IGN Review of Enemy Territory: Quake Wars
Enemy Territory: Quake Wars first launched on the PC back in October of 2007 to solid critical reviews and fan support. Now it's time for the id Software franchise to come home to Xbox 360 and PS3, nearly eight months since first landing on store shelves. While multiplayer FPS fans are undoubtedly hoping for an extra coat of paint and added features to what will hopefully be a solid addition to the stable of online shooters, what they'll actually find is far less exciting.
For those who don't already know, Quake Wars is a classic multiplayer-centric release where two warring sides are vying for control of a battlefield. Winning the day is focused on completing a list of objectives, from things as arbitrary as opening doors to gain access to an enemy bunker to deploying a vehicle inside an enemy base. You advance your territory on the battlefield until the three or four objectives have been successfully completed and you've pushed the enemy to retreat.
While the multiplayer matches are the expected standalone skirmishes either online or over a system link (sorry, no local play), there is an attempt at a single-player campaign buried underneath the surface. There are twelve maps which are split into four groups across four different continents. Three maps per group gives you four "different" campaigns to complete as either the Strogg or GDF forces. There's no story, nothing to tie the incursions together, just a bunch of standalone encounters As with any bot-based solo experience, the amount of fun you'll find is largely dependent on the AI's ability to play smart and realistically. Sadly this is an area where Quake Wars stumbles at times.
The AI's failings are most evident when trying to call over a medic to heal you amidst a heated battle. Sometimes it'll work perfectly and the closest medic will rush over at start cramming medpacks down your gullet, while other times a unit clear across the map will try beelining it for you. Likely to no avail. Then there are other times when a computer-controller medic will be in a tank sitting five feet from you and will be oblivious to your calls for help. Trying to call over ammo support is even more difficult, rarely resulting in anything other than you running around with your knife drawn.
What separates Quake Wars from a standard first-person online shooter is its class system, or at least that's what differentiated it on PC. Sadly on Xbox 360 the leveling and ranking system that helped to flesh out the classes so wonderfully on PC is totally absent. Gone are the weapon, vehicle and class-specific rewards that were given for specific tasks and in their place you'll find generic attribute boosts that don't differ between the five available classes. The standard ranking system (private up through general) is also gone, as is the in-depth stat tracking (now all you get is kill-to-death ratio and total time played) and website support.
While the infrastructure of the class system might be lacking on 360, the actual classes themselves are fairly well-designed. The Strogg and GDF both have their own unique classes, though they do tend to mirror each other in abilities and weaponry. There are a few differences with regard to abilities, like the Strogg being able to turn a dead body into a spawn point or add shields to the Hog vehicle, but there are clear parallels that can be drawn to keep things as evenly balanced as possible.
Vehicles are another facet of Quake Wars that helps to set it apart from the rest of the Quake lineage. You'll see things like APCs, ATVs, aerial drones, tanks, jetpacks and hover tanks make their way onto the battlefield at one time or another and it's up to you and your team to strategically decide how to make the best use of them. Something that is made a bit more difficult by the typically shoddy AI when playing with bots offline.
But it's all that missing content that hurts Quake Wars the most. With such a large gap between the PC and Xbox 360 release you'd think that there would be new weapons, maps and modes, but you get none of that. In fact, you actually get much less for the extra twenty-five bucks then you do with the older release. Not only do you get less content, but – as you're about to read – you also get the worse overall game.
As with any PC to console translation, there are bumps along the way. In Quake Wars, the biggest hits were taken in the gameplay department. First, there's the general fluidity of movement. When taking things from a PC and putting them on a console the general rule of thumb is to make them a bit slower, thus making them more accessible to the dual analog alternative to the mouse and keyboard. Quake Wars goes a different route and instead speeds up your character, giving them an almost unnatural feeling of speed; especially when you level them up a couple of times. This added speed takes away from the strategic slant of the gameplay and instead makes Quake Wars more frenetic than it should be.
Next up are weapon and item selection and auto-aim, some of the classic pitfalls in making the leap to consoles. First, auto-aim is entirely too strong. Taking my thumb off of the right analog stick rarely stopped my reticule from tracking an enemy, depending on their proximity. When using iron sights this issue was only exacerbated. Flipping auto-aim off, while an option, only made the aiming too twitchy to manage. Needless to say, a middle-ground would have been nice.
Selecting weapons – something that is done by either the mouse wheel or with numeric keys – is also a bit of a headache thanks to the one-direction cycle that you're relegated to. Left bumper governs tools and the right bumper handles weapons. As you'd expect, the console solution isn't nearly as streamlined as what can be found on PC.
Luckily the gameplay does get a bit more enjoyable when venturing onto Xbox Live. While the interface and match selection could be better designed (as it stands you're just thrown into the game with the best connection that matches your search conditions) there's no question that the strategy elements come into play much more when playing with others. Providing they aren't twelve years old and brain dead, of course.
So while it is true that the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions house the same number of maps and same general design as their PC counterpart, the visual quality has been scaled back considerably. The worlds no longer have a "lived-in" feel thanks to lifeless texture work and some seriously nasty character models. The levels feature less interesting geometry and an overall drab feeling. There are also framerate hitches that happen every time the action gets heated, most notably when in a multiplayer match.
The sound, while comparable to what was included on the PC, doesn't pack the same amount of life on consoles. There are less ambient noises and it seems like your weapons and the explosions pack less of a wallop.
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