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Evan  
13 Oct, 2007

Enemy Territory: QUAKE Wars Review

PC Review | A stroggly stroggific multistrogger strogg.
id’s known for many things. Carmack’s seemingly uncanny ability to create graphics engines which provide spectacular indoor capabilities. Excellent twitch-based run-and-gun multiplayer. Good single-class weapons balancing. Tried and true multiplayer game mechanics and objectives. So when id decided to play Executive Producer on an outdoor tactical warfare game with multiple player classes, each with unique weapons, and a totally new asymmetric multiplayer gameplay design, you’d think they were crazy, right? As it turns out, crazy like a fox.

Developed by Splash Damage, the London-based team behind the Quake 3 Fortress mod and Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory, Enemy Territory: Quake Wars takes the Quake universe into fertile new ground. Finally, one might add, given the lacklustre multiplayer improvements offered in Quake 4 - capture the flag was innovative in 1996, but it’s been over 10 years. At its heart, Quake Wars seemingly has a bit of everything in it. If we dialled the clock back to the 70’s and had a key party where Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory, Battlefield, Quake, and StarCraft all somehow had a bastard lovechild together, you might end up with Quake Wars. You’d also end up with a lot of embarrassed furtive looks, promises to call, and sudden exits the next morning, but who said creativity was easy?

Quake Wars draws the Team Fortress elements from Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory and combines the fast-paced twitch elements of Quake with the vehicular and class complexity of Battlefield. There’s a narrative buried somewhere in there involving alien forces (Strogg) invading the Earth (the Global Defence Force, or GDF), but it’s so heavily based on clichéd archetypes, one doesn’t even need to pay attention to get the gist of it. Apparently neither Splash Damage nor id really considered it that important either – the whole backstory is given in approximately 15 seconds of dialog during the introductory video. And, that’s pretty much it as far as narrative goes.

Shall we dance?

Shall we dance?
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Still, the lack of narrative’s to be expected – this is a multiplayer game, first and foremost. As capture the flag and catchment control has largely been done to death by now through the multiple iterations and permutations of Team Fortress, Battlefield, and every other clone out there, Splash Damage mixed things up a little by introducing defined map objectives and ground structure placement, similar to the mission structures and buildings used in most RTSs including StarCraft. By way of example, in a single map these can involve destroying a jamming tower, constructing a laser to blast into a bunker, then detonating a bioscanner to prevent the human forces from learning Strogg secrets. In achieving these, you’ll fight your way across fields, through cities, and eventually through a lab – these maps are pretty sizable. To provide support and ground control, teams may need to place (and repair) various anti-infantry and anti-vehicle turrets. One team is charged with achieving the objectives in a set timeframe, typically 20 minutes, the other charged with preventing the first team from achieving them, and three of these maps combined in sequence creates a “campaign” for players to fight their way through. Players can also play a single map or opt for a stopwatch match, during which each team takes a turn assaulting, with the team that reaches the objectives the fastest winning. Death is a momentary irritation, as the game uses a rolling respawn cycle to get players back in the mix with minimal penalty.

The game features five classes – Soldiers, Engineers, Medics, Field Ops, and Covert Ops. Unless, of course, you’re the Strogg, in which case you can be the suitably Stroggish Aggressor, Constructor, Technician, Oppressor, and Infiltrator. Each of the classes provides the player with a focus point for support, whether it’s ground assault and vehicle / structure destruction, structure support and repair, selfless healing, long-range death dealing, or field of damage support. While the basic classes are largely the same between both races, enough subtle differences exist in weapon / tool design between the two races to encourage the use of differing strategies. Where the GDF medic can call down supply depots, providing ammo and health refills, the Strogg Technician can create mobile spawn points.

Welcome to boomtown.

Welcome to boomtown.
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With five classes to pick from, a typical game team has at least one of each. And, the team play is really where Enemy Territory: Quake Wars is at. The best player in the world doesn’t have a hope in hell of saving a poor team - you may be the star of the sniper rifle, righteous with a rocket launcher, or ace of the assault rifle, but it all means squat when you don’t have that darn engineer backing you up to detonate the blast doors. Effective battlefield control absolutely requires a good distribution of roles, and to the game’s credit, it doesn’t matter which role you play – all of them are useful. A good medic can transform a relatively ineffective point attack into a rolling tsunami of pain simply by helping teams avoid spawning delays. Field Ops artillery and aerial cover can be the difference between a successful assault and a crushing defeat. And, there’s nothing more satisfying (or frustrating) than the full-map hand of death a good sniper can bring to the fray.

As such, don’t make any mistake – this is a multiplayer game, first and foremost. While there are single player options with the ability to include a large number of bots, the AI is adequate at best. While you won’t see your computer-controlled opponents admiring the daffodils at their feet as you repeatedly shoot at them, nor will you see any deviation from the standard apparently predefined attack paths. In practice, your role as the only human player in single-player mode seems to be to act as a benevolent shepherd, understanding your team’s attack path, identifying bottlenecks, and then opening up the route for them to run-and-gun to the objective. Unfortunately, if the objective’s anything other than “get from point a to point b”, you’re probably going to need to do it yourself. Such is the curse of human creativity, one supposes.

As such, the single player mode provides little other than a practice ground to understand the maps prior to being slaughtered online, which is where the real skill’s at. And, unless you’re well grounded in the technique of twitch, slaughtered is what you’ll be. With a complete dearth of any matchmaking capabilities, finding a public server that’s enjoyable can be an exercise in frustration. If you’re a die-hard Quake fan, this isn’t going to be an issue in the slightest – you’re probably either going to be laughing at the glacial reactions of the newbies or already playing with your clan and not reading this. If, however, you’re used to the comparatively reflective pace of Battlefield or are just new to online battlefieldesque shooters, you’re going to be in for a steep learning curve. One with extensive schooling, so to speak.

Like Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory, effective play is rewarded in the form of experience points. These experience points give various in-game bonuses such as the faster running ability, faster target lock-on with a rocket launcher, and the ability to revive someone at full health. Experience accumulates through a variety of mechanics including successful use of class-based skills and various cross-class commonalities (such as dealing and taking damage), and rewards achieved in one map carry through to the next map in the campaign. This can have the effect of encouraging players to stick with one class through an entire campaign, as the higher rewards can only be achieved through sustained use of class-specific skills. However, once the campaign’s over, the fat lady sings and you lose your skills. While there are some persistent rewards available to be collected through play on ranked servers, they only serve as bragging rights for those who achieve them. Justifiable bragging rights, definitely, but still only an ornamental benefit.

Luigi's Mansion really fell apart after the GameCube ...

Luigi's Mansion really fell apart after the GameCube ...
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Overall, the game’s a solid performer. There’s a significant amount of complexity offered between the class and race differences, and every map must be understood in detail in order to play effectively. Locations of machine gun turrets, support points, and paths are key to achieving victory, and without identifying and managing bottlenecks, a more coordinated (but less skilled) team can easily hold off an attacking force with greater individual skills. The regularly scheduled spawn waves combined with the relatively fast gameplay also provides a real sensation of contact pressure – even as you’re taking down the last of an invading force, you’re already expecting the next wave to come through the door. The use of varying objectives also ensures the use of multiple tactical approaches, as a typical campaign will have the teams fight their way through an open field, a narrow bottleneck, a constrained city, and finally a claustrophobic interior.

However, it’s not all good. The graphics, while strong, are uninspired. id’s definitely demonstrated that their engine will scale to deal with outdoor environments, but being honest, it’s fairly boring. Not that that matters so much in the heat of battle, but it still feels so “Quakey”, which, to be fair, may or may not be a good thing. Single colours are the flavour of the day, whether they be green, brown, or white (ice). However, at least there’s more than brown for once. The maps feel like they’ve been designed by a military tactician – there’s none of the organic feel real cities and environments have, and while the benefit of this mechanic-heavy approach is that environments are well tailored to battle situations, the unfortunate side effect is that all the maps feel pretty much the same. There are significant specific differences in layout between them, but after the first few, one starts immediately looking for the designed sniper spot in a given area, simply because one knows there must be one there. The 12 maps, while limited, are probably enough to see your typical player through to an expansion pack. The audio is repetitive, and the lack of an integrated voice chat really hurts the game. Players can still opt for TeamSpeak or other third party solutions, but given the importance of coordinated teamplay, this is a fairly major oversight. The developers have committed to building voice chat into the next patch, but as at release, no such capability exists.

Is this the multiplayer game to buy? That really depends on how you like your games. Team Fortress 2 is fun, arguably more so in the classical sense of the word, and has oodles more artistic charm. However, Enemy Territory: Quake Wars has hypersensitive controls, has real rewards for strong gaming abilities, and has vehicles. If you’re looking for a challenge and want an online multiplayer game that really rewards mastery, you can do far worse than Quake Wars - arguably, it’s one of the best offerings out there in this specific space. If, on the other hand, you’re looking for something that’s a little more casual and less intense while still giving you room to grow, you’re probably better off looking at Team Fortress 2 – the lack of a decent matchmaking capability in Quake Wars combined with a very competitive focus encourages a need for high-performing gameplay. And, if that’s not your bag, this probably isn’t the game for you. At least the Team Fortress 2 guys can laugh at themselves.
The Score
It's a good game brought a hair's width short of being great due to a handful of oversights.
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

Related Enemy Territory: QUAKE Wars Content

Latest Quake Wars patch released
16 Jan, 2008 Splash Damage updates online team-based FPS to v1.4.
Enemy Territory: Quake Wars demo released
11 Sep, 2007 It's time to kill.
13 Comments
6 years ago
And this is going to be Fury / Tabula Rasas downfall..... we can get out class based multiplayer killing fix without a subscritpion fee...............
6 years ago
Forget this blisteringly confused Battlefield / Quake bastard child... Unreal Tournament III will trounce this thing all the way through the skull.
6 years ago
Unreal Tournament III destroys this game. Several times. With a laser axe.
6 years ago
Bought this game today.... don't like it too much just seems very BLEH. Might take more time to grow on me but by then it will be gone.
6 years ago
i love the Quake 2/4 universe story, so for something to be a little derivative in that setting is a bit disappointing.

still, i suppose as a multiplayer game, i don't know that i was expecting anything genius.
6 years ago
How can people not like this game, I just don't get it. IMO this is probably the best FPS game I've ever played, it's so much fun and doesn't get as boring or repetitive as other FPS games.

I played TF2 over the weekend and it caused me to re-evaluate all my other FPS games as compared to ET:QW it was the most boring game I can remember playing. But it's not that TF2 was bad, just that it's too simplistic and I realised that so are most of the other multiplayer FPS games I used to play so I think if I went back to them they'd seem rather average too.

I think Quake Wars will go down in histrory as one of the most underrated games, especially when games like Halo and Team Fortress 2 get good reviews, they are just so average.


Edit:
Hang on a sec how could you get bored of what bots say? Don't tell me you reviewed it based on playing against bots icon_sad.gif
6 years ago
Hope UT3 stands up to people's expectations.
6 years ago
The comment about the bots was specifically to do with the audio, not the game as a whole. Otherwise, the sound's largely average, and the lack of voice chat really hurts. It's supposed to be coming in a patch, but it isn't there as of now. The audio in general is competent, but nothing overly impressive. The overall score was based on multiplayer play, as the single player experience is pretty average otherwise.

I think you're the exact type of person the game will really appeal to - people who think that Team Fortress 2 is too simplistic and who are looking for a game that offers a fairly technical (in a gaming sense) challenge. Like I said in the review, it really rewards mastery. It's a good game (hence the score), it's just that it's missing a few things to make it a great game.

If I take a step back, part of the problem is that non-persistent multiplayer only is a very niche genre - a developer really needs to do some very creative things to make their game stand out among the non-competitive, non- hardcore crowd. Single player games can fall back on narrative and other things to make a game great. If multiplayer-only games don't get that creativity and focus purely on technical gameplay, the game becomes too niche (as only the hardcore play) and the division between the good and the average becomes just "not fun".

ET:QW is dangerously close to being in this camp - it's saved by the breadth and balancing of classes, but without in-built voice chat and without a decent matchmaking capability (or even statistical reporting about "overall skill levels currently playing on this server", or possibly skill requirements to connect to different servers), it's probably only going to appeal to the hardcore crowd, as low-skilled players mostly just get nailed repeatedly without ever really achieving anything.

It still got a good score, well above average - we try to be conservative with our scoring. Had it had a few more "novice to intermediate" player features along with in-built capabilities for teams to coordinate to overcome highly technical players, it probably would have got a 9/10.
6 years ago
emech wrote
And this is going to be Fury / Tabula Rasas downfall..... we can get out class based multiplayer killing fix without a subscritpion fee...............
Just a small correction - Fury doesn't require a subscription. You can play without paying anything beyond purchasing the game. If you choose to pay the subscription, you get a few extra features such as quick travel, VoIP, priority log-in queuing, and few in-game bonuses.
6 years ago
Evan wrote
The comment about the bots was specifically to do with the audio, not the game as a whole. Otherwise, the sound's largely average, and the lack of voice chat really hurts. It's supposed to be coming in a patch, but it isn't there as of now. The audio in general is competent, but nothing overly impressive.
Yer, having played for nearly 50 hours so far I can definatlly say that the audio is the big let down, but it doesn't bother me in the slightest, in fact I prefer a more simplistic soundscape as it really helps the gameplay. However for most people I totally agree about the audio and it's fair enough that you don't review a game based on the promise of a feature (voice chat) so the negs there are justified icon_smile.gif.

Evan wrote
If I take a step back, part of the problem is that non-persistent multiplayer only is a very niche genre - a developer really needs to do some very creative things to make their game stand out among the non-competitive, non- hardcore crowd. Single player games can fall back on narrative and other things to make a game great. If multiplayer-only games don't get that creativity and focus purely on technical gameplay, the game becomes too niche (as only the hardcore play) and the division between the good and the average becomes just "not fun".

ET:QW is dangerously close to being in this camp - it's saved by the breadth and balancing of classes, but without in-built voice chat and without a decent matchmaking capability (or even statistical reporting about "overall skill levels currently playing on this server", or possibly skill requirements to connect to different servers), it's probably only going to appeal to the hardcore crowd, as low-skilled players mostly just get nailed repeatedly without ever really achieving anything.
Yer that is a big problem, but I think that voice chat will help tremendously with the newbies. There are alot of times that I wish I could help out the inexperienced players by telling them what to do but I'm usually too busy helping with the objectives to type anything.
I think that alot of the inexperienced players would be pretty usefull players with a bit of direction from the more experienced players, for instance when trying to push forward with the MPC the inexperienced players could repair the MCP without much trouble while the experienced players cover them. Unfortunatally atm what tends to happen in the inexperienced players wander off on their own or go on a killing spree leaving construction to the experienced players making things a little more difficult since there's no adequite cover.
But again, you can't review based on speculation and this just highlights how big a mistake it was for voice chat to be left out.

Evan wrote
It still got a good score, well above average - we try to be conservative with our scoring. Had it had a few more "novice to intermediate" player features along with in-built capabilities for teams to coordinate to overcome highly technical players, it probably would have got a 9/10.
True, 8.5 is a good score (my favorite PS2 game only scored 8.2) and I shouldn't really complain as peoples views will differ, it just feels like it's being held back by things things that aren't that obvious while playing the game. I'd have given it around 9.0-9.2 without voice and maybe 9.4-9.6 with voice chat.
6 years ago
Skiller wrote
How can people not like this game, I just don't get it. IMO this is probably the best FPS game I've ever played, it's so much fun and doesn't get as boring or repetitive as other FPS games.
Im a big fan of first person shooters. Ever since Rebellion's amazing Aliens versus Predator, I was instantly hooked on the sort of skill you need to hone to get results in a game of this type. AvP was pretty much my first foray into online gaming and since then, ive played games online such as Rainbow Six, Unreal Tournament series, Quake III Arena and Battlefield 2 most recently, and you wouldnt believe how damn excited I was when Quake Wars was announced.

I stayed up till 4am to get a hold of my beta key and once I jumped into the game, my expectations were cut a little short. As far as the objective gameplay system goes, it was pretty much Assault mode from Unreal Tournament all over again. This isnt a complaint per se', but the core mode of the game that was it's lifeblood it wasnt as deep or complex as I thought it would be. Not to worry..

What threw me was the gameplay itself. It's like this title was set to play out in a class based system, yet ran like a horse on crack. Battlefield'esque classes and kits were in my opinion, kind of useless if the game ran as quickly as Quake III or UT. For example.. the Field Ops class. By the time I deployed a largescale artillery of any sort, the enemy were way past it, negating the purpose of something like that.

Sniper class? Is it really necessary in this game? Any point to even proning with a rifle to line up a target who is there one moment and then gone in an instant?

I was looking forward to the Strogg Infiltrator class and wearing GDF 'skin' to breach through enemy lines, but in the end; this purpose didnt really prove to be as efficient or important in the battle at all. The Strogg Medic was apparently meant to create mobile spawn points from fallen GDF, yet only I was able to spawn at ones that I created.

The vehicles werent really that impressive either. Flyers were much more difficult to pilot effectively when compared to other FPS titles.

Each to their own, but I imagined QW: ET to have far more potential than it did. To me, it comes off as a game that tries to implement class based gaming as it's core, but doesnt realise the classes to their full potential. While Quakr Wars should have had a strong indentifier in it's gameplay, it doesnt stand out as an almighty fragfest or solid class based multiplayer title. It kinda sits there inbetween offering no incentives. There are just no major strengths there for me to enjoy it.
6 years ago
@S.Jaworski
Sounds like you were playing with inexperienced players, if people know how to play a class properly then there's a huge difference that they can make. They are all really well balenced (once you learn them) and it's rare to have a server without at least 1 of each class unlike most class based games where only 1 or 2 are any good (TF2).

The spawn hosts that the strogg medic creates need to be claimed to be used, and they are 1 shot so once you respawn you need to create or find another.

The ground vehicles are far and away the easiest and most intuitive to drive out of any other FPS game I've played and offer functionallity that others dont. The air vehicles are more tricky but once you get use to them and using the tophat controls then they are very good too.

I think the problem with this game is it takes a long time to be able to get into it as there are alot of subtle complexities that make the game great but you wont appreciate till you've played it for 20 or so hours. I've played 50ish hours so far and I'm still learing things about the game, hell I didn't even know there was a teleporter weapon will 2 nights ago.
6 years ago
I suppose there were many more changes effected since the Beta version aswell. I may give it a chance in the future.
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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  28/09/2007 (Confirmed)
Standard Retail Price:
  $89.95 AU
Publisher:
  Activision
Genre:
  Shooter
Year Made:
  2007
Players:
  1
System Requirements:
Intel Pentium 4 3.2 Ghz or AMD Athlon XP 3200+ processor
1GB RAM, 128MB NVIDIA Geforce 6600GT or ATI Radeon X800
100% DirectX 9.0c compatible sound card
950MB of free hard drive space, plus 700MB for Windows swap file
Broadband connection and service required for full gameplay and downloads.

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