Warmonger - Operation: Downtown Destruction Review
Reviewed on PC
Windows System Requirements: 2.13 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo Processor or equivalent, PhysX 100 Series Processor, 2 GB RAM, nVidia 7900 or more recent video card, 1.8 GB HD space, internet connection
Warmonger is a free game that shows off the capabilities of the AGEIA physics card, so explosions abound. There's tons of stuff to blow up, obstacles and paths that can be shattered, volumetric smoke to be pushed around and banners that flutter in hails of bullets. The game is built on the Unreal Engine 3, so anyone who's ever spent time in a multiplayer online shooter will be immediately comfortable.
Warmonger - Operation: Downtown Destruction is the flashiest (explodingest?) multiplayer online shooter out there. It may not compete with the likes of Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare or Quake Wars: Enemy Territory, but it has the biggest, most gratifying explosions.
The problem with Warmonger is that it's the proverbial party to which no one came. It's a rocking party: there's a gigantic disco ball, open bar and an amazing DJ, but the price of admission is an AGEIA physics card (this varies by manufacturer, but typically runs around $150). Fortunately, at that price, everyone who showed up to the party brought rocket-propelled grenades.
Once you get inside, there are three classes: wielding big guns; really big guns; and the biggest guns of all. Everyone either has powerful explosives or a chain gun that can rip through the scenery, so that you can experience breaking rubble into even smaller rubble. That's where most of the fun in Warmonger comes in. Use rockets to destroy concrete barriers and get at a squatting camper or pulverize a high plywood path with RPGs to block a strategic point.
As the developers pointed out this summer, the entire level can't be destructible, or there will soon be nothing left to fight over – just one giant pile of rubble. So there's a lot that won't blow up, and already a lot of wreckage strewn about. The landscape reflects years of battle, but the post-apocalyptic palate, devoid of color, gets monotonous. And there's not much to do in that landscape. Truthfully, the game would be better if you could reduce everything to powder, because then you could have fun with the level alone, and enjoy your AGEIA card, rather than trying to find other players to battle.
When I previewed the game in June, I had a great time. I played in four-on-four games in which one team defended a location while another tried to carry a flag into the other team's base. The game was perfect for that kind of play, as the defenders could demolish staircases and even move vehicles around (with explosions) to block access routes. The only game modes available in the released game are Team Deathmatch and Capture and Hold (in which players stand near specific map points to gain control and score), and destructible terrain isn't really integral to either style of play.
Basically, the high point of the game is the ability to blow crap up. But there's not really any reason to do so when you're just hunting for other players, so when there are players, play devolves into very standard multiplayer online FPS fare. And the two existing play modes need at least eight players on a server to be entertaining. Since day one, there have typically been four people, at most, on a given server. So, if you have an AGEIA card, it's worth downloading the game, playing with explosions, firing rockets through smoke to see it move and making the banners flutter with automatic fire. Then you'll be done.
Warmonger presents a serious challenge to Frictionless Insight's rating system. Ordinarily, this site rates based on value – essentially, quality vs. price. But is Warmonger a free game or a game that comes with an expensive piece of hardware (the physics processor)?
Let's call it a free game, but one with problems. First, you can't count on finding an online game, so don't expect to play against a decent-sized group unless you already have a group of friends with AGEIA physics cards. In part, that mitigates the second problem. Warmonger relies on GameSpy Comrade to take care of matchmaking, unless you input IP addresses yourself. That means playing online isn't quite free – it involves submitting to GameSpy (and IGN) software and marketing.
But basically, if you've already paid the price of admission – including the AGEIA physics card and the GameSpy software, then this game is certainly worth its price, if just to watch the rockets red glare and the bombs bursting – in air, in the wall, and everywhere.