, and the airstrike markers, and the terrain, and resupply crates...) before you're ready for the prime time, online. Otherwise, it's easy to feel lost, or to make mistakes that can cost your team a match. That's not likely to make you feel welcome. But once you have a grasp of the game, the classes, and the maps, Enemy Territory: Quake Wars becomes a sublime experience, with battles in which anyone can play a meaningful role, even if that same person couldn't last seconds in a match with a professional gamer.

A Purebred Pedigree

Enemy Territory: Quake Wars may be set in the Quake universe, but in my mind it's easy to substitute Nazis for the cybernetic Strogg. That's because the game comes from the same team that created Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory, another brilliant, class-based shooter. Like its predecessor, Enemy Territory: Quake Wars is set on large maps with multiple objectives so that battle flows from area to area, competing to complete or defend objectives that give this online multiplayer shooter a sense of an ongoing plot. Each match takes at most 20 minutes, and with well-balanced teams, can be an epic struggle every second.

Also, as was the case with its predecessor, every role is critical. In fact, multiples of every role are critical. For example, engineers can construct anti-personnel turrets, anti-vehicle turrets, or even turrets to intercept artillery strikes. On most maps, you'll need them all. But each engineer can only build a single turret. That means you need a full team. Everyone might love to play the sniper, but if no one takes on the role of an engineer or soldier, the battle will be lost. Personally, I love that the game requires thought. Circle-strafing isn't enough to get you through, although a circle-strafing expert fighting solo might well have the most kills on the winning team. The game also rewards different roles. It's possible to have the most experience on the server merely by repairing turrets or reviving teammates. And gaining that experience will improve your skills, at least over a campaign of three maps.

The Sum of the Parts

For those prepared to put in dozens, if not hundreds, of hours of play, the game also has a system of achievements – medals awarded for completing certain goals, all of which contribute to your overall rank. It's pretty much just about bragging rights, but anyone compulsive enough to play more than a few dozen hours will find the badges rewarding in and of themselves.

As with all multiplayer games, play can be frustrating at times, and extremely rewarding at others. Sometimes the server is stacked against you. Yet, play can be much more satisfying. In a single-player game, you are programmed to be the hero – it's carefully scripted by dozens of designers. In a multiplayer game, when you single-handedly deactivate an enemy radar, and then sneak around to slit the throat of an opposing sniper, it's unbelievably heroic. And personally, I find it just as satisfying to be part of a winning team, doing critical maintenance on artillery, or dropping medical supplies for wounded soldiers.

Many games will let you feel like the victor. Enemy Territory: Quake Wars lets you feel like part of something larger, even if that something is a race of cruel cybernetic conquerors come to devour the planet.

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This page contains a single entry by Editor published on December 1, 2007 10:23 PM.

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