When the aliens attack the planet, the best way to defeat them could be getting your hands on drivable vehicles and huge outdoor levels rendered with cutting-edge graphics. Hopefully this will be the case with Enemy Territory: Quake Wars, the successor to the popular (and free) multiplayer shooter Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory. First-person shooters like these have been around for years, but many players have already honed their aiming and dodging skills to blast their enemies on the run. So, many of these games have gotten more specialized and challenging to hold players' interest--specifically, by encouraging players to team up and use smart group tactics (while keeping their fingers on the trigger). And with the new game's huge environments, many drivable vehicles, and distinctive characters, Quake Wars could end up being the most challenging and most rewarding team-based shooter yet.
If you've been following the game since it was announced in 2005, you'll know that it takes place on good old planet Earth, shortly before the events in id Software's 1997 game, Quake II--a first-person shooter about an alien invasion. The extraterrestrials in question, the Strogg, seem hell-bent on conquering new worlds, and they seem to have only two methods: slaughtering their enemies outright, or capturing and reprogramming them into new Strogg soldiers by brainwashing them and grafting robotic limbs onto their bodies (in fact, the grisly process was shown in detail in Raven's and id Software's recent Quake 4). Quake Wars takes place just as the invasion begins on Earth, some 50-60 years in the future, and pits the Strogg against a combined human army known as the EDF, or Earth Defense Force, which is equipped with near-future versions of conventional weapons and vehicles.
The game has been in development for about two years, and in this time, developer Splash Damage (in collaboration with id Software) has not only been able to tweak the technology that powered Doom 3, but it has also been able to really begin bolting together the gameplay. Splash Damage's Paul Wedgwood explains that the new game will expand on the objective-based gameplay of Wolfenstein by putting even more focus on capturing and holding territory. For instance, we were shown a zoomed-out, strategic view of one of the test maps that the developers are currently working on--the map itself was divided into four asymmetrical areas, and according to Wedgwood, the EDF and Strogg would start on opposite sides of the map.
Whereas in Wolfenstein, one team would work together to complete stepwise objectives (like using a bomb to blow up a defensive wall, then infiltrating a barricaded office to retrieve stolen documents, and then heading to a drop zone) while the other team attempted to prevent them, in Quake Wars, players will also work together to complete objectives, but once they're successful, they'll also control the surrounding territory. Having control of the territory will give players a forward base of operations and let them resupply (and respawn if killed off) closer and closer to the enemy's base of operations. Teams will also have mobile command posts (or MCPs) that can be moved up as they capture more territory, and these command posts can be used to call in heavier support--which we'll explain in a bit.
These territories will be linked so that they must be captured in a specific order--this should help drive players to work together to complete a specific objective (rather than goofing off and wandering into completely different areas), and, as Wedgwood suggests, the more-directed gameplay will offer "more fun in co-op than just doing nothing" for new players. Each map will have a completely different layout and will have different objectives based on an actual story that the development team is crafting as a prequel to Quake II. The maps will also all be based on completely different geographic regions of planet Earth, complete with the kind of terrain and ecology you'd expect. The map we had a chance to see in action was a temperate, mountainous area with a deep river running through it, and it was full of thick forests that could have come right out of an area near the Rocky Mountains of the United States, such as Colorado.
Once we had a chance to take a look around the map, we were then shown some of the actual character classes in action, such as the EDF medic class, which will be outfitted in medium body armor and which will carry large, conspicuous stimpacks on their backs that will be visibly depleted when the medics tend to a wounded ally. id Software's Kevin Cloud explained to us that the team decided to take advantage of Quake Wars' powerful graphics engine to create characters that are not only highly detailed, but who also offer very clear visual cues. For instance, even though the medic character's body and clothing are detailed right down to the last cloth crease, characters will also lower their weapons and be unable to fire while sprinting, and they'll have very obvious reload animations. The idea behind sweating these details is not only to make the game look good, but also to make sure that players are distracted as little as possible from the action.
When Aliens Attack
We were also able to review a few of the game's other character classes, such as the EDF engineer, which will perhaps not be the most powerful character in open combat, but which will be the ultimate vehicle specialist on the field. The EDF engineer will be able to use a repair tool to tear apart hostile vehicles and repair friendly ones. This role will be considerably more important than in other vehicle-based games, thanks to the highly realistic way the game will model rigid-body physics for vehicles. That is, instead of dealing a generic amount of "damage" to a vehicle, enemy soldiers can tear the front wheel off of a vehicle, realistically crippling its movement (rather than simply dealing a certain amount of damage until the whole thing blows up). Considering the power and utility of vehicles in the game, engineer players will probably be highly sought after...but we'll get to that in just a bit.
For the first time ever, we were actually able to see a few Strogg characters in action. While the characters in the game will have their counterparts on the opposing sides (both the EDF and the Strogg will have medics, for example), id's Kevin Cloud explains that on balance, EDF characters will have more-traditional roles that befit their Earth technology, while Strogg characters will be more oriented toward offense. While EDF medics will use stimpacks to heal their buddies, strogg medics must instead get up close and personal with special melee medical tools that extract ATP (that's adenosine triphosphate, the basic chemical building block of energy in most life forms) from human corpses, then use those harvested chemicals to treat their alien teammates. Likewise, the Strogg infiltrator class will be able to use subterfuge to infiltrate an enemy base, similar to the spy character from Wolfenstein, except that the Strogg infiltrator will actually take possession of its victim, which will then, by all appearances, run, move, and shoot like a normal Earth soldier. You can expect to see the Strogg wielding alien weapons and the EDF wielding slightly more advanced versions of today's military armament--and if you look carefully, you might find prototype versions of Quake II weapons (such as the infamous railgun) on either side.
But even though the game seems to have a very solid and varied framework for infantry, there's much more to Quake Wars than just ground-pounding foot soldiers. There will be many drivable vehicles for both the EDF and the Strogg, and many of them will seat two or more passengers and can provide mass transportation, heavy protection, and even assault capabilities. The EDF will have jeeps, armored transports like the Humvee-like "badger," the swift "husky" quad bike, the powerful "titan" tank, and the agile "Anansi" heli-jet--a highly maneuverable air vehicle with the propulsive speed of a fighter jet and the hovering capabilities of a helicopter. The Strogg armies will also command a convoy of their own vehicles, such as the two-Strogg flying gunship known as the "hornet" (called such because of the loud, buzzing noise its antigravity engine makes), the "icarus" personal jetpack, and the gigantic "goliath" Strogg walker, which is incredibly slow-moving, but possesses amazing firepower and can actually be deployed as a stationary turret as well. The most important vehicle on either side will be your team's MCP. Using this huge mobile command post, players that choose the field-ops character class can actually build radar towers that can scout out faraway territory or strategic strike missile (SSM) launchers to fire long-range salvos. Considering the highly varied infantry classes, vehicles, and the ability to plant stationary emplacements, Quake Wars will probably have a lot to offer in terms of varied team tactics.
Vehicles will not only offer extra mobility, but they'll also handle realistically across the terrain, thanks to the game's "megatexture" technology. Aside from making the vast outdoor environments look fantastic, this technology serves two other purposes. Basically, megatexture technology not only lets the team render huge stretches of land (even off into the horizon) without relying on fog or other effects to cover up texture seams, but it also lets the team assign realistic physical properties to different textures. In other words, the tires on a "husky" quad-bike will be able to hug the surface of asphalt roads, and will therefore be much more maneuverable (so you'll be able to perform high-speed spinouts by riding the brake into a turn), while driving on sand will be much slower going for it.
At the very least, Enemy Territory: Quake Wars has two things going for it: the legacy of Quake II and the pedigree of Wolfenstein's highly competitive, fine-tuned multiplayer gameplay. But from what we've seen, the development team is planning to do a lot more than just rely on the reputation of previous games. Quake Wars has all the makings of a highly ambitious, deep, and huge multiplayer game in which first-person-shooter enthusiasts can truly test out all their skills. The game is scheduled for release later this year.