Activision and id is letting attendants at E3 play Enemy Territory: Quake Wars, the online-focused action game that lets players divide into two teams as they reenact the fictional human/Strogg war that serves as the basis for the famed Quake series. The game is set approximately 60 years in the future, as the alien Strogg suddenly invade the Earth and the Global Defense Force must battle the invaders off the planet. Quake Wars may seem inspired by the Battlefield series, as the focus in the game is on teamwork, different classes, and infantry and vehicular combat. However, it's the follow-up to Enemy Territory, the popular free add-on for Return to Castle Wolfenstein.
The Quake War games on the show floor were actually 24-player games, and that's described as "the sweet spot" for the game, according to id lead designer Tim Willits, who walked us through the game. We played as the GDF, and one of the cooler aspects of the demo was that we underwent a mission briefing onscreen while our Strogg opponents had a similar briefing next to us. The briefing made it very clear as to what kind of teamwork is required to win the battle, as the GDF could win the mission only if it accomplishes a sequence of objectives, each of which requires a player playing as a different class.
In the first objective, a key bridge must be repaired to get vehicles across a chasm, and engineers can only do the job. The rest of the team must provide cover. Then the GDF must battle its mobile command post through a tunnel, with engineers constantly repairing it and medics reviving fallen infantry. Once through the tunnel, the GDF must seize a base where the MCP can deploy to fire its missile at the Strogg base, and to be able to call in air support. Then the team must battle to the Strogg base, where covert ops troops must take down the shield generator protecting the base. Once that's down, the MCP can fire its missile to destroy a key Strogg facility, and then soldiers must plant explosives onto the objective. Because each task can be conducted only by a specific class, that means that a team must work together in order to accomplish the objective. Medics revive fallen colleagues, soldiers take out enemy armor, covert ops scout ahead, and so on.
It sounds a bit complex, and it is (especially with strangers as your teammates), but we could definitely see the potential of the game. Both sides are not mirror images of each other, like they are in so many other action games. The result is each side can adopt different tactics. There's very much a sense that you're battling some kind of alien force in the Strogg, and combat was a constant tug-of-war between the sides. As soon as we got some traction, the Strogg side counterattacked and pushed us back a bit. Certain classes can place artillery guns on the battlefield, while other classes can then call down where to bring down an artillery barrage. That'll require a high amount of teamwork, but we can see the action being insane if you can find a good team.
Quake Wars also looks fantastic, as it uses an updated version of the Quake IV and Doom 3 graphics technology, though it's been heavily updated to support much larger levels. The maps aren't anywhere as large as those found in Battlefield games, but we're told that the levels in Quake Wars are about a square kilometer in size each, which is a huge amount of room for 24 players. This gives enough room for vehicles such as tanks and aircraft to maneuver, but also keeps it a bit small for infantry. One of the neat new features, of course, is the megatexture feature in the game. Instead of having ground that consists of repeating textures, each level has one huge texture that covers the entire level. It's impressive, and it allows for some really beautiful terrain.
The game will ship with about 12 maps, according to Willits. What's cool is that the game will feature a campaign mode, with campaigns that consist of three or four maps that are linked together. Teams will battle on each map, and experience carries over to the next map, so by the end map, and the more experience that you gain, the more health you'll have, as well as the more weapon options at your disposal. Meanwhile, new players just joining the campaign will be given "lone wolf" missions that have those players pursuing secondary objectives, since they would otherwise get torn apart by the higher-level players. The campaign is over after the last map, and the winner is determined by which side has the most wins. After that, everyone resets for the next campaign. It sounds like it'll be fun, and Quake Wars sounds like it's nearing the end of development. The game is scheduled to ship later this year.